Lewiston senior captain Dustin Larochelle is one of two Blue Devils who played on all three regional championship teams. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
LEWISTON — There haven’t been many losses for the Lewiston boys’ hockey team the past three years, and there haven’t been any when it matters most — in the playoffs.
For two Blue Devils, however, there’s one loss on their resumes that has been a driving force for how they wanted to finish their four-year careers.
“These young guys don’t know what it’s like to really lose,” senior defenseman Ryan Bossie said. “We experienced it freshmen year, but ever since then we’ve had a winning record, losing one or two games a season. So they don’t really know what it’s like to lose, so we have to tell them about it, and we don’t want them to go through that.”
Bossie and classmate Dustin Larochelle were both lucky enough — and good enough — to play on the varsity team as freshmen. That season the Blue Devils made it to the regional final, where they lost to rival St. Dominic Academy.
“That St. Dom’s team was wicked strong, and we took that to heart,” Bossie said. “The returning players, we knew that we wanted to get it back, which we did. And ever since then we’ve just been pushing the pedal, trying to get better every day.”
The Blue Devils haven’t lost in the postseason since, winning three regional finals (two of which came against St. Dom’s) and two Class A state finals. And they’ll be going for their third state championship Saturday.
“They’ve been through and faced a lot of adversity. They’ve been in high-stressful games, high-pressure games, they’ve been to state championship games,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. “And so that’s experience. You can’t replace experience. And having that experience only can allow them to be successful this year, and to be good leaders, and to help out the kids who haven’t been able to have those experiences until now.”
Bossie and Larochelle have played important roles on all the championship-winning teams.
“Freshman, sophomore and junior year I was a third-line grinder, with like (Brendon) Croteau, (Griffin) Wade. Coach always told me that was one of the most important lines, to get out there and grind, get the puck deep, play defense hard,” Larochelle, who is a forward now but played some defense with Bossie as a freshman, said. “He said that’s what won the championship the past two years.
“This year I’m on first and second (lines), and it means a lot.”
Larochelle has called numerous players linemates during his career, and Bossie has done the same with defensive pairing partners. Belleau said the system the team runs makes it so that if players are playing within the system, and doing all the little things right, then it doesn’t matter who is paired with who. That Larochelle’s and Bossie’s production and effectiveness hasn’t wavered in four years is a testament to Belleau’s assertion.
The players said it also helps when everybody has the same goal in mind.
“I think it’s just the chemistry we have,” Bossie said. “Growing up together, playing together, and just going through high school together, because going into freshmen year we kind of had new faces.”
“The past three years, we always say ‘family’ in the huddle. We’re all close, like brothers,” Larochelle said. “Freshmen year, we weren’t really like that. But my sophomore year we came together.”
This year could have seen the Blue Devils lose some of that chemistry. Many faces left, and many new ones stepped into those vacancies. But here they are, earning the No. 1 seed in Class A North, making that seed hold true through the regional tournament, and just one win away from another state championship.
“I knew if we came together that we could show these young guys how to do it,” Bossie said.
Belleau has leaned on his four-year seniors as leaders (Bossie is a captain, Larochelle an assistant captain), as well as three-year varsity juniors Alex Robert and Sam Frechette.
“My junior year came where I had to be a leader somewhat,” Larochelle said. “This past year I got assigned as an assistant captain, and I feel like a leader, bringing those young kids to a championship this year.”
Larochelle couldn’t lead the way he wanted to during a stretch of the season after he dislocated his shoulder. He said his doctor told him the injury might end his season. But Larochelle had other ideas.
“I made huge progress. I came back two weeks early,” Larochelle said. “And to be on the bench … I was really not impressed because I saw those guys having a good time on the ice, and I kept telling them, ‘Let’s go, boys. Let’s go. We want to get to the finals this year.’ And I got back on the ice and it felt great to be back out with the boys.”
Bossie said the absence of his longtime teammate was felt on the ice.
“You know, you go down a guy and you’re trying to find different lines to put together, and we found a way to make it work throughout the season,” Bossie said. “One guy can make a difference. You have a guy that’s been playing varsity for four years, obviously it’s going to impact your team, but we’re glad to have him back.”
Belleau called Larochelle a “catalyst.”
“He works hard,” Belleau said. “He’s battled over the years on some very competitive teams. He’s been asked to play roles that maybe not were particularly suited for him, personally, but were best for the team. And he’s always done that respectfully, with a lot of character. He just does a lot of the right things all the time, and has a good attitude. And so when you lose a player like that in the locker room that hurts.
“Having him back really changed the dynamic of our team, and I think the proof’s in the pudding. It really balances us out a little bit more and we’re certainly glad he’s healthy now.”
Larochelle admitted he still feels pain in his shoulder on occasion, but he’s played through it because he wants to end his high-school career on his terms, which hopefully means another state title.
Bossie said “it’s crazy to think” that he and Larochelle have just one game left in the Blue Devil careers. The two players, who have been motivated by a playoff loss for the past four years, will be even more motivated to try and prevent another one.
“The biggest thing is you don’t want to go out of that game, like you should have done that, you should have done this. You want to put everything on the line out there, and you want to leave it all out on the ice,” Bossie said. “It is your last game, and we want to make it one to remember.”
Lewiston senior captain Ryan Bossie is one of two Blue Devils who played on all three regional championship teams. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
Senior captain Ryan Bossie, right, and Alex Robert react after Bossie’s first period goal put the Lewiston Blue Devils up 1-0 during Tuesday’s Class A North boys’ hockey regional final against St. Doms. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)