To hear Edward Little coach Craig Latuscha and Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau speak to the teams' rivalry game Saturday, there's nothing to it. Both echoed the familiar refrain that the team that can put together a full, three-period effort against the other will earn the victory.
But this year, there is a bit more to it.
Lewiston has owned the rivalry, essentially since Belleau left the Eddies after a pair of state titles. Last year, the Blue Devils rolled through everyone, not only Edward Little, until the state final contest.
But the muddled standings this season leave a sense of urgency for both teams.
"If you look at the standings, we have games left with teams in fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth," Latuscha said. "Those are all important games for points, and if we can win most of those, and maybe sneak in a tie against a top team, we're going to be in good shape for the playoffs."
EL's lineup poses a worry for Belleau, whose squad has at time struggled to put the puck in the net this season.
"They have some explosive forwards, guys who can put the puck in the net," Belleau said. "We have to play a solid, complete game."
Common opponents, while not necessarily indicative of an outcome, can be a good barometer for coaches to gauge where things might stand. EL recently played Scarborough to a one-goal loss on the road. The Red Storm are in the top three in Western A, and hold in their pocket a victory over Falmouth, which earlier this season defeated Lewiston.
"It's hard not to take something like that into account," Belleau said. "We did particularly pay closer attention to that Scarborough game because of the fact that it's a top team in the West, and it was such a close game on the road."
The two teams square off Saturday at 8:10 p.m. in Lewiston in their lone regular-season meeting.
Head of steam
With the Lewiston girls' team's rematch with Leavitt/Edward Little looming large on Saturday evening, the Blue Devils are on a bit of a roll. After the young squad got off to a bit of a rough start, it seems to have found a scoring touch.
"It's taken some time to find the right combinations, and for the younger players to get more used to playing the sport at the varsity level," coach Ron Dumont said.
After scoring 16 goals in the first four games and bolting out to a 2-1-1 start, the offense dried up a bit. Though Lewiston has lost six games on the season, five of those losses were by a single goal, the other by two. And three of those one-goal setbacks were 1-0 shutouts.
Defense and goaltending certainly weren't the issue.
"If you look at the scores in the games we've played, only once have we lost by more than a goal, and that was a 3-1 loss to Greely," Dumont said. "Having a goalie come in like Paige (Fontaine) helps add to the confidence level of the team. No one can really expect to run the table, but with a younger team, it helps that, when we lose, we are so close. We're just that one goal away from being tied and maybe winning."
That confidence has begun to manifest itself on the scoreboard. The Devils have scored 26 goals in their past five games, with that 3-1 loss to Greely the lone setback in that stretch, to climb back to .500. After Saturday's showdown with Leavitt/EL, the Blue Devils face only teams with records of .500 or worse.
"We obviously have to just take it one at a time," Dumont said. "But it's good to see some goals again."
Class B opponents aren't always worth as much to Class A teams in terms of Heal Points. But the experience top Class A teams gain by playing the top Class B squads can be as important as playing the upper teams in Class A.
That's why this season, St. Dom's and Lewiston have both added games to their schedules with defending Class B state champion York and perennial Class B power Greely (which has yet to lose).
Speaking of scheduling, the critical part of the schedule is on the horizon for the Gray-New Gloucester/Poland Patriotic Knights. Despite only two wins in eight tried this season, the team sits just out of the playoffs in ninth position, and has an opportunity to see several Heal Points-rich teams in the coming days. Brunswick, Maranaccok/Winthrop/Hall-Dale, Mt. Ararat/Lisbon and a down Waterville team all await the Patriotic Knights in the coming couple of weeks.