It’s the law of averages, and in concert with another dynamite defensive effort, it steered Lewiston into the state championship game.
Paige Fontaine made 25 saves for her second playoff shutout Wednesday night, and Lewiston advanced to its third girls’ hockey state championship game and its first since 2010 by shutting out rival Leavitt/Edward Little, 2-0, in the Eastern Maine final at Portland Ice Arena.
Corinne Laberge and Allison Frechette scored the goals for No. 2 Lewiston (15-4-1), both coming in a span of 3:26 in the second period.
Fontaine made a dozen stops in the third, and the Blue Devils avenged three close regular-season losses to Leavitt Little as well as a double-overtime defeat in the 2013 regional semifinals.
“I saw a lot of heart. I saw a lot of girls playing hard. I’m so glad that we won,” Fontaine said. “We lost every single game to them during the regular season and we felt it was time for us to step up.”
Lewiston will face undefeated Scarborough in the state game at 7 p.m. Saturday on its home ice at Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Top-seeded Leavitt Little (16-4) lost in the regional title game for the second straight year. The Red Hornets owned wins of 3-1, 3-2 and 1-0 over Lewiston this winter, the last coming in the KVAC championship game nine days ago.
“I thought this was the worst possible matchup. They were a hungry team that had been closing the gap with us each time we played them. Being a rivalry and us having beaten them three times, they had everything for motivation,” Leavitt Little coach Shon Collins said. “I don’t think the girls came in complacent, but when you beat a team three times, there’s a line between confidence and overconfidence maybe that’s easy to cross.”
Lewiston was content to flex its defensive muscles in the first period, not reaching Red Hornets goalie Savannah Shaw with a shot on goal until Frechette’s chest-high offering with 6:20 remaining in the first period.
The Devils did chalk up three more bids before the end of the stanza, and in a foreshadowing of what was to come, they resulted mostly from turnovers.
“We just played hard like we usually do, honestly. I don’t think we changed anything for them,” Lewiston senior Sam Cote said. “We just wanted to get the lead early and keep it.”
Emily Turner, another of Lewiston’s four seniors, accomplished that by setting up sophomore Laberge at 5:22 of the second. Her feed from the far left boards after a quick change of possession found Laberge in the slot for a one-timer past Shaw.
Laberge supplied the help for Frechette in similar fashion at 8:48. Cote also picked up an assist.
Lewiston unleashed 19 of its 27 shots on goal in the middle stanza.
“The team just focused more before the game,” Frechette said. “More than anything, it was nice to get the lead.”
“Certainly that was a big boost,” echoed Lewiston coach Ron Dumont. “With all due respect to them, it wasn’t such a stretch (during the season) that it was an eight-goal disparity. We worked on the details. I said, ‘I’m not going to make you a better hockey player in two days, but what you can do is keep your mind focused on the little things.’ The sticks in the lanes, this, that and all the intricacies that come with hockey.”
Leavitt Little opened the third period with 1:42 of prospective, held-over power play time, but it was abbreviated when Frechette stole the puck at center ice and drew a holding penalty on the breakaway.
The Red Hornets held a 12-4 shots advantage in the third period. Few of them were golden opportunities.
Erin Hubbard, Erica Lemieux and Mikaela Brown led the defensive effort that bottled up Leavitt Little senior star Taylor Landry and freshmen Haley Frohlich and Mariah Vaillancourt in front of Fontaine.
“They’re just solid as a rock. Those three, I just keep tossing them out there. They’re just bulldogs,” Dumont said. “They’re all really good, but they all add different pieces to the puzzle. Their styles are a little bit different, and they match up well.”
And the junior Fontaine, who is 46-for-46 against enemy pucks in the playoffs, staring down a 6-on-4 in the final minute of each game?
“Paige is just peaking,” Dumont said. “Part of that is during the season you’re playing different teams and it’s hard to get sharp when you’re facing six shots. She showed who she really is in these games.”
Shaw matched Fontaine with 25 stops.
Leavitt Little’s best chance in the opening period was a blast by Danica Nadeau on an early power play.
In the second period, Landry chased down a puck for a backhander that Fontaine smothered with 2:15 left.
It was typical of the long-range, split-second-late looks that characterized the Red Hornets’ opportunities most of the evening.
“They blocked a lot of shots, got in the way. We were a little too long pulling the trigger sometimes and allowed them to get a stick in there,” Collins said. “They did the things we expected them to do. Quick turnovers. They had people in the slot. They had people backdoor.”
Lewiston hasn’t been to the final since the first two years of Maine Principals’ Association varsity hockey.
Cote, Turner, Mikaela St. Laurent and Megan Pare contributed heavily as freshmen the next season. It has been a gradual climb, one that led to the game of their lives on the biggest stage to date.
“I think we just got our initial nerves out and kept playing hard,” Cote said. “Once we got one goal, we wanted another one.”
Taylor Landry, Paige Landry and Amanda Grenier are the only seniors leaving the Red Hornets. Four of the team’s eight freshmen started Wednesday’s game.
“I told the girls, focus on the positives. We had a great season. Best record in our team’s history. We won that first playoff game. We won the KVAC championship. A lot of good things,” Collins said. “Today wasn’t our day, and against a solid team like Lewiston is, you can’t come out and have an off day. They’re going to make you pay.”