Lewiston’s Jack Leblond brings the puck around the back of the goal to teammate Evan Cox while being closely followed by St. Dominic’s Benjamin Gosselin during Saturday night’s game at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — Defensive accountability is at the fore of Lewiston High School’s hockey philosophy, particularly the season after a high-powered offense did most of the talking in a dominant run to a second consecutive state title.
If the Blue Devils are going to make it three in a row, efforts like Saturday’s will be the reason.
Lewiston’s skaters held arch rival St. Dominic Academy to 12 shots, including only five in the final two periods and overcame a stellar goaltending performance by Gaston Fuksa to earn a 3-2 boys’ hockey win over the Saints in the teams’ tussle at the Norway Savings Bank Arena on Saturday.
“They have some explosive guys,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. “They’re young, but they’re good. Any time you can hold them to five shots over two periods, you’re doing something right.”
Lewiston is now 10-0 on the season, but the team’s average margin of victory in those 10 games is only 3.8 goals, and three of its past seven have been one-goal affairs.
“We need to take care of the puck better,” Belleau said. “We need to tighten things up. I applaud our kids, everyone’s coming and giving us their best, we’ve won 10 now. We need to tighten some things up.”
Despite the dominance in the shots column, Lewiston had a hard time shaking the Saints, in large part due to Fuksa, who was called upon again and again to keep his team in the contest.
“He’s done what we’ve needed him to do, he’s been outstanding,” St. Dom’s coach Bob Parker said. “He’s allowed our younger guys to learn on the fly and he’s kept us in games all season.”
St. Dom’s, meanwhile, did what it could against a more experienced team.
“We’re really young still, they’re well-coached and we’re trying to keep up with their style of hockey,” Parker said.
Lewiston dominated early, but Fuksa was hot from the start, turning back three point-blank Blue Devil chances in the first five minutes of the game. And on the other end, his team rewarded his solid play with an early lead when Jaden Webster batted a rebound home after a shot from Derek Wolverton from the right point caromed off Smith in the low slot.
After a few more solid saves, including an incredible left-to-right pad stop, Fuksa could only listen as the puck tickled the twine behind him on a long-range shot from Willie Blanchette at the right point. The shot was slow, but five bodies hid it from Fuksa’s sight on its path into the top left corner of the cage, knotting the game at 1-1.
“Other than (Ryan) Bossie, we have five or six guys on that back end playing varsity hockey for the first time,” Belleau said. “We try to really emphasize making the good first pass, get pucks to the net. If you can get puck to the net with traffic, that will happen. The last time we played them, we scored a couple that way, as well.”
The Devils dominated the second period, but the Saints nearly escaped the lopsided frame unscathed.
Alex Robert finished a perfect dish from Jack Leblond in the left slot with a low hard shot past Fuksa’s blocker to put the visitors in front by one.
The teams played the final 2:08 of the second period after a break when a penalty door malfunctioned. The teams went to their locker rooms while the problem was fixed, staff resurfaced the ice and the teams returned to play out the frame. On the fresh ice, but still in the second period, Lewiston added its insurance tally when Sam Frechette tapped him a feed from Ryan Bossie at the right post.
“To keep up with them, you need to have a transition game, you need to be able to drive around opponents’ defenses,” Parker said.
St. Dom’s got within a goal in the waning seconds of the game when Zack Pelletier finished a feed from Webster in the crease.
Both teams also had players who suffered apparently serious injuries in the game. Already short one regularly playing freshman, St. Dom’s lost another, Matt Fletcher, to a wrist injury. Lewiston, meanwhile, lost Dustin Larochelle to an apparent shoulder injury after he slid awkwardly into the boards behind the St. Dom’s net. Neither returned and neither coach was optimistic for a quick return.
St. Dominic’s Jacob Lewis keeps the puck away from Lewiston’s Gunnar Wade during Saturday night’s game at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. St. Dominic’s Jack Ouellette looks into the play from the left. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)Lewiston’s Evan Cox and St. Dominic’s Jacob Lewis collide behind the goal during Saturday night’s game at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)Lewiston’s Gunnar Wade controls the puck as St. Dominic’s Hunter Hughes veers off in another direction during Saturday night’s game at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)Lewiston’s Alex Robert brings the puck to the front of the gaol as St. Dominic’s Mack Pelletier keeps his eye on him during Saturday night’s game at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)Lewiston’s Alex Robert takes the puck away from his goal during Saturday night’s game at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. St. Dominic’s Mack Pelletier keeps pace behind him. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)