LEWISTON — There isn’t a team in Class A hockey right now that would clap its hands in joy over playing the Lewiston Blue Devils.
After a tough start to the season, the Blue Devils may be the hottest team in Class A hockey. They bookended their current streak of nine consecutive games without a loss Wednesday, getting a pair of goals each from Kyle Lemelin and Devon Beland, and a 23-save effort from Brian Wigant, as Lewiston toppled No. 1-ranked Bangor 5-1 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
“We don’t look at a streak as much as we look at, we played a good game tonight,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. “We have to take care of business every night. We’re trying to get better every game, and tonight was a good game in all three zones. We took care of the puck well, we forechecked well … and we’re moving the puck better.”
The victory is the Devils’ second over the Rams this season, the only two blemishes on Bangor’s otherwise spotless record. Lewiston began its current nine-game unbeaten streak with a 2-0 victory over Bangor at Sawyer Arena on Jan. 6.
“They’re disciplined, they’re much better than the first time we saw them,” Bangor coach Denis Collins said. “We expected to skate with them tonight, but obviously our forechecks weren’t putting enough pressure on the puck. They were much faster than we expected.”
Lemelin was a big part of Lewiston’s win on the road in January, scoring one of the team’s two goals in that one, too. Wednesday, his first of the night jump-started the Blue Devils’ effort in a strong first period.
“The momentum shift was huge, and we really needed that to take it to them,” Lemelin said.
The win also showcased the Devils’ up-and-coming goaltending. After a shaky start, both Wigant and Evan Bourassa have turned in some solid performances to help keep the streak alive.
“Both of our goalies have played well,” Belleau said. “Wigant hadn’t played for a couple of games because Bourassa’s been doing a good job. Wigant shut them out up there in Bangor, and I thought it was a good opportunity for him to get back in and try it again, and he was one mistake short of another shutout. And probably more critical saves in this game than in the one up there.”
Having played against the Rams before, Wigant said, helped him prepare.
“I knew how all the shots were going to be, because I’d seen them,” Wigant said. “It is a little bit of pressure on you, when you get a shutout against a team, to go out there and do well against them again.”
Most of his saves Wednesday came on shots from the outside, and very few were on rebound opportunities.
Lewiston also turned in a physical performance against a normally very physical Bangor squad that boasted a distinct size advantage over the home team.
“That’s pressuring the puck, and that’s what we didn’t do very well (Wednesday),” Collins said. “They did that very well.”
“We tried to really knock them around, because that will really rattle them, if you hit them as hard as you can,” Lemelin said.
Lemelin’s first at 10:04 of the opening frame came on the Devils’ ninth shot of the period against only three for Bangor at the time. A hustle play from Matt Therrien set Lemelin up in the low slot, and the shifty sophomore didn’t miss from close range.
Beland posted his first at the left post on a 5-on-3 Lewiston power play with 3:03 to play in the first.
“The first period, that took us out of the game,” Collins said. “They’re going to be a tough team the rest of the way.”
Lemelin then added a highlight-reel marker 3:49 into the second. He swiped an errant bounce pass off the boards near the blue line, juked around a defender before that same player tried to hook Lemelin to the ice. As he fell, and just as the official was raising his hand for a penalty call, he roofed the puck top glove past keeper Chris Howat for a 3-0 Lewiston lead.
“I literally just took a shot. I had no idea where it was going to go,” Lemelin admitted.
Jake Bergeron snuck one through Howat on a wrister at 7:58 to run the score to 4-0 before Bangor’s Connor Griffin spoiled Wigant’s attempt at a second shutout against the Rams in as many tries. Griffin was at the receiving end of a feed from Dakota Williams after a Lewiston turnover in its own end.
The physical play continued in the third, after Lewiston took a 5-1 lead on Beland’s second of the contest, also scored as he fell to the ice after a collision with a pair of defenders in front of Howat, who turned back 33 of the 38 shots he saw in the loss.