LEWISTON — My, how things have changed.
When St. Dom’s defeated Lewiston back in December, the Blue Devils suffered the second of three consecutive defeats. The Saints stumbled to a 2-2 start, and the hockey communities of Lewiston and Auburn were shaken.
As the team’s prepare to meet again Saturday, both have emerged as Eastern Class A title contenders.
“It just goes to show, the top teams will settle out at the top in the end with the points,” St. Dom’s coach Steve Ouellette said.
For the Blue Devils, the turnaround has been emphatic. Since a lopsided loss to Falmouth, they have rattled off eight wins and a tie, including a pair of wins over Bangor and a win and a tie against Biddeford.
“We don;t look at the streak as much as we look at each game, each night,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. “We have to go out and take care of business every night.”
Save for a lapse with 18 seconds to play Tuesday against Falmouth, the Saints would be entering the weekend hot on the Devils’ heels in the Eastern Class A standings.
“That was a tough OT loss,” Ouellette said of St. Dom’s 3-2 setback against the Yachtsmen. “It came down to them getting a goal there in the final 18 seconds, in a game we led most of the way. We’re playing good hockey right now.”The game will still ultimately be worth a lot of points, particularly for the Saints, who are searching for a season sweep.
“I think we all still want to finish in a certain spot in the division,” Ouellette said. “Going into this weekend, with some games left to play, the No. 1 spot is still up for grabs. That’s one of the carrots still out there that we’re all still trying to chase.”
The teams are much different, in both makeup and execution, than in December. Both teams had young and/or inexperienced players taking on key roles at the varsity level for the first time.
“The newer faces now have had a chance to gain some experience,” Ouellette said. “That won’t be the same team we saw the last time. They’re certainly on a high with the streak they have going, and they’re playing with confidence on the ice. And they’re playing more physical.”
Ouellette has also noticed the differences on his own bench.
“In our losses early in the season, a couple of mistakes on defense, by some of our younger guys, played into that,” Ouellette said. “I think they’ve done well to settle down and they’ve found their comfort zone, making wiser decisions. And we’ve changed our systems up this year, and it’s taken a while for everyone to adjust to that.”
With still one day remaining in the girls’ hockey season, the playoff positions in Eastern Maine appear nearly settled. Leavitt/Edward Little closes out the season at Biddeford on Saturday, while Lewiston will face St. Dom’s in their finale. With not many Heal Points remaining in those matchups, it looks as though Leavitt/EL will draw second-seeded Greely in the regional semifinal round of the tourney, while Lewiston will host the region’s lone quarterfinal. Winslow currently sits in the No. 5 position. They will square off for the right to face Brunswick, the top team in the East, which just defeated previously unbeaten West No. 1 Falmouth.
The Red Hornets have defeated the Rangers twice this season in a pair of one-goal games, the first coming in overtime. The Blue Devils have defeated the Black Raiders twice by a combined score of 11-2.
In the West, Falmouth, despite the loss to Brunswick, is a lock at No. 1. Thought it appears York, Scarborough, Portland and Cheverus will be the remaining four playoff teams in Western A, the possibility remains of some movement in positioning.
Pink in the rink
Saturday’s Lewiston/St. Dom’s triple-header, which includes the JV, girls’ and boys’ teams, will also be a ‘Pink in the Rink’ night for the schools to promote cancer awareness. Players from both teams will use pink laces in their skates and use pink tape, and the teams will be raising money for area charities.