LEWISTON — Even when the momentum was in its favor, Lewiston was tentative.
In hockey, “tentative” usually means “dead meat.”
No exceptions Wednesday.
In the second matchup of the season between last year’s state finalists, Thornton Academy pounced on the few errors Lewiston made early and, for the third consecutive time — and second in a row at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee — upended the Blue Devils, this time by a count of 7-0.
“It’s been different lines, or different opportunities for us all year long,” Thornton coach Jamie Gagnon said. “Tonight we were able to get what we needed in the second and get some insurance in the third. And Joe (Ferrante) played tough for us in the net. That’s where it all starts.”
“We did a couple of things good, but in reality, we didn’t take the body enough,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. “We didn’t take their space away enough, and when we were in our defense, they’re a quick-skating team and you can’t give them space. But, once you’re in your coverage, and they start going the other way, you’d better skate with them … We didn’t execute against a very talented team.”
The defending Class A champion Trojans are on a roll again this season. Ranked first in Western Class A with only a loss and a tie to Falmouth to blemish its record, Thornton is now 10-0-1 in its past 11 games. In that stretch, the Trojans have averaged more than six goals per game and have scored more than four goals in all but one of those games. C.J. Maksut, who had WHAT Wednesday, has become the school’s all-time leading points leader, and his goal against Lewiston was the pivotal play in what has been a career of pivotal plays from the senior.
“He’s been able to lead our team all year long,” Gagnon said. “That’s been something that’s been one of our constants all year long.”
Maksut’s tally at 12:14 of the second frame wasn’t technically the game-winner. But it may as well have been.
Following a good burst of pressure from the Devils, Maksut broke up the middle and split a pair of Lewiston defenders away from the puck. Greg Lodge slid the puck through a defender’s legs and onto Maksut’s stick. The shifty sniper flicked his wrists, sending the puck past Lewiston keeper Evan Bourassa on the blocker side. That goal put the visitors on top 3-0.
“We’ve been focusing on trying to turn good defense into good offense all year,” Gagnon said. “That’s what happened there.”
“The third goal was the big one for them,” Belleau said. “When they got two, I told the guys, ‘The next one’s huge.’ It certainly was.”
The loss for Lewiston is its first since a setback to Falmouth in early January, and breaks up an 11-game unbeaten streak.
“The streak, so to speak, was nice,” Belleau said. “If we’re going to lose to a team, certainly it’s OK to lose to Thornton. We know what we have to do to get better, and we’ll learn from it.”
Thornton Academy’s first goal didn’t come on the power play, but it sure must have felt like it to Lewiston.
Nick Chen jumped on a rebound in front of Bourassa at 12:33 — one second after the second of two consecutive power plays for the Trojans expired — and rang it into the cage off the crossbar for a 1-0 advantage.
The Trojans were up a man for the fourth consecutive minute. They snapped a shot-less drought of nearly five minutes on the first opportunity, but couldn’t solve Bourassa. Two seconds after the first penalty expired, officials whistled Lewiston for another infraction, giving Thornton a second chance.
“Our power play didn’t execute. We tried to force the puck too much,” Belleau said. “Then we had to kill two on us. We did a really good job against their power play, but they got one. And then they got the next one, and things kind of went downhill from there.”
In the first half of the opening frame, it was Lewiston with the chance, getting more than a minute of 5-on-3 time as a pair of penalties pushed together. They managed only one shot, and after that stretch ended with about eight minutes to play in the stanza, Lewiston didn’t register another shot.
“We knew they have some guys with some heavy shots, and we know that they can put the puck in the net,” Gagnon said. “We wanted to play strong defensively. It doesn’t matter how many goals you put up, we want to play strong in the defensive end first.”
The Trojans maintained momentum in the second, getting a goal from Tyler Lapointe, who jumped on a loose puck in front of the net that no one else appeared to notice, and then Maksut’s tally in the closing minutes of the frame.
In the third, already ahead by three, Andrew Carignan, Robert Downing, Bryan Dallaire and Drew Lavigne netted goals for Thornton to cap the scoring.