LEWISTON — Sometimes in state championship games the lack of knowledge among opponents can be as great as the mileage between the two communities.
That won't be an issue Saturday night when Lewiston and Falmouth clash in the Class A state championship game at 6 p.m. at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
The Blue Devils and Yachtsmen met twice in the regular season — and they split the difference.
"They don't have a lot of weaknesses," Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. "When they play a solid game, they're very difficult to beat. But so are we."
Both teams are playing some of their best hockey. Lewiston (18-3-1) has won six consecutive games and 13 of its last 14 since losing to Falmouth in January. Falmouth (17-3-1) has won three in a row and has lost just once in 17 games since losing to Lewiston in late December.
"I don't think either team is the same team," Falmouth coach Deron Barton said. "We've both matured through the season as teams. I think both programs have players that have turned into impact players that weren't impact players in the previous games. I think you can plan on seeing names of kids that weren't in the mix in those two games and will have a definite impact on the outcome of this game."
It is shaping up to be a fantastic finish to the hockey season. Both teams matchup well with potent scorers and solid defense and goaltending. Early ticket sales indicate a sizable crowd and a potential sellout.
"I see us doing pretty well," Lewiston junior defenseman Patrick Deblois said. "It depends on who shows up. If we both show up, it will be a good game. They took one and we took one at our home places. So we'll see how it goes."
Lewiston won the first meeting, 3-2. That was despite being outshot 14-7 in the first period. Falmouth used a Hugh Grygiel goal in the third period to tie it, but Matt Poulin scored in the closing seconds of regulation to lift the Blue Devils.
Falmouth hosted Lewiston just two weeks later and the result was different.
"Down there, we didn't show up, except for one period," Deblois said. "The rest of the game, we just kind of moved our feet."
Falmouth won the second meeting, 3-1. Grygiel and Andre Clement scored in the opening period. Then Clement scored again in the second to build a 3-0 lead. Kyle Lemelin produced Lewiston's lone goal.
"We didn't play our game," Poulin said. "We were completely outplayed. We didn't move our feet. We only skated one period. You have to put it all together, and we had no effort out there."
Lewiston is expecting a different effort Saturday. The young Blue Devils are more seasoned now, and playing much better as a team.
"I think we're a completely different team," Poulin said. "Those games were in the middle of the season. We've been growing. As a young team, we were still trying to come together. Since that last loss, we've played well together. We've come together as a team. "
Belleau said Falmouth is a strong and physical team that skates well and plays solid defense. They play three solid lines and can put defenses on their heels.
"They're dangerous, like Bangor," Belleau said. "They've got strong shooters and get to the net quick. We've got to focus on that. If they get good shots, we have to be sure they're low quality shots."
Falmouth overcame a deficit in the third period of the Western A final against Scarborough. Grygiel and Isac Nordstrom scored 16 seconds apart in the win. The Yachtsmen allowed just 18 shots on goal.
Lewiston has the stellar goaltending of Evan Bourassa and a solid defense that has allowed just six goals in its last six games. The offense has produced 24 goals in three playoff games and received production up and down its lineup.
"We know that if we play our game, we'll give ourselves a chance to win," Belleau said. "We also know that if we don't put three good periods of good hockey together, or we get too emotionally involved and stay undisciplined or don't have effort, we won't give ourselves a chance to win."
Barton said the Yachtsmen need to be solid in their own end as well. They have to generate scoring chances against Lewiston and finish them.
"You do that by taking possession of the puck and controlling possession," Barton said. "That takes discipline and patience. You have to execute the game plan. I think we've got to have that execution Saturday night to be successful."
In a game that could be a nail-biter, maybe even settled in overtime, playing under pressure and in an intense atmosphere could be critical.
"We've been in some tight games," said Barton, who has eight seniors. "Those didn't have the magnitude at the level of this game, but we're confident in that department. We've had our share of third period wins and one-goal games."
In games like this, a lot of the lessons learned throughout the season are put to the test.
"It's not about Xs and Os at this point," Barton said. "It's execution and hard work and may the best team win."
Falmouth has never won a state championship. Lewiston's last title came in 2002. Winning a state title would be something new both teams.
"A lot of people didn't think we'd get here," Belleau said. "A lot of people didn't think we were deep enough. Well, that's okay. We're here. Our record speaks for itself. Our kids' effort speaks for itself. The kids have represented the school, their community and the hockey program very well. It should be very special if they could put together one more solid effort because if they do that, they'll put themselves in a position to win a state championship."