Colby Gilbert turns a hat trick and collects two assists for EL.

LEWISTON – “It’s awesome.”

Even that was hard to say for Edward Little senior Colby Gilbert, as he stammered through postgame interviews. For a second, it appeared that a tear was forming in the formidable forward’s eye as he looked around the Colisee.

“We practiced so hard this week, probably harder than that all year,” Gilbert said, “but there is so much pride that comes with this.”

After all, this was the Class A state hockey title.

Gilbert scored three goals and added two assists, Kyle Smith picked up two goals and Kris Bennett made 27 saves to lead Edward Little to their second consecutive Class A state title in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,731.

“To have done this well all season put that much more pressure on us,” EL head coach Jamie Belleau said. “To go 23-1 on a season in any sport, at any level, it’s just so hard to do.”

Twelve Edward Little skaters played in their final high school game Saturday. Twelve seniors, all of whom had been there before.

“It’s just so much sweeter,” Gilbert said. “I mean, last year was special, but this year, as a senior, against this team, this is just unbelievable.”

The Red Eddies started the third period with what many call the most dangerous lead in hockey – a two-goal lead. Gilbert netted his third goal of the night 2:25 into the third and deflated what hopes the Saints had.

“The game could have completely changed there,” St. Dom’s coach Bob Boucher said. “If we score a goal, they can’t go back and play so defensively. As it was, after that goal, they sat back on the blue line with at least three skaters, and it was harder to generate any offense.”

EL did sit back, even allowing the Saints to pile up 15 shots in the final frame. Bennett, however, was equal to the task.

“I started a bit rusty, I think,” Bennett said. “But I think after I settled down, it was a lot easier to play out there, and in the third I faced a lot of shots, but not many in close.”

Joel Pepin added the Eddies’ sixth goal of the night on a weak slap shot from the right point that found its way through Blackman’s pads, and at 12:28, David Roberge completed the scoring with a tip in on a 2-on-1 with Ryan Binette.

Neither team established a rhythm in the first period, keeping much of the capacity crowd on the edges of the bright blue seats.

St. Dom’s drew first blood, as it has so often this season, with a goal less than two minutes into the game when Shawn Longley picked an Edward Little pass off behind the Eddies’ net. A quick wrap-around try stayed lodged between Bennett’s skate and the left post, but the whistle never blew. Longley poked at the puck again, and this time it trickled over the line.

“I had it, and then when I turned to look, it crossed the line,” Bennett said.

“I thought we played well in the first period,” said Boucher. “We were able to go with all three lines, right through the period, and we were happy with a 1-1 tie at the intermission, even though we did give up the lead.”

Faced with an early deficit for the first time in weeks, EL responded with a goal just one minute later, also taking advantage of a turnover.

The Saints tried to clear the puck up the middle, and the puck became tangled in two players’ skates. The St. Dom’s defender kicked the puck toward the blue line, where Smith swooped in from the right side boards and poked it over to Gilbert. Gilbert twirled to his left, swung around and fired a blind wrist shot that beat St. Dom’s netminder Brady Blackman high to the glove side.

Both teams seemed anxious and neither produced many scoring opportunities until the final minute, when St. Dom’s began to apply pressure, launching three shots at Bennett in the final 30 seconds.

The Saints came out in the second and again grabbed the lead early when Mike Carpenter fired a slap shot from the high slot. Bennett tracked the puck and got a glove on it, but the puck seemed to hop out of the glove and it trickled over the line, putting St. Dom’s ahead 2-1.

“I never even saw it,” Bennett said. “I saw him shoot and went into the butterfly, but I never saw the puck. It did hit me, but flipped into the net.”

Like in the first period, Edward Little knotted the score a short time later, finding the back of the net with a two-man advantage at 9:37. Matt Couturier popped a rebound past Blackman after a nice hustle play by Gilbert to keep the puck in the zone and a nice shot by Mert Gould that initially froze Blackman.

Less than a minute later, the Red Eddies struck again. Still on a power play, Smith scooped up a loose puck at center ice and skated through three Saints, wiggling his way toward the middle of the hash marks in front of Blackman. With the goaltender already down, Smith slipped the puck short side with a quick backhander to push the lead to two.

“St. Dom’s traditionally comes out strong,” Belleau said. “We knew that and figured that it would only be a matter of time before we got chances of our own, too.”

Defense, and often overlooked piece of the Edward Little puzzle, also played a key role on Saturday.

“The whole time, all we concentrated on was keeping them to the outside,” Gould said. “When we did have a couple of guys break out on us, we made sure there were no odd-man rushes.”

The Red Eddies become the third team to repeat as state champions since 1997. NYA did it in 1997 and 1998 and St. Dom’s repeated in 1999 and 2000.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.