AUBURN – The hat trick of turnover behind the benches of the Twin Cities high school hockey programs is complete.

All three Lewiston-Auburn teams will have a new head coach in 2005-06 in the aftermath of Monday’s announcement by St. Dominic Regional High School that venerable boss Bob Boucher has resigned after leading the varsity program for 25 years.

“After considering everything and talking everything over with my family, it was time,” Boucher said. “Twenty-five years is a long time, when you think about it. Anytime something like this comes to an end, you have a tough decision to make. It was just time.”

Boucher won’t disappear from the high school sports scene completely. He’ll stay on as athletic director, according to St. Dom’s Principal G. Michael Welch, who added that he and the area’s Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Sister Rosemary Donohue, accepted Boucher’s decision “with deep regret.”

The demand of both jobs had increased to the point where he needed to choose one or the other, Boucher said. In staying on as AD, he remains a full-time member of the faculty.

“When I started as an AD in 1980, we had 14 teams to work with,” Boucher said. “Now, we have 33 teams at St. Dom’s. The workload there has certainly increased.”

He joins local coaching colleagues Tim Smith of Lewiston and Jamie Belleau of Edward Little on the sidelines. Smith and Belleau announced their resignations shortly after the conclusion of the 2004-05 campaign, citing a desire to spend more time with their young families.

Boucher enjoyed by far the longest tenure of the trio, and it was one of the lengthiest and most decorated runs in Maine schoolboy hockey history.

In his quarter-century at the helm, Boucher coached more than 750 regular-season, in-season tournament and playoff games, with a winning percentage over .800.

He steered the Saints to five state championships in 1986, 1988, 1994, 1999 and 2000.

Boucher’s 1998-99 squad, featuring explosive forwards Greg Moore, Derek Damon and Joe Dumais and dependable, rangy goaltender Ben Gray, was the first to go undefeated in Maine in more than 30 years.

“High school hockey in Maine and New England has lost one of its finest coaches,” said Welch.

Hockey’s landscape in the state changed dramatically during Boucher’s watch.

The number of Class A teams more than tripled in that time. And while championships were the domain of St. Dom’s, Lewiston, Waterville and North Yarmouth Academy, the exclusive club grew to include EL and Cheverus. Portland and Cony also reached the state championship game.

Welch noted that many programs had Boucher to thank, in part, for the weighted schedule and infrastructure that made their ascent possible.

“Bob has been a long-time advocate of raising the competitive level of Maine high school hockey and the appropriate matching of teams. His loss is not just St. Dom’s loss,” said the principal, “but will be a void in a constructive discussion of high school hockey.”

In addition to his hockey and administrative duties, Boucher headed the boys’ soccer program from 1987 to 1992, winning a pair of Class C championships. He also has coached the golf team.

Boucher prepared many players for exceptional collegiate careers.

Moore and Damon (University of Maine), Dumais (Quinnipiac), Kevin Deschambeault (Miami of Ohio) and Jamie Gilbert (Massachusetts) are among those who made it to NCAA Division I.

“You can go way back with all of the names,” said Boucher. “There have been so many student-athletes that have gone on to college and played. I think that’s the most rewarding thing about it all.”

Boucher will have a significant say in who succeeds him.Welch plans to put together a panel comprised of parents and the school’s board of directors. They will process applications, participate in the first interview with candidates and make recommendations.

Then the final decision rests with the principal and athletic director. Welch said the ideal candidate must have many years of coaching experience, familiarity with local youth and high school hockey and a “keen understanding” of the St. Dom’s and Catholic school philosophy.

Lewiston tentatively filled its vacancy last week by appointing native son and longtime Waterville coach Norm Gagne, pending school board approval. EL continues to search for Belleau’s replacement.

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