LEWISTON – Twenty-to-one.

Bad odds, right? How about 13-10? Sound better? Maybe 8-2 suits you better. Maybe not.

Numbers can be powerful. Just ask the folks at Sesame Street.

But, with all apologies to the math and science teachers of the world (and to Sesame Street), numbers can also lie.

Twenty times, Lewiston High School has won the Class A state championship. Only once – last year – have the Cheverus Stags done the same.

Cheverus is deep, with 13 forwards likely to skate a shift for the Stags tonight, while Lewiston normally skates 10.

The Stags have scored eight goals against Lewiston this season. The Blue Devils have responded with only two.

The only thing those numbers are good for now is holding together the pieces of paper on which they were originally written, perhaps lending a hand to a local recycling effort.

“You look at Lewiston, with their 20 state titles, and another six for (Lewiston coach) Norm (Gagne), that alone is a lot to go against,” said Cheverus coach Jack Lowry. “Especially when you have to play them in their building. It doesn’t matter what the records are.”

For one thing, Cheverus and Lewiston, which will meet tonight at the Colisee in Lewiston at 6 p.m., are battle-tested. The Blue Devils and Stags each went into multiple overtimes this week just to make it into tonight’s game. Neither will use overtime battles in the semifinals as an excuse, though it does put both teams on an even keel in the preparation department.

“Once the puck drops, we’ll all forget about Tuesday into Wednesday,” said Lowry. “This week, it’s all been about the kids being hydrated, eating right and getting rest. Even today’s practice was a light, just some dotted I’s and crossed T’s.”

The Blue Devils were right back on the ice Wednesday, and have practiced every day. Coach Norm Gagne never let up on the skaters, even implementing a few new schemes into the mix in advance of today’s rematch of last year’s state final, a 5-2 Stags win.

“We’re going to try a few new things, which I’m not going to talk about now,” said Gagne, “but I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. I’ve got Plan A, Plan B and Plan C, so if something doesn’t work, I’ll go to the next thing. I’m not going to put all my eggs in one basket and say Gee, I hope that works.’ I’ve never won a championship like that.”

And Gagne would know. He has coached for more than 30 years in Maine, accrued 531 wins and six state titles.

The Blue Devils under Gagne this season have a 15-6-2 record, and, according to the longtime coach, have yet to play their best hockey.

“We haven’t played our best game yet,” said Gagne. “That’s the sad part. On a positive note, we haven’t played our best game and we still won, that’s a good sign. I’m hoping our kids come out and put forth their best game. If they do, I have a feeling that we can win this game.”

Of course, Cheverus won’t go lightly. Tradition aside, the Stags have dominated the high school scene in each of the last two years, going 41-3-1 in countable games.

“Their forwards, you can look at their three forwards lines and they’re very, very strong,” said Gagne. “That’s why they’re in the position they’re in. They have defensemen that can

move the puck up quickly. It gives their forwards an opportunity to really cheat up ice. That’s how they get an extra step on the backcheckers. You have to find a way to slow them down.”

From the other side, Lowry admits he would be remiss if he failed to mention his concern for the havoc Lewiston’s forwards can cause in their own right.

“We’re going to face a lot of speed,” said Lowry. “They have a lot of speed and a lot of skill with their sticks, and they have the ability to see the ice well.”

In net, Lewiston and Cheverus are both confident. Lewiston may have the initial edge here, though. at least in experience.

Casey Cox of Cheverus has gaudy numbers – all better than those of Lewiston netminder Brian Nason – but Gagne sees in Nason something unique.

“I knew that I had a chance to win a state championship because I have goaltending,” said Gagne. “I think that any coach, when he has a guy like Nason between the pipes, is going to feel pretty darn confident that he’s got a good opportunity to win a championship. On the other side, I’m sure Coach Lowry is looking at Cox and saying Hey, we’ve got a chance because we’ve got good goaltending and good defense.'”

Lowry, of course, concurred.

Neither coach tipped their hand about any particular adjustments from previous matchups, and there was nary a whisper of last year’s game, save for a thought from Nason at practice this week. Nason sat last year at the beginning of the game and watched the Stags build a huge lead before replacing Nick Langlais late.

“I know they’ll come out strong,” said Nason. “If we come out strong, I think we’ll be good for the rest of the game. I don’t think they’ll get a goal like they did last year. I won’t let that happen.”

“It’s going to be a good matchup,” agreed Gagne. “In the forward department, they out-number us a little bit, but I don’t think they’re going to out-number us in the work ethic.”


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