LEWISTON – There was nothing spectacular about a 9-4 win over cellar-dwelling Mt. Ararat on Jan. 24. It was a game Lewiston would win 99 times in 100 tries.

After that rout, Lewiston sat at 4-8 in league play. The playoffs were a quickly-fading ray of light at the end of a cold winter day.

But something was different in the locker room.

“This is going to be a big boost for us,” Lewiston coach Norm Gagne said after that victory. “The kids needed to remember what it’s like to win games.”

Six games later, Lewiston still hasn’t lost. The Blue Devils have scored at least three goals in every matchup, and in that stretch, and they won three in a row on the road. They now sit at 9-8-1, with a big win over Biddeford on Monday poised to propel them into the top four in the East.

“It’s all coming together,” Gagne said Tuesday. “For us to be where we wanted to be, we were being a little lackadaisical, and we needed to refocus as a team.”

‘The little things’

“It started with all of the little things,” Gagne continued. “We started getting on the players about cleaning the locker room. Little things. Making sure everybody wore the team jacket every day, to create a sense of team, things like that.”

The players started to embrace the changes.

“We have such a young team (Lewiston dresses just three seniors), it took a lot more time than we thought it would for everyone to come together,” Lewiston forward Matt Letourneau said.

But, Letourneau said, there is more to the team than what people are seeing on the ice.

“You have to come together as one unit,” he said. “You have to know when your partner’s going to back you up, or when someone will be there where you can make a certain pass.”

Good in goal

Dylan LaBonte started the season on the junior varsity squad. Alex Lafreniere started as the go-to guy in net for the varsity team. In the last two months, the pair have flip-flopped at the position, and LaBonte, a sophomore, has emerged as the team’s No. 1 – for now.

“Right now, we’re looking at Dylan and Alex, and Alex is our backup right now,” Gagne said. “He knows that. He works hard every day and has a great attitude about it. You need a guy like that behind your No. 1.”

The Blue Devils’ current streak started with Lafreniere between the pipes. He earned the win over Mt. Ararat, and the tie with St. Dom’s three days later.

“It definitely wasn’t me alone,” Lafreniere said. “In the locker room, though, you can tell now. Everyone is a lot more focused.”

Coming of age

Gaining trust in each other this season meant learning to trust some younger teammates. The defensive unit has just one senior – a converted forward, Tim Gilbert.

“He came to me one day out of the blue and told me he knew we were going to be young on defense, and asked if he could help out by moving back there,” Gagne said.

The coming of age of the Blue Devils’ trio of first-year varsity blue-liners – junior Zack Godbout and sophomores Jake Brown and Devan McLellan. – is certainly a plus

“The biggest thing now is that we have more confidence, in ourselves and in each other,” Brown said. “Our coaches had confidence in us, but we had to develop that in ourselves.”

On the front line, Lewiston didn’t figure to have too much trouble. Despite having just two seniors – Ian Doucette and Mike Sarrazin – the Blue Devils returned a bevy of talent from 2005-06.

But it didn’t quite work out that way.

“We tried all kinds of line combinations,” Gagne said. “We thought that Ian would be a grinder for (Jordan Bourgoin and Jonathan Roy), and then as the season went on, we tried (Casey) Poussard there and moved Ian to the grinder line.”

Solid finish

The Blue Devils realize that just getting into the top four in the East isn’t enough.

“There’s a mentality now that we can win,” Gagne said. “We as coaches have to make sure that they don’t get overconfident with the recent wins.”

It will be easy enough, Gagne thinks, to motivate the players in each of their final two regular-season games – one each against No. 1 Brunswick and No. 2 Waterville.

For all of the team’s recent success, the Lewiston coaches’ smiles are a bit broader, but not because they are happy with their own work.

“It was also up to the kids,” Gagne said. “They were coachable. (This streak) is a credit to them for doing the things that they needed to do on their own to make themselves better.”


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