LEWISTON – Tim Gilbert just wasn’t ready to stop playing.

Faced with the prospect that last Saturday’s Eastern Class A semifinal would be his last in a Lewiston High School uniform, Gilbert helped rally the rest of the Lewiston defense between the second and third periods.

Together, they allowed just two shots to reach sophomore netminder Dylan LaBonte as the Blue Devils scored a pair in the third to win, 2-1.

“Going into the third period, we really started talking,” sophomore defensive linemate Jake Brown said. “He turned to me and said, ‘Man, I have to give it my all, this is my last year.’ You could tell he wanted it. He’s a senior, he wants it bad. He really led us through that game.”

One of three seniors on Lewiston’s roster, Gilbert didn’t even start the season playing on the blue line.

In fact, he nearly started the season watching from the stands.

“I really didn’t know what I was going to do with him,” Lewiston coach Norm Gagne admitted. “A lot of times, you get seniors who only want to play where they’ve been playing all along and it’s not in the cards for them and they get cut.”

Gilbert saw it, too, and offered a unique solution.

“We had absolutely no depth on defense this year,” Gilbert said. “I thought we were all set at forward. We didn’t lose many people at all, so I wanted to help the team out that way. I went to the coaches and told them I’d play defense.”

“Tim’s not only a team player, but, more importantly, he’ll do whatever it takes to make the team successful,” Gagne said. “He’s a great kid and a great student, and it makes it pretty easy for a coach to want to keep a player like that on the team.”

In the early going, Gilbert went through his own growing pains as he adjusted to the new position.

“We were getting scored on and scored on,” Gilbert said. “We were scoring enough goals to win games, but we were allowing too many goals.”

On offense, Gilbert has developed into a solid power play quarterback, thanks in large part to his background as a forward.

“Breakouts and power plays, I know how I was as a forward, and I know where they want the puck,” Gilbert said. “I hated it when the defensemen would just wrap it around the boards, so now I get to put it on their stick where they like it.”

Slowly, the team started to come around. Through the first 11 games, Lewiston went 3-8, allowing 3.18 goals per game.

In the 11 games since, the Blue Devils are 9-1-1 and have allowed just 1.91 goals per game.

“Because he’s a senior, he was able to handle a lot of the difficult times we had at the beginning of the year,” Gagne said. “His stability and his maturity eventually rubbed off on the younger guys.”

The Blue Devils’ next test comes tonight at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland. There, Lewiston will take on Bangor, another tough defensive team, for the Eastern Class A title and a shot at the Class A state championship.

Gilbert is again ready to face the possibility of playing in his last game.

And again, he’ll do everything he can to make sure it isn’t.

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