LEWISTON — It wasn’t long ago that St. Dom’s was the girls’ hockey standard-bearer. As a club-level sport in Maine, girls’ hockey was still trying to create a foothold, and the Saints were at the forefront.

Each season, the Saints would either win the defacto state title, or come darn close.

But things seemed to change three years ago. Assuredly a pure coincidence, the first year the Maine Principals’ Association sanctioned girls’ hockey as a varsity sport, St. Dom’s took a step backward.

Three seasons later, with a chance to adjust and rebuild the team, the Saints are back where they feel they belong: playing for a girls’ hockey state championship at their home rink.

“I think it was purely coincidental,” St. Dom’s coach Don Boucher said. “But it did happen, and it’s good for us, as a program, to be back in contention.”

Sophie Goulet has seen the program’s evolution over four years. As a freshman with the program in 2007-08, Goulet played regularly, and helped the team to the forefront of the Maine girls’ club hockey scene — again.

“I saw the team when I was younger, and I knew I wanted to play for them when I got to the high school level,” Goulet said. “I never got frustrated with the team, I never thought it was a mistake to come here, and I’m very happy with where we’re at today.”

At the same level and in the same class, Lauren Ratsep, citing the fact that the Saints played club hockey, chose Hebron Academy.

“I didn’t want to pursue that at the time, because it was a club team,” Ratsep said, “but things have really grown, and the hockey’s gotten a lot better.”

But things changed. The MPA sanctioned the sport, and the Saints fell back a bit due to graduation and the natural talent cycle. They had to start over, and they did so building around Goulet, one of the top skating and puck-moving players at her level in Maine.

“With everyone on the team having and knowing their individual roles, we’ve come together and know what we have to do,” Goulet said.

“She’s really evolved into a great team player. She’s bonded well with the other top players on the team and you can just see how competitive she is,” Boucher said.

Slowly, the Saints climbed back to relevance. They made the playoffs two seasons ago, losing in the first round. Last year, they earned a playoff victory.

“Each year, we’ve made it one step closer,” Boucher said. “Things are going in the right direction, and we’re pretty excited about that.”

The move upward was enough to help entice Ratsep — and former Lewiston standout Marisa Zamrock — to transfer to the school and join the squad.

Saturday, they’ll play for the sport’s ultimate prize.

But beyond the team’s success helping St. Dom’s reach the state final once more, the rebirth of the program has rejuvenated interest in the program, helping it to retain its status and avoid a future swoon.

“The fact that we’ve got the program where it is from where it was, we have a lot more interest in our program,” Boucher said. “That helps us out for the future, too. It becomes a domino effect for us now, and it sets us up for many years to come.”

“As leaders, we both try to encourage the team and both try to have a positive attitude out there,” Ratsep said. “We encourage everyone to work their hardest. That’s all you can do, and you can never be disappointed if you give it 100 percent. That works well for us this year, but the rest of the girls who will be back next year, they learn that now, too.”

First thing’s first for this group, though: Finish the job at hand.

“We know what we have, and we’re winning this game,” Goulet said matter-of-factly.

Without missing a beat, Ratsep finished the thought.

“If we work together as a team, we know we can.”

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