It’s taken some time — OK, perhaps more time than the schools would have liked — but Poland/Gray-New Gloucester will achieve a hockey first next week when the Class A playoffs kick off.

For the first time in the program’s history, the Patriotic Knights will host a playoff game.

“The kids are really pumped. They had a great season,” coach Aaron Rand said. “We’ve been in third place all year long, and it’s just a great opportunity for us.”

Poland/Gray-New Gloucester won 13 games, including victories over rinkmates Leavitt and Edward Little. But the Patriotic Knights’ first-round opponent will be a mystery. Bangor, which fell into the No. 6 slot, did not play Poland/Gray-New Gloucester.

“It’s one of the only teams we didn’t get to see this year,” Rand said. “We didn’t get to scout them because they’re two hours away, so I don’t know a lot about them. We played them last year pretty tough, it was a 5-3 game. So we’re looking forward to hosting them.”

Two teams much more familiar with the playoff process — Lewiston and St. Dom’s — claimed the Nos. 1 and 2 spots in Eastern Class A. For the Blue Devils, a 15-1-2 mark is one tie better than last year’s. For the Saints, a 12-4-2 record is its best since an 18-2 season in 2004-05, and it’s only the third time since the team has earned 12 wins in a season.

“It’s a great tribute to the depth of our whole hockey program that, though all the injuries we’ve had this year, we still only lost one game,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. “It’s a little bit of a boost for the playoffs that, for the first time in over a month, we’re going in completely healthy. Everybody is cleared to play, and everybody is going to play.”

“It’s a long time since we’ve been a two seed,” St. Dom’s coach Steve Ouellette added. “There are some tougher roads, and there are some easier ones, but in the end, the better team is going to end up prevailing.”

With the top seed, Lewiston will again have a bye in the quarterfinal round. The Devils did get a chance to stretch their legs, though, in the KVAC championship game Thursday.

They’ll have to shake off the memory of the one-and-done playoff scenario that unfolded a year ago when St. Dom’s, then the No. 4 seed, knocked Lewiston off in the Eastern Class A semifinals.

“Losing to St. Dom’s in our first game last year is something we’ve been able to learn from and build off of,” Belleau said. “Hopefully, it’s something the kids now understand. Every time you play in a playoff game, you really can’t take a period off, and you really can’t take a shift off.”

The Saints, meanwhile, will host Brunswick in the 2-7 game. The Dragons leapfrogged Edward Little to make the playoffs on the final day of the season, despite not having played a game in a week. A tie between No. 5 Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop and Messalonskee awarded enough heal Points to Brunswick to squeak into the postseason past the hard-luck Eddies.

With a win, the Saints would draw the winner of the Patriotic Knights/Rams contest.

“We have a lot of guys from last year’s team, we have a lot of juniors who have taken key roles for multiple years now,” Ouellette said. “I think there’s enough there. And I think we’ve proven we have some quality goaltending back there, too, which I think people are really starting to notice.”

The Blue Devils will see the winner of MHW and No. 4 Waterville, a perennial contender playing solid hockey as the season came to a close. If Waterville advances in that game, the teams will see each other for a fourth time this season.

“Any single mistake, then you get a hot goaltender, and the season could be over,” Belleau said. “Hopefully that message has been sent loud and clear to our kids, hopefully they appreciate it and hopefully they’ll execute when the time comes.”

Around the state

In Western Class A, familiar faces overwhelm the standings, but there are a handful of newcomers looking to make a name for their programs.

Unbeaten Biddeford holds the top spot and, with a late-season surge, Thornton Academy validated preseason predictions with a second-place finish in the tough Western Class A standings.

Surprising Marshwood/Traip, at 16-2, survived at the No. 3 position, despite losses to Noble and Class B Leavitt. The co-op program has won nine consecutive games leading to the postseason, and it will host No. 6 Cheverus in what could be the most entertaining first-round game in Western A.

Falmouth grabbed the No. 4 seed despite only nine wins, while Noble grabbed No. 5 with 13 victories. Scarborough and South Portland round out the Western Class A field.

In another hard-luck scenario, Leavitt lost out on the final playoff position in Western B after Yarmouth posted a pair of wins in its final three games, including a 3-1 decision over the Hornets.

The No. 4 Clippers will meet No. 1 Greely in the Western B semifinal round, while No. 2 York will host No. 3 Cape Elizabeth in a battle of 13-5 teams.

Brewer, as expected, dominated Eastern B, and will be a heavy favorite to return to the state title game. No. 2 Houlton/Hodgdon lost only three games, including a pair to Brewer. Brewer hosts the winner of the 4-5 between Presque Isle and Lawrence, while the Black Hawks will host resurgent No. 3 Old Town.

Playoff action is scheduled to begin Tuesday.


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