LEWISTON — The hardware count between Class A schoolboy hockey finalists Saint Dominic Academy and Falmouth High School: Two dozen state championships to one.

Until this season, Saturday night’s game site, Androscoggin Bank Colisee, was the Saints’ home ice. Almost a half-century ago, when Muhammad Ali defended the world heavyweight championship here against Sonny Liston, the building was still named after the school.

Along with historic rivals Lewiston and Waterville, the St. Dom’s brand is synonymous with the sport in this region.

All things considered, to weigh the Saints as an underdog seems laughable, if not insulting.

Then again, this year’s black-and-white brigade wears that label as a badge of honor, right next to “Veritas Vitae” across the front of its sweaters. In fact, they almost encourage it.

“I think Falmouth is looking at this as we’re coming in as underdogs and they kind of already have it in their back pocket,” St. Dom’s senior Calvin Stewart said. “We take that as an advantage. Them coming in with a lot of confidence, we want to take that away.”

St. Dom’s (13-7-1) already has been a dual dream-killer in these playoffs.

After trouncing Norway Savings Bank Arena co-tenant Edward Little, 9-0, in the quarterfinals, the Saints took out the top two teams in the East, dispatching No. 2 Lewiston, 4-2, and No. 1 Bangor, 3-1.

In each case, St. Dom’s avenged a pair of regular-season defeats. Which leads us to defending champion Falmouth (16-5). The Yachtsmen swept the Saints, 3-1 at home and 5-4 on the road.

Not so much painting the Saints as a longshot, this pattern is simply a reminder that 2013-14 might have been the most balanced, unpredictable season in the state’s history. Of the five teams that defeated Falmouth. St. Dom’s has met four of them and beaten them all at least once.

“You look at their schedule, you look at our schedule. You look at the top seven or eight teams and we all play a relatively similar schedule other than maybe some regional rivalry stuff,” St. Dom’s coach Steve Ouellette said. “We all play a very competitive schedule and what you see during the regular season is teams beating up on each other, and sometimes you don’t know who’s going to come out on top.”

Early leads and defense have carried St. Dom’s through the postseason.

Part of a goaltending platoon all winter, senior Caleb Dostie caught fire at the right time. He has allowed only three goals in the playoffs, combining for 55 saves against Lewiston and Bangor.

The Saints also have been adept at blocking shots and sweeping rebounds out of harm’s way.

“We’ve got to be able to clear that net,” senior Tyler Sirois said. “We’ve got to be able to play strong defensively, and I think we need to be able to shut down their first line.”

Falmouth has flaunted ample firepower in its title defense. Junior Isac Nordstrom leads the Yachtsmen with 20 goals and 22 assists. Tyler Jordan (17-13), Brandon Peters (16-11), Jake Grade (14-9) and defenseman Andre Clement (9-21) also are threats.

“I think it’s a little different (than the regional final). Falmouth can be more of a finesse-type team, a more skill-type team. Bangor is the strong, in-your-face-type team,” Ouellette said “Falmouth is more of an open-flowing team. They’re well coached by Deron (Barton) over there. We’ve had some great battles the past few years, and we’re expecting another one.”

And the Yachtsmen have their own proven goaltender in senior captain Dane Pauls, who shut out Lewiston, 4-0, in the final a year ago.

“We’ve got to get a lot of shots,” senior Mike Richard said. “Their goalie’s pretty good. The more shots to the net, the better.”

It is the fourth playoff meeting between St. Dom’s and Falmouth since 2007.

The teams met for three consecutive years beginning that season, with the Yachtsmen winning twice before the Saints prevailed in the 2009 West final. St. Dom’s was relocated to the East shortly thereafter.

“We’ve got a pretty healthy rivalry with them over the years that has developed,” Ouellette said. “You go to their place and it’s a tough place to play. Well-coached and obviously they’ve got a lot of hockey players.”

St. Dom’s has spread around the offense all season and throughout its late run.

Brad Berube (15 goals, 25 assists), Caleb Labrie (22-12), Chase Hainey (19-13) and Austin Roy (9-12) all have been pivotal in the playoffs. Roy, a sophomore, scored the game-winner against Bangor with 1:50 remaining in regulation.

The Saints have won seven of eight after starting the season 6-6-1. Falmouth is 12-1 in its past 13 games.

“I think we got over that hump of maybe being that more individualistic to now we are playing as a team,” Ouellette said. “We’re focused as a group. We’re doing what’s being asked and focusing only on what’s going on. I think right now everybody’s just focused on the end result.”

“I always believed that we were capable of doing it,” Sirois added. “I always knew we had the talent. It came down to attitude. In these last few weeks we’ve really turned it around and come together.”

It’s the third final for the Saints in six years. St. Dom’s fell to Waterville in the 2009 final and Thornton in 2012.

St. Dom’s hasn’t hoisted the trophy since the team led by Joey Dumais, Derek Damon and Greg Moore won back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000.

Success in its “Drive for 25” would tie Grand Forks Central of North Dakota for second in the country, all-time, according to records maintained by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Mount St. Charles Academy of Woonsocket, R.I., is the runaway leader with 43 state championships.

“I don’t think it’s going to really deviate much from what we’ve been doing,” Ouellette said of the Saints’ blueprint for success. “Use the speed, play sound in the neutral zone, stay focused on defense, keep clearing out the front of the net to prevent second chances and little things like that. On offense, use that speed to get to the net and get enough shots off.”


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