The key to Saturday’s Class A boys’ hockey state championship is black and white.

No, the on-ice officials won’t determine who wins or loses, but how Lewiston and Falmouth deal with those man-advantage situations created by penalties will play a part in crowning a champion.

“I think specialty teams in a lot of cases win or lose championships,” Falmouth coach Deron Barton said. “In a game like this, single-elimination game, you don’t have a second chance. So the efficiencies of your specialty teams, both penalty kill and power play, need to be nearly perfect.”

Power plays and penalty kills were prevalent during the teams’ two regular-season meetings, of which they split with a pair of one-goal games. Those matchups featured 35 minors and a five-minute major, as well as a combined seven special-teams situation goals — which accounts for half of the goals scored between the two games.

“When you have those opportunities when you’re a man up, you want to try to capitalize if you can,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. “And when you’re a man down it’s just as important because now the other team’s trying to capitalize when they have that opportunity. So special teams are always important. It’s another facet of the game, so being productive on the power play and being productive on the man-down is important.”

Three of those special-teams goals were of the short-handed variety, showing the individual skill that both teams possess.

“We all have our certain things, like some people are on power play, some people are on penalty kill,” Lewiston senior Sam Story said. “We all know our jobs, we all know our positions. And when we get called out there we know that we need to work 100 percent to make sure we score or they don’t score.”

Barton said after the season’s first meeting, a 5-4 Falmouth win in which they killed off all nine Lewiston power plays, that his team was prepared to have to play a man down.

“Rather than get frustrated with the officiating, and the abundance of penalties that are called — and in my opinion, a lot of these calls are just hockey plays — we’ve adapted. And what we’ve done is we’ve adapted by creating a commitment to an exceptional penalty kill,” Barton said. “We’ve taken our penalty kill to a different level than maybe you normally would, and by doing that it required a lot of practice time and a lot of board time with the kids to make sure an adequate number of repetitions go into practice so it becomes second nature on the ice.

“We’re not willing to forfeit our aggressive style of play because we’re afraid to getting penalties. We don’t to take unnecessary penalties, but when you play hard and you play aggressive, sometimes you’re going to take hard-working penalties.”

Belleau and his coaching staff have also prepared the Blue Devils to deal with situations in the game that aren’t 5-on-5.

“There’s a lot of discussion about adversity. The game of hockey is a competitive sport,” Belleau said. “You got five guys on the ice and a goalie at any given time. The other team’s job is to try to make things difficult for you, and that’s adversity in its simplest form. And so preparing our kids physically and emotionally is something we are consistent with and talk about on a regular basis.”

Special teams were on display in the regional finals. Lewiston was able to score both on the power play and the penalty kill in a 6-0 win over Bangor, while the Yachtsmen survived a pair of Cheverus power-play goals in come-from-behind 3-2 victory.

Barton reiterated that his team has to continue to play aggressive against Lewiston in the state final but has to be mindful of not taking any bad penalties, knowing the Blue Devils could make them pay for too many man-advantages.

The Blue Devils will be ready for the same situation.

“Saturday, special teams is going to be huge,” Lewiston senior Bradley McLellan said. “We get that penalty, penalties, we got to go out there and we got to do our job and keep them from scoring. I think special teams will be huge.”

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