It takes extra effort to play in — and win — games that extend beyond regulation.

When 45 minutes of regulation isn’t enough in playoff hockey … then what?

Both Lewiston and Biddeford had to figure that out to reach Saturday’s Class A boys’ hockey state championship game, and several teams in recent years have had to work a little bit of bonus hockey, either to reach the state’s ultimate game, or to win it.

Both the Blue Devils and Tigers had to survive in overtime in their respective regional finals this year.

And they got the job done in different ways. Biddeford dominated its two overtimes before beating Cheverus, while Lewiston had to hold its breath against St. Dom’s before countering for a win against its longtime rival.

But that’s just the nature of the beast when it comes to overtime — there is no secret formula.

We’re talking about practice

“You always practice pulling the goalie, or playing against the 6-on-5, but we never really talked about overtime during practice or in the playoffs or things like that,” former Lewiston coach Tim Smith said.

Smith’s Blue Devils won the 2002 Class A state title with a triple-overtime victory over Cheverus. That victory stood as the Devils’ most recent championship until their current run began in 2016.

“We talk about, if you get into overtime, you’ve got to really focus on the ‘D’ side of the puck,” Biddeford coach Jason Tremblay said. “I tell them good defense will beat a good offense, and we really try to buckle down on the defensive side of things in overtime, and take our chances when we get them.”

Tremblay’s Tigers have played in five overtime games this season, losing at home to Lewiston before defeating rival Thornton Academy and defending regional champion Falmouth in an extra session during the regular season. They then reeled off consecutive playoff overtime victories over Falmouth and Cheverus.

Tremblay said at this point in the season, he tries to “situationalize” practice.

“We’ve simulated overtimes, we’ve simulated a lot of different things,” Tremblay said. “We try to be ready for every moment, that way they can draw on it when it becomes time.”

Current Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said his team has done the same thing.

“We’ve done that from time to time. We don’t do it every day, but we certainly probably do it quite a bit. And that’s all you can really do, is try to put them in situations at practice that they might become accustomed to in the game … and then talk about it,” Belleau said. “I think so much of this game at the high-school level is mental, and physical, in terms of a team that works hard and complements it with some skill has a good chance to win. A team that works hard, and has some skill, and has good composure and good discipline allows them to be successful in those high-pressure situations like overtime.”

Disciplinary decisions

Good discipline means not trying to do much. Something one of longtime coach Norm Gagne’s Waterville teams learned the hard way.

“We were in overtime and my wing went up to the point, but he didn’t get in the shooting lane. And it was in overtime and the guy shot and scored and they won the game,” Gagne said. “And that kid was a junior, and I remember that I told him, I said, ‘That’s the difference between winning and losing.’ I said, ‘You cannot ever let a person get a clean shot ever. But in overtime, never. You at least got to get a piece, you got to lay it out. You got to be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes.’ And I said, ‘You remember that for next year, because we’re going to get back there.’ And we did, and we won the state championship in ’91, and we beat St. Dom’s.”

Good discipline is also necessary on the bench, as well.

“Your first thought is, ‘We want to get this over quickly,’ so you start using your top players,” Smith said. “And then you realize as it goes on you can’t just rely on your top players, so we went to three lines, which worked because it gave everyone a chance to rest properly. And our third line ended up scoring the winning goal. My assistant coaches and myself, we made that decision together, and we went with it. We’re going to win together as a team, we’re going to lose together as a team. And with the third line scoring the winning goal gives proof by giving your players a chance to play. Obviously my third line was good enough to play anyways, so it wasn’t like we had kids who did not belong out there.”

Gagne had a similar experience during his tenure at Lewiston. The Blue Devils were playing Brunswick in the Eastern regional final in 2006, in a game that eventually went to five overtimes. Assistant coach Jeff Ross recalled running the forwards, and early in the extra sessions Gagne noticed that he wasn’t running the third line. Gagne told Ross to trust that third line and put the players out there.

That third line scored the winning goal in the fifth overtime.

The second game that night, the West regional final that saw Cheverus beat Scarborough, went multiple overtimes, as well.

“It was a heck of a night,” Gagne said.

Not another one

Overtime games during the regular season happen regularly, but multiple-overtime games can only come in the playoffs. There are no ties.

There are, however, tired players.

And coaches.

And fans.

Playing more than 53 minutes (45 minutes of regulation plus the initial eight-minute overtime) is something many teams never get to experience.

“It’s kind of a surreal experience after the first one,” Smith said. “You just keep going because you know that anything can happen.”

Fatigue is the only real certainty.

“I thought Cheverus was very tired after the first one, and I said to my staff, I said, ‘You know, we got to come out quick in this one,’ because I thought they would bounce back,” Tremblay said. “But our guys came out hard in the second, and I don’t know, it seemed like we got another shot of energy and the boys really kept coming and coming and coming.”

Lewiston didn’t have to worry about playing more than just the one overtime against St. Dom’s, but that doesn’t mean the Blue Devils weren’t prepared to do so.

“We had that extra gear in us that we were pushing hard,” senior assistant captain Dustin Larochelle said. “Coach really conditioned us for that (extra) period, and we had it in us (that) night.”

“In practice, we practice for six periods, seven periods,” senior captain Ryan Bossie said. “We practice over the amount the game’s supposed to be played.”

Preparing for a never-ending game and actually playing in one are two different things, though.

“It sort of wears on you, and it wears on your kids because the pressure, the game, you know that it’s going to happen, and you’re hoping it’s not going to happen to you,” Gagne said. “As a coach, as you see your kids fatigued, you have to try to put kids in that are going to be able to withstand not only the pressure, but the fatigue, and be able to get out there and give you 30 seconds.”

One shot, one opportunity

Of course, someone eventually has to play the hero.

Sometimes it’s the obvious hero, other times it’s seemingly the least likely.

In the 2002 championship, before Mario Villani could score the game-winning goal, goalie Matt Roy first had to stop the Stags from scoring one of their own. Smith said Roy was “hot” in the playoffs, and had saved the Blue Devils against defending state champ Waterville in the regional final.

For Gagne during his Waterville days, Corey Gardiner scored the game-winner in overtime during a playoff game against Edward Little.

“The right kid got it at the right time,” Gagne said.

And even when everybody’s hero gets the chance, it’s not always memorable.

Another of Gagne’s Purple Panthers, James LaLiberty — who was one of Waterville’s top offensive players — scored a game-winner against Biddeford in the playoffs in a non-scripted fashion. LaLiberty told Gagne that the game-winning shot was actually a rolling puck off his stick that eluded the goalie.

“You talk about luck,” Gagne said.

Gagne also remembers telling one of his Scarborough teams to create their own destiny.

“In the 2015 win (over St. Dom’s), I had told the kids in the locker room between that first and second overtime that, ‘You’re going to get a chance to score. You are. It always seems that both teams get chances, and it’s the one who takes advantage of that chance, or chances, that wins. And it’s usually the big chance,'” Gagne said. “And I told the kids in the locker room, I said, ‘One of you guys is going to get a great chance, a great opportunity.’ I said, ‘You have to capitalize.'”

Sean McGovern had a potential game-winning breakaway and didn’t mess with it.

Gunnar Wade did the same thing for Lewiston against St. Dom’s this year, striking on a 2-on-1 rush.

But not all game-winners come with open ice. Many don’t. It’s the others that Tremblay told his team to prepare for against Cheverus.

“If we can get to the net, you got to get to the net, and get as many shots on net as possible,” Tremblay said. “It’s overtime. High-school athletes are not pros. Any time you can get shots to the cage in overtime it’s a plus for you, and you got to crash the net, and good things happen.”

The Tigers didn’t need such a shot, however, with Colin Petit scoring from the slot before the Stags could set up their defense.

You must be mistaken

For every hero, there is the goat — the scapegoat

The player, players, or line nobody wants to be.

Gagne has certainly won his fair share of overtime games, but he’s lost many — too many, for him — as well.

“I’ve lost games in overtime in pressure situations where they still linger in my mind,” Gagne said. “I’ve got that photographic memory where I see things that happen, and it kills you.”

Often it is just one small mistake  — An ill-advised pinch, a failure to engage the shooter, a missed target, a bad pass — that ends the game.

“You make one mistake, game’s over,” Bossie said.

Extra, extra

There is only so much coaches and teams can do to prepare for overtime. Extra periods are difficult to prepare for, however, because they usually are preceded by an intense three periods of regulation just to get to a fourth. Tired legs mean tired minds, which lead to mistakes.

All that Belleau and Tremblay can do — and they have — is prepare their teams for any situation. Both teams have played in multiple overtime games this season, so that in-game experience is something they “can draw upon,” according to Belleau.

Those lessons will be fresh in the Blue Devils and Tigers’ minds Saturday, after they both survived you-never-know overtimes to get to the state championship.

“You use those examples and those games to help prepare them for a situation like overtime, or a tough game, a critical game,” Belleau said.

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Biddeford coach Jason Tremblay points emphatically while discussing a call with the officials during a game against Lewiston in early 2017.

Lewiston High School head hockey coach Jamie Belleau, left, and volunteer coach John Racine run practice at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Wednesday.  (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Lewiston head coach Jamie Belleau talks with sophomore Drew St. Hilaire during practice on Wednesday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Lewiston High School head hockey coach Jamie Belleau runs practice at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Wednesday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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