Derek Wolverton, left, of Saint Dominic Academy fights for position with Kurtis Pelletier of Lewiston during the teams’ December meeting in Auburn. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal) Sun Journal file photo by Daryn Slover

One rival took three-time defending Class A state champion Lewiston to the brink in the playoffs, only to fall just short.

Now can the Blue Devils’ other cross-river rival do the same, and finish the job with a trip to the state championship on the line?

St. Dominic Academy knows all too well how the Blue Devils can back themselves away from the brink, as they did against Edward Little in Saturday’s regional semifinals. In two regular-season meetings, Lewiston scored a game-winning goal in the final minute one time, and the other time got a game-tying goal even farther into the final minute before winning in overtime. The Saints led in both games, but not when the final horn sounded.

Now they’ll get a third chance to complete a victory over their longtime rival, and on a bigger stage when the top two seeds in Class A North meet in the regional final Tuesday night at Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

“You never take it for granted that you’re going to be there. You always have to earn it, and this year our team’s been working really hard,” Saints coach Bob Parker said. “You know, we’ve got a good team, but you can’t take a shift off, you definitely can’t take a period off, and if you relax for a game you’ll get beat, and by anybody in the league.”

The Saints (14-4-1, No. 2 seed) didn’t sleep on their rivals, but they did learn the hard way twice about playing 45 minutes of hockey, as Parker lamented after his team’s second loss of the season to Lewiston.

Parker also said he thinks the Blue Devils (17-2, No. 1 seed) tried to fly under the radar to start the season, but a reloaded Lewiston team is right back where it has been each of the last four seasons — in the regional championship game.

That program experience and hockey tradition is part of what makes the Blue Devils a dangerous team, Parker said.

The Saints have an equally powerful hockey tradition, not to mention more state championships. Last year’s team nearly knocked off the Blue Devils in the regional final, and all but one of those players returned this season.

St. Dom’s junior forward Will Fletcher said after the regional semifinal win over Bangor that the team is “ready to get our redemption from last year and just keep on firing.”

Fletcher is one of the Saints’ “dangerous” players that Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau mentioned after the teams’ second meeting this season.

“It’s a team we know, it’s a team we take seriously, it’s a team with a lot of talent on it,” Belleau said Monday. “You know, there’s a lot of pressure on that team to be successful this year. We know who they have up front, we know who the defense are, and we know who the goalie is.”

That goalie is senior Gaston Fuksa, who is a Travis Roy Award semifinalist and a central figure in the Saints’ near-upset of Lewiston in last year’s regional final.

But the Saints are more than just one player, Parker cautioned. And “staying together as one team” is a big reason why the Saints are where they are.

“Individuals do their thing, but at the end of the day it’s done as a team, you play as a team, you work hard as a team,” Parker said. “And that’s an important thing to create victories.”

Likewise, Belleau repeatedly stresses team defense for all of his teams, and this year’s Blue Devils are no different. The longtime coach also commits to playing four forward lines to take advantage of the program’s depth. That’s what’s allowed Lewiston to reload like it has.

Goalie Jacob Smith will be the third different No. 1 netminder in three years to start in the regional final, and the Blue Devils’ scoring leaders are different that last year. Kurtis Pelletier, who had the game-winning and game-tying goals in the two regular-season games against the Saints, played JV for Lewiston last year.

Parker is hoping it’s one of his players that puts in the all-important goal this time around.

“We’re nipping at these guys, and hopefully things can change on Tuesday evening,” Parker said.

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Lewiston’s Michael Belleau moves the puck around St. Dominics’ Jaden Webster during a January game in Lewiston. Sun Journal file photo by Andree Kehn

 

 

 

 


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