Saint Dominic Academy hockey coach Bob Parker gives instructions during Thursday afternoon’s practice at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — The last time St. Dominic Academy won the Class A boys hockey state championship only one of the team’s current players even existed. And the last time the Saints were in the state final none of them were at the high school.

In other words, the program’s history isn’t a burden the current Saints carry.

But finishing the job they started is.

St. Dom’s has won 25 state championships, but none since 2000. That’s the longest drought for the Saints since they started playing and winning championships in 1946.

Oh, but don’t mention “drought” to this year’s team.

“I think it’s kind of a taboo word,” Saints coach Bob Parker said. “I don’t recognize that word. We’re not in a drought. Not this team. … We want to win because we put in a great effort this year.”

Parker’s tenure began the season after the Saints’ most recent state championship chance, which came in 2015 when they lost to Scarborough.

“My thinking of it is this: I don’t go back that far,” Parker said. “That’s been other teams’ situations that games weren’t won. That’s not this team’s situation. This team’s situation, honestly, is in my reign of four years. You know, we’ve been getting better in the last four years.”

Parker, who said he doesn’t like to look at the championships banner at the team’s home rink, inherited a team that went to the regional final in his first year, but has since had to take steps to get back: the regional semifinals two years ago, the regional final last year, and now a state final berth.

“We did have not much turnover from last year, only losing one senior, so that made it a lot easier, where we’re only taking in one new freshman onto the team,” senior captain Jeremy Phelan said. “And so it was really just that same core group of guys, and it just made that transition easier, where we did make it far last year in the playoffs, and then just being able to just build off of that going into this year. And then just everyone’s so great about it. We just came into this season knowing what we were able to do, and what we wanted to based on what we did last year.”

“I think every year it’s important to come in confident,” senior captain Hunter Hughes said. “You know, a couple years ago we were having a really hard time competing in the Lewiston rivalry games. And then last year we came within six or seven inches of a game-winner in OT (in the regional final).

“So I think, especially after last year, where we kind of started to figure out how close we actually were, it was a lot easier this year to come in say, ‘All right guys, what are we going to do to avoid another heartbreak like that?’ And (the regional final) this past Tuesday’s a perfect example of that.”

As big as Tuesday’s regional final win over Lewiston was, it’s not the victory the Saints have had their sights set on.

“Just, we got to quote Bill Belichick on it. It’s just, it’s in the past, and we’re on to Biddeford,” Phelan said. “Yeah, it was a big win, and we were all obviously very excited, and it was huge for us and the program and the school, but at the end of the day that game isn’t going to put a banner up for St. Dom’s. It’s the one on Saturday that is.”

That message was sent Wednesday by Parker.

“My first minute on the ice on practice the next day, which was really an exhausting day — I mean, you got a lot going through your mind of what just you experienced as a unit, as a family, the night before — but my message to them was, ‘We’re going to put that team we beat last night in the rearview mirror and Biddeford’s through our windshield, and we’re driving forward and that’s where we’re going to go,'” Parker said.

This year’s team is a “pretty focused” one according to Parker, so turning the page wasn’t that difficult, even if that’s all the players heard at school all day Wednesday before practice.

And it’s impossible not to hear any of it. Hughes said the team embraces all the “background noise.”

“Going to St. Dom’s, it’s something we always hear about is you got so much to look up to when you talk to the alumni, and it’s been been 19 years now since our last state championship,” senior captain Ben Gosselin said. “Of course we want to end that drought, but we’re not going to put any extra pressure on ourselves to end it. It’s something that we really want, but again, we can’t put any extra pressure on ourselves. We just got to go out there and have fun.”

The team doesn’t feel like it’s carrying the weight of anyone else. They’ve become too close and narrowed their focus so much on one singular goal to worry about anyone outside the locker room.

“We’re just looking at this game, we got one game left, we need a one-game winning streak, and that’s on Saturday,” Parker said. “You know, we need that one. And why do we want to win it? Because we’ve worked so hard. I mean, if we hadn’t worked so hard, and we were like 10-10, we probably, you know, ‘Great, we’re here, I’m happy.’ But no, we’ve had a really good season, and a lot of good things have happened, and not that we deserve it, but like one of the kids said … it’s a chance, and we’re going to take that chance, and we’re going to do our best.”

Parker pointed out that no one knows where life will take his players — most notably the seniors — after the game, so they almost have to play primarily for themselves.

Hughes called it “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us seniors.”

Phelan remembered back to when he and his classmates were freshmen, and they talked about winning at least one title before they graduated. This is their chance.

For some players, it goes back even before they first started playing for Parker.

“The only thing I really wanted to do was put on a St. Dom’s jersey and play for the varsity team,” Gosselin said. “I’m actually third-generation St. Dom’s. My grandfather went here, my dad went here. It’s something I’ve always been a part of, and I just love playing for St. Dom’s. I love that crest, I love going out there and playing. This is going to be my last game Saturday night, I just want to end it on a high note, I guess.”

“All you can really ask for is a chance, right? And we got our chance Saturday night,” Gosselin added.

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