Joe Dumais, left, a junior on the 1999-2000 St. Dom’s hockey team, and sophomore Greg Moore, celebrate after the Saints defeated the Waterville Purple Panthers 3-1 in the Class A state championship game at the Central Maine Civic Center in Lewiston. Submitted photo

Saint Dominic Regional High School (now Saint Dominic Academy) closed out the last century and opened the current one with back-to-back Class A boys hockey state championships in 1999 and 2000.

The Saints teams that earned those two titles did so in two significantly different ways.

The 1998-99 squad didn’t encounter many speed bumps, going 19-0-1 and defeating North Yarmouth Academy in the state championship 2-1 in overtime.

The 1999-00 Saints, meanwhile, had to fight through adversity. They compiled a 12-6 regular-season record, which ranked fourth in the Class A standings, before marching through the postseason and finishing with a 15-6 overall record after defeating Waterville 3-1 in the state title game.

Those state championships were the final two for head coach Bob Boucher in his 25 years at the helm of the hockey program. He had five championships overall. He retired from coaching after the 2004-05 season and died in 2007.

Chemistry melded the 1998-99 team before most of the roster even put on a St. Dom’s jersey.

“One of that things with that team was, it was one of the rare teams that the lines played together since they were kids, all the way through,” John Pleau, who was an assistant coach at St. Dom’s from 1991-2005 and the head coach from 2005-08, said. “They played travel (hockey) together, and we just got that influx — which was rare for (Bobby) and I — to St. Dom’s two of the lines: (Joe) Dumais, the Andrews brothers (Brian and Sean), Greg Moore and Steve Roop. That’s kind of nice.

“The camaraderie on that team was just phenomenal. One of the things that proves it, they are all good friends right now. Greg Moore is coaching the (Toronto) Marlies (of the American Hockey League), the first person he calls is Sean Andrews (when he got the job).”

Pleau also coached a Maine Festival team that featured the state’s best players in a particular age group playing other teams from other New England states. On Pleau’s Maine team were 10 players from across the state who played or were going to play on the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 St. Dom’s teams.

During the high school season, opposing fan bases made sure to point out the large area from which the Saints drew their talent.

“I think it was Lewiston or (Edward Little), one them had a sign up because there were off-ice wars between the fans,” said Ben Gray, a goalie for those two St. Dom’s teams who hailed from Farmingdale. “One of the signs, and I remember to this day, it was, ‘Hey, we are from either we are from Lewiston or we are from Auburn, where are you guys from?’ It listed all the cities and towns where we were from. Someone went and got the sign for us because we liked it.”

It was while playing for the festival team that Moore, a freshman on the 1998-99 team, first provided Pleau an indication of how good of a player he’d become.

“We won (the New England) Festival, and we played Connecticut in the first (game),” Pleau said. “Usually, Connecticut wipes everybody because their 14-year-olds all played prep school. We are still (playing) travel (hockey), and I think Greg scored four goals in that game and we beat Connecticut 4-3. After the game there was at least six prep school (coaches) all over Greg Moore. Here’s Greg Moore, a 14-year-old, and he goes, ‘No, I am going to St. Dom’s, period. He did not want to talk to them.”

The 1999 team had the rare fortune — and one not likely to be replicated in Maine high school hockey — of three players on the same line who would go on to play NCAA Division I hockey: Derek Damon and Moore at the University of Maine and Dumais at Quinnipiac.

“We had two high-end lines I thought that could score, and we had a great supporting cast of third-line and fourth-line guys,” said Dumais, who is now the associate head coach at Quinnipiac. “I just look at the ’99 team with Damon, Moore and myself, I am still shocked that was a high school line. That doesn’t happen every day.

“We just had a real good mix of youth, of older guys and high-end talent with Moore and Damon, guys that were willing to grind and play their role and know their role. At the end of the day, when we needed our goaltender to be good, Ben (Gray) was good in the big games.”

After their college careers ended, Moore reached the NHL and Damon the AHL, and then both played professionally overseas — Damon retired at the end of last season after long pro career. Meanwhile, Dumais and Gray each played in the ECHL.

COACHING THE TEAM

In 1998-99, the Saints outscored their opponents 137-32. The abundance of talent on that team kept Boucher on his toes.

“Practices were a challenge for Bobby because your first line knew what (the coaches) were going to do,” Pleau said. “The problem is you got bring the second, third and fourth lines up to that level to understand the power play, the forechecking. This team, the freshmen, they were already there. Bob, he had to get his game going. Instead of the normal two power play (units), we went up to four power play (units). It was challenging to the coaching staff on top of that because they were so talented.”

The coaching staff knew when to push the players and when keep things light.

“Bob was result-driven, but the nice thing was you had Coach Pleau, who was the go-between for some of the players and the coach,” Gray said. “He would keep the mood light and Bob would be all serious. Coach Pleau would crack a joke or something. Dick Roberts — Coach Roberts — he was the goalie-expert piece of it. He helped Bob with a lot of the goalie stuff because I think (Bob) would probably admit it if he was still around today, he wasn’t a goalie expert. He relied on John and Dick Roberts to tell him what they feel, but having those go-betweens helped him be successful. ”

THE TIE

In early January, the Saints faced Edward Little at the Central Maine Civic Center (now known as the Androscoggin Bank Colisee) in what was a battle of Boucher brothers — Bob’s younger brother, Dave, was the Red Eddies’ coach.

It was a chess match between the two brothers.

The Saints led 2-1 in the third period, but the Red Eddies got back-to-back goal from Matt Cote and Brock Bissonette to go up 3-2. Later, St. Dom’s pulled Gray for an extra attacker, and Damon scored with 36 seconds left in the game to force overtime, during which neither team scored as the teams skated to a 3-3 tie.

“Bob was more of a rah, rah, ‘Let’s get going.’ Dave was a tactical coach,” Pleau said. “He knew what Bobby was going to do before Bobby did it. That was how good Davey was. It was science against talent.”

The 1998-99 St. Dom’s hockey team is, front row, from left: Nicholas Theriault, Billy Healey, Randy Conant, John Theriault, Eric Hagemann, Ben Gray, Adam Dube, Joey Dumais, Darren Carlisle, Craig Gagnon and Tyler Tyburski; and back row, from left: Assistant coach John Pleau, Tony Rousseau, Sean Andrews, Chris Manson, Bobby Nadeau, Steve Roop, Keith Deschambeault, Derek Damon, Brooks Boucher, Greg Moore, Brian Andrews and head coach Bob Boucher. Not pictured: Bryan Engert and assistant coach Dick Robert. Submitted photo

The tie with Edward Little ended St. Dom’s bid for a perfect season, but it also got the players’ attention.

“That game was pretty intense, we realized we were about to ruin our undefeated season. That was a a big wakeup call, and it was, ‘Hey, we have a chance to do something special here and we almost blew it,’” Dumais said. “I remember that being a moment of the first time we realized, ‘OK, we are undefeated and this is something big,’ and from there we kind of rolled.”

The Saints and Red Eddies met against in the state semifinals, which the Saints won 7-1.

FINISHING UNDEFEATED

Prior to the 1998-99 season, it had been 26 years since a Class A team finished undefeated — Waterville went 15-0 in 1973.

The Saints’ playoff run almost came to a quick end. In the state quarterfinals, they squeaked past Thornton Academy 4-3. While the Saints averaged 7.21 goals in ’98-99, they still had some close games, like the one against Thornton. In the regular season, they had to comeback late against Cony to win 6-5, and had an overtime win over Waterville.

“You look at the scores of the games, there weren’t that many lopsided games. In the state championship game we beat NYA in overtime,” Gray said. “You look at who was on the team and the level they went to compete at, you think, ‘Wow, you must have walked through all the teams,’ but the level of hockey was much different (back then).”

Damon, the captain of the ’98-99 team, was ready for the pressure that came with trying to finish off the perfect season.

“A lot goes back to, throughout my whole life and growing up and playing in high school, I liked that pressure and playing under that pressure at St. Dom’s,” Damon said last April. “I was counted on to be a key player — along with myself, Joe Dumais and Greg Moore (in 1998-99), even the year before that, Mike Viscarelli, we were counted on to score. The year we won the state championship in ’99, I loved having that opportunity to go out there and be relied on in key moments.”

As he did all season, Damon played the role of hero in the state title game, scoring in the opening minute of the overtime session to give the Saints their 24th state championship.

Gray, who is now a co-owner of Auburn-based junior hockey team the Twin City Thunder, made 31 saves to keep the Panthers from completing the three-peat. Pleau said Gray was probably overlooked on that team because of its offensive firepower.

“I felt bad for Ben Gray, he was an outstanding goalie but he never saw any shots (in the regular season),” Pleau said. “You would watch practices, he would face 2-, 3-on-1s and no one would see that. Ben was a (heck) of a goalie, but you look at the shots on goal, 12, 14 shots, there are some games he’s talking to the posts. I always thought he got robbed of that because the defense was good and the forwards would come back just as fast. Joey (Dumais) would come back twice as fast so he could rail someone into the boards.”

Gray played at Lebanon Valley College before his pro career.

The 1999-2000 St. Dom’s hockey team is, font row, from left: Adam Dube, Jamie Gilbert, Ben Gray and Eric Hagemann; middle row, from left: Darren Carlisle, Joey Dumais, Brian Langlais, John Forestell, Nicholas Theriault, Tyler Tyburski, Travis Jalbert, Billy Healey and Peter Langelier; and back row, from left: Head coach Bob Boucher, assistant coach Dick Robert, Matt Caldwell, Greg Moore, Steve Roop, Chris Manson, Bobby Nadeau, Zach Tyburski, Brian Andrews, Sean Andrews, Tony Rousseau, Randy Conant, Brian St. Pierre and assistant coach John Pleau. Submitted photo

TARGET ON THEIR BACKS

After the 1998-99 season, the Saints lost Damon to graduation, along with defenseman Brooks Boucher, who went to play prep hockey at the Salisbury School in Connecticut before playing college hockey at Bowdoin.

Unlike the year before, St. Dom’s got off to a slow start in 1999-2000.

“We felt like we had another good team,” Dumais said. “I think we got off to a slow start to our standards. We were in some close games that shouldn’t have been close that we did end up winning. We did ended up losing some games early that we shouldn’t have lost. It was a little rocky-going there, but by halfway through the year we started to click on all cylinders.”

The Saints lost their opening game of the season to John Bapst, and they lost two Edward Little twice. It was the first time the Red Eddies defeated the Saints in 25 years.

The St. Dom’s roster was loaded with players who played for the junior varsity team the year before.

“The practices were more intense,” Pleau said. “For two years they had a lot of talent and they did everything so easily. Now it was, ‘Man, we have to teach again,’ and it was back to basics for a couple of the lines.”

MOORE IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Greg Moore was in the national spotlight that season as college, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the USA Hockey National Team Development Program scouts were trying to get secure his services during his sophomore year. According to Pleau, if it wasn’t for Shawn Walsh, the legendary head coach at the University Maine, Moore may have spent all four years at St. Dom’s before moving on.

“His sophomore year, Shawn Walsh goes, ‘Stay at St. Dom’s for four years, but if I can get you on the U.S. Development Team, go; if not stay at St. Dom’s and I will take you after a year of juniors,’” Pleau said. “The next year he went to the development team.”

The other St. Dom’s players didn’t pay much attention to the scouts who were at the games to see Moore.

“Personally, I didn’t. He was a great player, but I think it was kind of hush-hush, or I wasn’t really aware,” Gray said. “I mean, I wasn’t surprised. You could have told me that during the year about any of my teammates and I would believed it.”

Gray said he and other Saints players also received phone calls from junior coaches, but they would turn down offers and remain at St. Dom’s.

Junior and college scouts were also waiting after the games.

“We would get out of the locker room, and I am not even (kidding) you, there were three or four guys and Bobby knew them all,” Pleau said.

ANOTHER OVERTIME

The Saints entered the 2000 playoffs as the No. 4 seed. In the quarterfinals, they earned redemption from the two regular season losses by defeating the Red Eddies 6-1.

St. Dom’s semifinal game was a rematch of the 1999 state championship game, as NYA was the top seed. Again, the teams needed overtime to decide a winner. This time, Dumais was the hero in the Saints’ 4-3 victory. The Panthers defeated the Saints twice in the regular season

“It was a nerve-racking game, it was back-and-forth, Ben made some big saves and we finally ended up winning in overtime,” Dumais said. “It was a relief because it could end our streak and how they were playing. That was a memorable game.”

A few days later, the Saints took on Waterville, with whom they split the regular season series. For the second year in a row, the Saints claimed the state championship, beating the Purple Panthers 3-1.

It would be 19 years before St. Dom’s, Maine’s most successful hockey program with 26 state titles, hoisted another state championship trophy. After coming close a few times, the drought was finally ended by the 2018-19 team.

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