Lewiston’s Evan Knowlton jostles for position with St. Dominic’s Miles Frenette during Saturday’s game at Auburn’s Norway Savings Bank Arena. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Editor’s note: The Sun Journal previewed Franklin- and Kennebec-county teams as their seasons were starting last month. Now, we are previewing the Androscoggin, Oxford and Cumberland teams.

Lewiston boys hockey coach Jamie Belleau is reminding his team that they are defending, undefeated Class A state champions, and with no state championships being handed out this winter, opposing teams will look to take down the Blue Devils and their win streak, which was extended to 22 games on Saturday with a 7-2 win over Saint Dominic Academy.

“Number one, we are the defending state champions, and there won’t be one (this season), so every game will be a state championship game,” Belleau said. “Every team we play will be looking to knock of the defending state champions. We are saying every game is like a state championship game.

“Number two is we play for Lewiston, and we might lose a game, that means we did a lot of things right, we might run into a hot goaltender, but we aren’t going to get beat. What I mean by that, we won’t get beat by not working hard, not doing the little things right, not putting in the effort, not losing games because we can’t keep our composure and discipline, that what motivates us.”

The Blue Devils will be a younger team this season without Ryan Pomerleau who won the Travis Roy Award last season as the top player in Class A Hockey and fellow 2020 graduate senior Kurtis Pelletier, the Sun Journal’s All-Region Player of the Year who scored the game-winning goal in the state championship game. The team also lost Logan Tripp, who is playing with the Twin City Thunder’s Premier League team, and Brock Bergeron, who transferred to The Winchendon School in Massachusetts to play hockey.

The Blue Devils are a much younger team this year, but underclassmen like Nick Pelletier, Daxton St. Hilaire, Cooper St. Hilaire still know what expect.

“Our young players are talented, we have a lot of speed, and to be honest we are quick, we like to play fast,” Belleau said. “They are eager, they are willing to learn and they want to put themselves in position to be successful.”

EDWARD LITTLE RED EDDIES

The Edward Little Red Eddies are coming off of a strong finish to the 2019-20 season. After losing 10 of their first 13 games, the Red Eddies won seven straight before losing to Scarborough in triple overtime in the state semifinal.

Edward Little was hoping to make a run at a state championship this year.

“That’s what I really wanted to carry over this year, we wanted to make a strong run this year and maybe get a chance to get to that state championship game,” EL coach Norm Gagne said. “That has been our goal on the (coaching) staff and the players since I came here. That has always been my goal, we could have won the whole thing last year, we finally made that connection and turn in these players. A bulk of the kids on that team is coming back this year. That gave us a real good feeling.”

Gagne said he feels bad for the seniors, who started their careers as freshmen when Gagne took over the Red Eddies program.

Gagne, who’s entering his 46th year of coaching, can’t draw any comparisons to what high school kids have gone through since last March.

“I can’t think of anything that has been as bad as this,” Gagne said. “Going through this, there has been nothing that I have experienced. I try to put myself in their place when I was their age — I don’t know how they do it and they are able to cope with on what’s going on, because I know I would have gone crazy being shut-in and not being able to go out and play.”

ST. DOM’S SAINTS

One St. Dom’s coach Dan D’Auteuil’s goals is that the Saints have better puck control this season.

“Our goal is to be a little more consistent with the puck,” D’Auteuil said after Saturday’s game against Lewiston. “We bounced a lot of pucks around, we didn’t make a pass with a purpose or we lost some battles.”

The Saints were able to play two games last week, winning their season-opener against the Lake Region/Fryeburg Academy/Oxford Hills Ice Cats, 6-4, last Wednesday before losing to the Blue Devils on Saturday.

Just like rival Lewiston, St. Dom’s also has a younger team this year, as 10 players are either freshmen or sophomores. D’Auteuil will look to upperclassmen like Leo Naous, Lucas Pushard, Nate Pratt and Matt Fletcher to lead the team this season.

“(They need) to be leaders on the team, to help these younger guys through and kind of work with them to get them off that nervousness and realize that they are good players,” D’Auteuil said.

POLAND/LEAVITT/OAK HILL/GRAY-NG

The Kings believe they will be better than the 4-14 record they had had last season, and the improvement will start from the blue line.

“We are strong on the blue line, with three sets of defenseman,” Poland/Leavitt/Oak Hill/Gray-New Gloucester coach Joe Hutchinson said. “Last year we lacked scoring touch and were small up front. We are hoping with the addition of some skilled freshman to go along with last year’s first line, we can change that this year. I believe we will be very competitive this season.”

Out of the six defensemen on the roster, four of them are upperclassmen: seniors Ryan Thibault and Sam Tibbetts and juniors Blake Springer and Robbie Gladu. Sophomore Brady Corson is another a returning player.

In addition to being competitive this season, the Knights are also looking toward the 2021-22 season.

“Yes, our goals are more centered around being competitive and hard to play against,” Hutchinson said. “We want to build on our team play and build for next season.”

There’s a lot to build for next year for the Kings. Of the 22 players suiting up this season, 15 are eligible to return next season.

LAKE REGION/FRYEBURG/OXFORD HILLS

The Ice Cats are coming off a successful year for the program, reaching in the Class A quarterfinals before their season ended with a 3-1 loss to the Portland/Deering Bulldogs.

This season, the Ice Cats are under new leadership as longtime coach Dave LePage has stepped down and Wayne Neiman has taken over.

“This year will be a test of new coaching philosophy and getting the team to play new systems,” Neiman said. “So far the team is looking good and the strength of key returning players like Will Galligan and Eddie Thurston help drive our offense.”

The Ice Cats will have to replace the experience of goalie Bobby LeBlanc and defenseman Cam LePage, who both graduated.

The team will be a lot younger than a year ago.

“Our weak point is we have many sophomores and freshman playing varsity minutes for the first time,” Neiman said. “It is a learning curve. Getting them up to speed in a quick time will be the challenge and weak point this year. We had lots of seniors and juniors opted to not play. We were suppose to have 11 seniors and we have six.”

MT. ARARAT/LISBON/MORSE

The Mt. Ararat/Lisbon/Morse Eagles have been lucky, in a sense, because they have been practicing since early January.

But the team hasn’t all been together all that much in the first month of the season.

“Practices through December and January went very well, despite not getting to practice with Lisbon players until late January,” Eagles coach A.J. Kavanaugh said last week. “We won our first game 5-4 against Gardiner on (Jan. 26), and unfortunately had to shut down the next day for the most part because Mt. Ararat went remote. Lisbon and Morse players were able to practice this week but we were snowed out (last Tuesday). We are expected to be back on the ice all together on Feb. 8, and everyone is looking forward to that.”

The Eagles are coming off a 1-16-1 campaign. With the lack of practice time as a team, they still have made significant gains as they try to improve.

“I believe not taking anything for granted, given the pandemic, and treating every ice time as a gift has put a whole new perspective on our season this year,” Kavanaugh said. “We certainly have seen major improvement over last season, even in only playing the one game so far. But, regardless, last year’s tough campaign is certainly in the rearview mirror in more ways than one.”

Kavanaugh expects Sean Moore of Lisbon to have a solid junior season. Moore was a Class B South second team all-star last year.

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