LEWISTON — The interstate ban on youth and school-based hockey teams in New England because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic affected the Lewiston boys hockey team, as the Blue Devils normally invite Boston College High School to Lewiston to play two games, usually in December just prior to the regular season.

With those games sidelined this year, the Blue Devils reached out to an old rival who was also affected by the interstate ban on hockey, North Yarmouth Academy, who jumped to prep hockey in 2004-05, as a majority of the Panthers’ prep hockey opponents are in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

So, the two came together for their first date on Valentine’s Day Eve for the first time since the 2003-04 season Saturday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. The Panthers defeated the Blue Devils 6-0.

NYA won four Class A state championships prior to making the jump to prep hockey. Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau wasn’t concerned with the past.

“Certainly, a lot of us remember playing (them), (Lewiston assistant coach Dennis St. Hilaire), me, (assistant coach) Andy Guerin playing at St. Dom’s, we are aware of the rivalry,” Belleau said. “I am not sure if our (team) is aware of the rivalry as much.”

On the other side, NYA coach Michael Warde heard from alumni about the matchup.

“It’s amazing on how many alumni I heard this week. Jason Currier, the class of 1995, Travis Roy’s best friend, and got a text today from Eric Weinrich asking me the link to the YouTube so he could watch the game,” Warde said. “That’s special because those folks are the cornerstone of our program from the past and we want to make sure they are still connected to our school and hockey program.”

Lewiston beat NYA in the state semifinals in 1995 before the Blue Devils defeated Cony in the state championship game. Eric Weinrich, who played at the University of Maine and had a 19-year pro career, playing for seven NHL teams including the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and Hartford Whalers, graduated from NYA in 1985, as he helped the Panthers defeat Lewiston in the 1985 Class A state championship game.

The Panthers carried the territorial advantage early in the first half (playing halves because of COVID protocols) and they struck when defenseman Cal Davies lifted the puck in the air in NYA’s defensive zone and forward Nathaniel Peretz caught up to the puck in the neutral zone for a breakaway as he beat Lewiston goalie Keegan McLaughlin.

NYA kept the pressure on throughout the half and struck again on an individual effort by Hans Erik Jerosch to the lead to 2-0.

Lewiston settled into the game as the first half went on and received the only two power plays of the opening half.

The Panthers knew the Blue Devils were going to continue to battle in the second half.

“Give Lewiston credit, we knew what they are going to bring to the table, they are going to bring their lunch pails every day,” Warde said. “That’s why we love kids from Lewiston, they are the hardest-working hockey players in the state usually. They are very well coached; I have a lot of respect for Coach Belleau and a lot of respect to the Blue Devils.”

In addition to Jamie Belleau’s son Michael Belleau on the NYA roster, the Panthers have Derek Wolverton of Lewiston, who helped St. Dom’s win the Class A State Championship in 2019. Freshman Matthew Powers, who is from Turner, is also on NYA’s roster.

The Blue Devils continued on the power play early in the second half, but it was the Panthers who scored shorthanded. Lewiston defenseman Damon Bossie’s shot from the high-slot was blocked and the puck squirted into the neutral zone as Henry Bergeron came out of the penalty box.

Bergeron ripped a shot past McLaughlin (14 saves) for a 3-0 lead 1:40 into the second half.

“When you play a good team, you have to have some puck luck,” Belleau said. “We didn’t have any puck luck and their goalie (Benji Goyer, 14 saves) was good. That’s a great team and an older team. It was a 6-0 game, they won fair and square, I don’t think it was a 6-0 score with the way we competed tonight. We have a lot to build on and I am proud of them.”

Davies stretched the lead to 4-0 when Anders Jonsson won the offensive-zone faceoff back to Davies and his point shot squeaked by McLaughlin 5:35 into the second half.

Davies scored his second of the game as he picked up the puck in the neutral zone and ripped a shot from the slot to make it 5-0. Davies has blossomed at NYA since joining them for the 2018-19 season. He played with Mt. Ararat/Lisbon/Morse in 2017-18.

“Cal is a hidden gem,” Warde said. “Cal is a young man that continues to get better day in and day out. We are very fortunate to have him here at North Yarmouth Academy.”

Peretz capped the scoring in the final seconds of the game.


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