Boys hockey: After experiencing down seasons, Lewiston's seniors want to secure 25th state title

Mar. 8—After Wednesday's Class A boys hockey state semifinal win, Lewiston senior Dylan Blue vented — so to speak — to the assembled media postgame: "We have gotten our butts kicked for so long for the past three years — I am tired of it. We want to go back and we want to win."

The "back" that Blue spoke of was returning to the state final. And it's been a bit of a bumpy road for the Blue Devils to return to the state final for the first time since March 2020.

The eight seniors for Lewiston have taken their licks in the postseason in their high school careers. After a 2021 season — when they were freshmen — where there were no playoffs because of the coronavirus, as sophomores, they lost in the quarterfinals to Edward Little in 2022. Last season, Lewiston suffered an 8-1 loss to Falmouth, again in the quarterfinals.

Now, the seniors can put all that behind them on Saturday when top-seeded Lewiston (16-4) looks for its 25th Class A state championship when it takes on third-seeded Bangor (14-5-1) at 3:30 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

"I had a feeling this year especially," said Ethan Blue, Dylan's twin brother and another senior. "We were a lot more solid, older, and we have a great group of guys in that locker room."

Cody Dionne, a fellow senior, said it was now or never for the four-year players.

"Eight seniors this year, we have been getting our butts whooped the past couple of years," Dionne said. "We all locked in and realized this was it — the final run. There's no better time to do it than now."

The other four seniors on the varsity team are Daven Langelier, Payson Goyette, Colby Daigle, and Aiden St. George, while Cowhen Leclerc suited up for the junior varsity team.

The Blue Devils' younger players want to help cap the journey off for the seniors.

"It's special," Cam Plourde, a freshman, said of playing a big part in Lewiston's 7-4 quarterfinal win against Windham/Westbrook/Bonny Eagle last Friday. "I really want to get the seniors a championship."

The seniors have seen substantial playing time in the past three years, especially. The program had some departures over the past few seasons, which meant a younger Blue Devils squad than in previous years.

Michael Belleau, Cooper St. Hilaire, Daxton St. Hilaire and Nick Pelletier all left after the shortened 2021 COVID-19 season for North Yarmouth Academy. Damon Bossie joined the Twin City Thunder organization.

"We lost five or six guys to juniors and prep schools," Lewiston coach Jamie King said. "Coming in, we have to get to the basics and actually rebuilding. Being a coach and seeing that the last three years, seeing what we accomplished this year versus the last two has been great for the kids."

King felt the brunt of the players leaving before the 2021-22 season, when the longtime assistant took over the head coaching duties from Jamie Belleau, who resigned after the 2021 season. Belleau later became an assistant boys hockey coach at North Yarmouth Academy.

"I have been here for nine years, and I haven't seen a team that young until my first year as head coach coming in," King said. "We had a lot of young guys. Now I have eight seniors and 11 juniors."

King said he had 11 freshmen in his first game as a head coach, and Lewiston finished that 2021-22 campaign with a 9-11 record.

There was more player exodus after King's first season at the helm, with Tanner Anctil leaving to join NYA. The Blue Devils then went 7-12-1 in 2022-23.

Ethan Blue said players leaving is something that happens, and those remaining had to go with the flow.

"Guys take different opportunities — it's a part of life," Ethan Blue said. "We got kids that want to play at other places. It's all about stepping up and dealing with adversity."

This year's seniors took notes from the upperclassmen who came before them on what it was like to wear a Lewiston sweater.

"We had great leaders in the past," Dionne said. "I remember my freshmen year, Mason Beaudoin, Damon Bossie, Evan Knowlton, all those guys led the way on how to be good leaders on this team."

This year's senior group also came into the program following the latest Lewiston dynasty, which won four state championships from 2016-2020.

It was big skates to fill being young players and keeping the tradition of Lewiston hockey going.

"It's not as easy as they made it look," Dylan Blue, a Travis Roy Award finalist, said.

Dionne's brother, Cam was, on the 2018 championship team. Rob, their father, also won a title with the Blue Devils in 1990.

"I remember watching my brother win in 2018 and that was a stacked team," Dionne said. "No other team was touching them. I came in and it was a different story. We struggled a little bit, but now we are finally here. Now, it's time to bring the (championship) back to Lewiston."

Dionne, one of the team's captains with Dylan Blue, said his brother and father have been helpful.

"Him and my dad, they both have been here; they have been through the whole process," Dionne said. "They both have a state championship. To be able to have them for advice, obviously, my brother more recently, it's amazing for somebody to look up to like that."

Ethan Blue is proud of the work ethic the seniors built up through the years.

"A lot of people don't realize what goes into a hockey season, behind closed doors, other than playing games," Ethan Blue said. "We have a ton of different routines, exercises, camaraderie, and hardships too. We spend months with these guys, and obviously, stuff isn't going to go as smoothly as everybody thinks it will. Again, it all depends on how you are going to deal with adversity."

All the seniors have important jobs to do, even if they aren't key offensive contributors to the team.

"Every senior we have is crucial to the team in their own aspect," Dionne said. "Colby, Aiden, Payson, you have to shout them out, they make it hard for us in practice even if they aren't always getting the ice time. They are crucial to this team and being there for everybody."

The group knew they had what it takes to make a state championship run this season during the holiday break, when they captured the St. Dom's Christmas Classic. The Blue Devils defeated Smithfield (Rhode Island) and Notre Dame (Connecticut) and then West Haven (Connecticut) in the championship game.

"That tournament helped us handle adversity," Dylan Blue said Thursday. "It helped us learn how to come from behind and keep going all the way to the third period."

Picking up one title made them hungry for more.

"When we won that, we realized: Hey, we are the real deal if we want to be," Dionne said. "If we want to, we can take this whole thing."

King said the seniors have grown into their bodies and can push other teams around, similar to other recent state championship teams.

"Being bigger and stronger makes a difference," King said. "Look at last year, with Thornton Academy being top heavy — they had 13 seniors and they won states. When you have those older guys, the strength and experience helps."

After three trying years, only one game stands between Lewiston and title No. 25.

"Me, Dylan, Ethan, and all the other seniors, we have been playing together even outside of high school," Dionne said. "We have been playing with each other since we were young. This is something we all looked up to. We all watched Lewiston when we were younger. Now, we are finally here; it's our time. We know what it means to each other and to the community. We are all grateful to have the opportunity together."

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