Boys hockey: Lewiston blanks Thornton to return to Class A title game

Mar. 6—PORTLAND — Lewiston is heading back to the state championship game.

A 22-save performance by goaltender Gabe Pomerleau lifted Lewiston past Thornton Academy in a Class A boys hockey semifinal at Cross Insurance Arena on Wednesday.

The Blue Devils (16-4) last trip to the state championship was in 2020 when they defeated Scarborough to cap off a perfect season. Lewiston will face third-seeded Bangor (14-5-1) in this year's Class A final on Saturday at Cross Insurance Arena.

"It's nice to get back to it," Lewiston coach Jamie King said. "We had a couple of rough years with young guys, now they are all seniors and juniors — it was nice."

Pomerleau credited the players in front of him with a good defensive effort after Lewiston played a little loose Friday against Windham/Westbrook/Bonny Eagle.

"Windham/Westbrook, our defensive zone wasn't it was today," Pomerleau said. "They had some good quality shots and our defense cleared them out of the zone."

Defense was a focal point in practice the past few days for the Blue Devils.

"We worked really hard this week on defensive zone coverage after that first game," King said. "That was the focus is to play good defensive zone to win championships."

Lewiston got on the board early in the first period when Jacoby Oliveira beat Thornton (13-7) goalie Drew Johnson for a 1-0 lead on a second opportunity. Dylan Blue set up the goal.

"That goal was huge," said Blue, who on Wednesday was announced as a Travis Roy Award finalist. "We probably had the best first period of the season. We are usually a second-, third-period team, but we pulled it together and we were hot off the bus."

The Cody Dionne-Colten Daniels-Dylan Blue line generated a lot of chances for Lewiston in the first period.

Blue said establishing the forecheck early was crucial.

"We hammered the game plan, forecheck hard, and tire them out quick," Blue said. "I thought we executed that pretty well."

Thornton Academy had a scoring chance in the middle of the first period when the puck got past Pomerleau. It sat in the crease for a split-second before a Blue Devils player cleared it out of danger.

The Golden Trojans also had a few rebound opportunities in the first two periods but didn't get anything past Pomerleau.

"The ones we did get in tight, he rolled over on, or something happened," Thornton coach Jamie Gagnon said.

King ranks Pomerleau with any of the other top goalies in high school hockey.

"Gabe is an athlete," King said. "I am happy to have him on my team. We played Drew, who's one of the top goalies in the state, and Brandon White (of Falmouth), who's one of the top goalies in the state. Gabe has proved he's one of the top goalies in the state of Maine."

Ethan Blue extended Lewiston's lead to 2-0 when he broke free into the offensive zone and scored a shorthanded breakaway goal 8:50 into the second period. Isaac Bellemore had the assist.

Instead of tying the game on their power play, the Golden Trojans trailed by two goals.

"We didn't want to go down by two. We were feeling we were pressing for the equalizer when we started the power play," Gagnon said. "Obviously, not an easy goal there. Certainly, we have been down 2-0, and we can come back from that."

Pomerleau said there was no panic in the Blue Devils when they were clearing his crease just prior to the breakaway.

"The rebounds weren't crazy, but we got the puck down the O-zone," Pomerleau said. "I think we did a good job transitioning defense to offense."

Dylan Blue said the penalty kill has been creating scoring opportunities all season.

"The PK has been good pretty much all year," Blue said. "We are really good structurally, just blocking shots and sending kids off to the races."

Later in the second period, Lewiston freshman Deano Scalia sent the puck from behind the Thornton net to Hayden Brown, who received it in the slot and fired it past Johnson for a 3-0 lead.

There was a delay after the goal because Johnson was hurt on the play. He first went to the bench to talk to the coaches and officials, then left the ice for a few minutes before retaking the crease. After a few stretches, however, he left the game and was replaced by Chris Chesebro.

Gagnon said Johnson suffered a lower-body injury.

"Tough night," Gagnon said. "And, obviously, to see DJ go down — (Chesebro) played a great game; he came in cold and he hasn't played much down the stretch for us. We see him every day, we know how talented he is. I am proud of him — he stood on his head."

Cody Dionne had another shorthanded breakaway chance late in the period, but a great defensive play stopped the opportunity.

Cam Plourde capped the scoring in the final minute of the third period off another assist by Scalia.

"They are a good hockey team, up-and-down that roster, well-coached, well-structured," Gagnon said of Lewiston. "I think it will be a hell of a game on Saturday."

Bangor reached its first state final by defeating Portland/South Portland 6-3 prior to Lewiston's game.

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