LEWISTON — Playing in a state championship game is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The York High School hockey team received a rare second chance — and took advantage if it.
Anthony Figlioli scored 43 seconds into overtime Saturday afternoon, lifting York High School to a 4-3 victory over Brewer in the Class B state title game at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Figlioli, a senior co-captain, scored two goals and assisted on the other two to lead coach Michael Vessey’s Wildcats (16-5) to the school’s first state hockey crown. The game was a rematch of the 2010 title game won by Brewer (3-1).
York effectively used that loss as motivation.
“I know it certainly was for me,” said York junior co-captain Craig Decato, who scored twice.
“Getting a second chance is great,” he said. “A little revenge, I guess, might have got us that extra edge at the end (of the game).”
Eastern Maine champion Brewer finished a superb season at 19-1-1. Coach Dave Shedd’s high-powered Witches had ample chances to score, but were held at bay by senior goaltender Alex Ahrikenchikh, who piled up 35 saves.
“It could have gone either way,” said Brewer senior co-captain Evan Nadeau, who notched a goal and an assist. “(There were) a lot of chances, both goaltenders were great. You can’t put blame on anybody. We worked hard the whole game, put our heart on the ice.”
The Brewer contingent demonstrated commendable sportsmanship in the wake of the heartbreaking loss. One by one, after receiving their individual medals, Brewer players went down the line of York players and shook hands — for a second time.
It seemed to be a reflection of Shedd’s poised demeanor and philosophy.
“It was enjoyable,” he said of the high-intensity, back-and-forth game.
“I wanted to show them what character and class is, to not be upset and disappointed with the pouty face,” Shedd explained. “Life’s too short. I know they worked as hard as they could.”
Both goaltenders made numerous difficult saves while being blitzed by shots. Ahrikenchikh turned away two breakaways by the Witches, while Brewer junior Adam Cossette racked up 28 saves, including some close-range gems.
York won it quickly in overtime. A shot from the midpoint went wide, ricocheted off the end boards and wound up behind the net. Figlioli centered the puck, only to have it deflect off the back of Cossette’s left leg and into the net.
“I didn’t even know I scored it until someone told me,” Figlioli admitted.
“This is the game we were fighting for. working for, the whole season,” he added.
The Witches buzzed the York net throughout the third period, outshooting the Wildcats 14-5, but could not gain control.
“I was prepared to get peppered and that’s what they did,” Ahrikenchikh said. “They got a bunch of shots on me and I controlled them as best I could.”
Nadeau gave Brewer its only lead with 6:05 left in regulation with the Witches on a power play. He raced through the neutral zone and split two defenders.
Nadeau shielded a back-checker by dropping down to one knee, then popped up in the slot and fired a hard wrister past Ahrikenchikh to make it 3-2.
“I tried to get off a quick release to his blocker side and it stuck in(side) the post, so I was pretty excited,” Nadeau said, “but obviously the game wasn’t over at that point. They’re a great team, you can’t ever think it’s over, and they came back strong.”
York tied it with 3:32 remaining in the period when Figlioli and Decato generated a 2-on-1 rush. Decato hustled down the left wing and slid a pass into the middle, where Figlioli one-timed it past Cossette.
“To maintain a lead with (York’s) six seniors and the adrenaline going the way it was, was pretty difficult,” Shedd said.
Junior Joe Fowler and sophomore Kyle Alexander scored a goal each for the Witches. Alexander was a constant threat with his crafty offensive play. Senior co-captains Lucas Lamond and Jake Valley each added an assist.
York grabbed a 1-0 lead on a first-period power play. Figlioli pounced on the rebound of a Conor O’Brien shot in front and beat Cossette with a low shot with 1:22 left in the period.
Brewer responded less than a minute later off a 3-on-2. Alexander carried down the right wing, with Lamond and Spencer Valley to his left. Alexander held the puck, cut toward the net and snuck a wrist shot inside the near post to make it 1-1 with 34.2 seconds left in the period.
The Wildcats regained the lead 1:36 into the second period when Decato skated onto a long rebound in the slot and one-timed a shot into the net.
The Witches knotted it up with 4:08 to play in the period. This time, Nadeau controlled the puck in the neutral zone and flipped a high pass over two defenders to Fowler streaking down the left side.
Fowler gloved down the pass inside the blue line, controlled it and broke in on Ahrikenchikh, beating him inside the post to his right.
“We didn’t face many teams that had that nice of a transition game,”Decato said. “When we turned it over, they were right on us.”