LEWISTON — Shawn Rousseau believed in C.J. Maksut.
The Thornton Academy skipper leaned to his star forward between the first and second overtime Saturday and gave him some words of encouragement.
“I went up to C.J., whispered in his ear and said, ‘Players like you live for these moments,'” Rousseau said.
He wasn’t kidding.
Maksut, the Trojans’ leading goal-scorer this season and a constant threat in any zone, tipped a Sam Canales shot after a turnover at the blue line past Lewiston goalie Cam Poussard with 1:27 remaining in the second overtime, lifting Thornton Academy to a 4-3 victory and the school’s first state hockey crown.
“It’s your big-time players who deliver in moments like that,” Rousseau said. “We saw that happen today.”
The play developed innocently enough, as the Devils tried to fly the zone after a turnover by the Trojans deep in Lewiston territory. But Sam Canales had other ideas, and Maksut, still deep behind the Lewiston defense, benefited.
“Their whole team was skating like they were going up ice,” Maksut said. “Sam had the turnover up high, and he just shot it toward the net. I got a stick on it and it went up high over the goalie. It was a quick turnover and quick transition like we’ve been trying to do lately.”
For the fifth time since last winning a state championship in 2002, the Blue Devils reached the state final, only to lose to the Western Class A champion.
“Thornton played a good game, and it took a nice tip-in play to end the game,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. “I’m proud of the way our boys played. They didn’t quit, they had some opportunities, and they put one in.”
Loaded with senior talent, Lewiston had this season pegged on its calendar from the beginning. With one, late-season hiccup against then-unbeaten Biddeford, the Blue Devils marched through the season and into the playoffs on a mission.
It fell one goal — in double overtime — short.
TA, meanwhile, becomes the fifth different school since Lewiston won in 2002 to bring home the Class A crown, joining Edward Little, Cheverus, Biddeford and Waterville.
“It’s the 25th year of TA hockey, and the 200th year of TA period,” Rousseau said. “There’s a symmetry to it all that almost feels like it was ordained.”
On Saturday, in a game where much of the focus was — deservedly so — on the young man patrolling the blue paint between the Lewiston pipes, it was a lesser-heralded senior keeper that stole the show. In overtime alone, he stopped all three of Lewiston’s big guns — Ben Wigant, Sam Cloutier and Colt Steele — on shots in close, including a remarkable sliding left-pad stop 2:10 into the second overtime, more than four minutes before Maksut netted the winner.
“He played a heck of a game, you really have to take your hat off to the kid,” Belleau said. “You need good goaltenders to get to the state championship, and both teams had it.”
Finch was particularly solid on a play in double overtime, when Lewiston’s Ben Wigant was alone at the right post. Finch lunged to his left, seeing only a dash of blue in the corner of his eye, and stopped the attempt with his left pad.
“We had a funny start to our season, and it took a while to catch fire,” Rousseau said. “Once it all came together, I think everyone saw how brilliant Jay Finch is. C.J. Maksut doesn’t get that opportunity if he doesn’t make that huge save.”
Thornton jumped on Poussard early, testing the all-state keeper with a few shots in tight.
The Trojans thought they’d put one past Poussard 2:34 into game when C.J. Maksut shoveled a rebound toward the cage from a tough angle at the right side of the net. The puck originally hit the post, then hit Poussard. But officials quickly waved the goal off after the whistle.
At the other end, Finch was equally solid, stopping Kyle Lemelin with a sliding right pad, and turning aside Sam Cloutier on a backhand try on the left.
Ben Wigant had the Blue Devils’ best chance to score in the first with time winding down, but Thornton defender Tyler Danley held on for dear life as Wigant stormed toward Finch, drawing a holding penalty, the power play from which carried over into the second.
The scoring volley started early in the frame. Jon Pate put the Trojans in front with a sharp-angle shot on a shorthanded rush at 1:41. Sam Cloutier snaked his way through four players and beat Finch at 3:49 to even things up at a goal apiece, only to watch as Sam Canales ripped a wrister past Poussard less than two minutes later.
The Devils again rallied to tie at 9:02, this one a blast off the stick of Matt Therrien.
That deadlock lasted all of three minutes, as Andrew Carignan finished in front on a perfect backhand feed from Pate across the low slot to the right post, and that TA lead lasted just six seconds. On the ensuing center ice faceoff, Desmond Gagne poked the puck to himself and scored on a quick shot from the left side.
Of the first eight shots by the two teams in the middle frame, six went in.
The scoring dried up in the third, as the teams buckled down defensively, and both goalies returned to normal, expected form.
“It would have been nice to take the lead at some point,” Belleau said. “But there was no quit tonight. Somebody had to score sooner or later.”
Copyright (c) 2011, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine
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