LEWISTON, Maine — Looking for the hat trick, St. Dom’s sophomore Caleb Labrie instead completed high school hockey’s version of the Gordie Howe hat trick Tuesday with a pair of goals, a penalty and a third-period assist as the Saints overcame an early challenge from Skowhegan to post a 6-0 Eastern Class A quarterfinal victory over the Indians at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Labrie posted the lone goal of the first period and then keyed a stretch of four goals on six shots for the Saints early in the third to help the No. 3-ranked host team put the game out of reach.
“Guys kept it simple and started making the right decisions in the third period,” St. Dom’s coach Steve Ouellette said. “The decisions were more team-based decisions at that point. If that’s the team we see here going forward, then we’ll be fine.”
Kyle Holtet also had a pair of goals for St. Dom’s (12-6-1), while Brad Berube and Dillon Pratt added one each.
“All year long we’ve been playing with a guy out, and [Tuesday] we lost another guy early, so that changed things,” Ouellette said, “but we have guys who have had to fill those roles all year long and they’re used to it, and they all can contribute. Having that depth is a good thing.
“It’s difficult when you play a tough schedule to go out and just get points. We kind of drill that into these guys, that points aren’t the focus, that we need to play good team defense to go deep in the playoffs, and the points will come.”
Austin Christopher stopped all 13 shots he faced to post the shutout. Though the senior ’keeper saw only one long-distance shot in the third period as the Saints ratcheted up the pressure, he was key in the middle frame to preserve a 2-0 lead.
“The first two periods, Austin had to be at the top of his game, and he was,” Ouellette said. “The second period in particular, he faced a lot of shots early, they were getting chances and he stood up.”
In the third period, faced with a 2-0 deficit, the Indians started to wear down.
“A two-goal lead isn’t much. It’s the worst lead to have in hockey,” Skowhegan coach Jeff Fowler said. “If we would have been able to get one, they would have been sweating, and we had a two-minute span there in the second period where we were all over them, but we just couldn’t bury one. We had trouble finishing.”
After their third goal, the Saints turned on the jets against a weakening Skowhegan squad.
“Once they scored the third, it definitely deflates you,” Fowler said. “Now, you’re facing a good team, and how are you going to put up three against a good team like that? The chances lower the more they put up.”
St. Dom’s advances to Saturday’s Eastern Class A semifinal, where it will face East No. 2 Bangor, an 8-5 winner over Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop in Bangor on Tuesday.
The game began with a scary moment for the Indians, as captain and starting defender Anne-Marie Provencal crumbled to the ice after a hit in the corner by a pair of forechecking Saints just 37 seconds into the contest. She ultimately regained her feet after play was stopped, hobbled to the bench and resumed play later in the period.
By then, it was 1-0 in favor of St. Dom’s. Labrie showed off some fancy stick work, picking a Skowhegan defender’s pocket, dancing through another and beating ’keeper Sam Edmondson off the arm.
The Indians held the Saints to perimeter shots for the remainder of the period and stemmed the pressure late in the frame and into the second with the game’s first power play. After a slow power play, the Indians barraged Christopher with four shots in succession — two of those coming uncontested — testing the senior keeper.
Against the flow of play, Berube capitalized on a Skowhegan turnover in the Indians’ zone, faked a pass to a streaking teammate up the right side and sniped the top corner past Edmondson’s glove to push the home team’s lead to 2-0.