Lewiston High School has dominated Eastern Maine Class A hockey in recent years.
The Blue Devils have won six of the last nine regional championships and two of the last three.
Archrival Saint Dominic of Auburn won the other one in 2012 and was the Western Maine A champ in 2009.
The central Maine neighbors are again expected to be in the thick of the title chase with Bangor and Brunswick also in the picture.
Lewiston hasn’t won a state championship since 2002, St. Dom’s hasn’t hoisted the plaque since it won back-to-back crowns in 1999 and 2000, and Bangor and Brunswick have never won a title.
Lewiston lost to Falmouth 4-0 in last year’s state final.
Bangor is coming off one of its best seasons ever.
The Rams went 17-4 behind their first Travis Roy Award recipient, Parker Sanderson, only to lose to Lewiston 5-1 in the EM final despite outshooting the Blue Devils 36-24.
The Travis Roy Award is given to the state’s top Class A senior player.
Replacing the dynamic Sanderson and his 22 goals and 24 assists won’t be easy. They also will have to replace fellow All-Eastern Maine first-teamer Zach Papsadora (13 & 12) and second-teamer Zeb Tuell (9 & 9).
But second-year coach Quinn Paradis said his Rams have the potential to be better than last year by season’s end.
“Our goaltending and defense are solid,” said Paradis. “We have some holes to fill up front but we have four or five guys who can score [consistently] and we’ve had guys step up. We’ve received great efforts from all of our lines.”
Bangor is off to a 2-1 start and has scored 15 goals in its three games.
“We have real good leadership and a lot of experience on defense,” said senior center Cam Dickson. “We’re also really close-knit.”
Senior Rye Powell is back between the pipes after turning in a solid campaign in his first season as the starter last year.
“He has played two of our games and has given us solid efforts in both,” said Paradis.
First-team All-EM Class A defenseman Justin Courtney, who had seven goals and six assists, and second-team selection Galen Perry headline a blue line corps that is steeped in experience.
They are seniors along with Kyle Farley. Sam Huston is a seasoned junior and sophomore Ben Crichton has been a nice addition.
Junior left wing Jordan Tracy is coming off a 32-point season (14 goals, 18 assists) which earned him All-EM second-team honors.
He is on a line with prep school transfer Ryan Gagne, a senior, and junior Nick Graham.
Dickson is flanked by juniors Jake Fournier and Owen Trundy and the third line features sophomore Trevor DeLaite between juniors Sam Kenney and Andrew Elston.
“Most of our guys have played since they were freshmen so they’re ready to step up and fill the shoes of the guys who left,” said Courtney.
Paradis looks at Lewiston and St. Dom’s as being the teams to beat.
“They each have a lot of returning players and they are both well-coached. Lewiston has such a hockey tradition. They have a great program and feeder system. They always have strong teams,” said Paradis. “Brunswick is a team to watch out for. They had a young team last year.”
Lewiston, 17-4-1 a year ago, lost EM first-teamers Evan Bourassa, a goalie, and Patrick DeBlois, a defenseman, but there are plenty of quality returnees including four All-EM selections in forwards Evan Gosselin, Kyle Lemelin and Matt Poulin along with defenseman Ethan Melvin.
Gosselin, Lemelin and Poulin comprise one of the state’s most prolific lines but coach Jamie Belleau also has a top-notch second line with Kyle Morin, Jean-Luc Dosite and Griffin Wade.
Lewiston scored 26 goals en route to a 4-1 start with Poulin and Morin leading the way with six goals apiece.
Melvin headlines a veteran defense corps along with seniors Max Bolduc and Eddie Emerson.
Junior Nick Hawk has played the majority of the games in net with sophomore Sam Zashut also seeing some action.
“The sky is the limit. Our goal is to get to the states and win it,” said Belleau. “But there are six or seven teams in the state who can beat anybody on any given night [in Class A]. In Eastern A, Bangor and St. Dom’s are always tough.”
The Blue Devils also have received a boost from Edward Little of Auburn transfer Brendon Croteau, a second-team all-star last year.
Steve Ouellette returns 14 players off last year’s 12-7-1 St. Dom’s team. The Saints are currently 2-2.
“We’re a little older than we were [last season] and we’re more experienced. We’ve got a nice mix of seniors, juniors and sophomores,” said Ouellette.
Second-team selection Brad Berube centers their all-junior top line between Caleb Labrie and Dillon Pratt and the second line of Chase Hainey between brothers Cam Stewart and Cal Stewart is another quality trio.
Ouellette welcomed back a seasoned defense corps that includes Matt Chasse, Avery Jones, Brian Bonenfant and Mitch Lorenz.
All-EM first-team goalie Grant Carrier has graduated so seniors Zack Roy and Caleb Dostie are sharing the job.
Brunswick should improve on last year’s 10-7-1 regular-season record behind high-scoring Matt Brooks and defenseman Cam Heatley, who were were first-team all-stars a year ago, and goalie Blake Alexander, a second-team selection. Ryan Maciejewski and Jacob McGowan are also important components as the Dragons are off to a 3-2 start.
Cony/Monmouth and 2012-13 Coach of the Year Chad Foye are off to a 3-1 start thanks to Austin Davis’ eight goals. Aaron Manter and Zach Gagne also will be key contributors along with goalie Tom Small. Edward Little, 1-3, will be young but has a veteran defense corps including second-team all-star Ben Steele along with Chris Poisson, Colin Benson and Cade Chapman.
First-year co-op team Lawrence/Skowhegan (1-2) features Andrew Carpenter, Anthony Paul, Trey Michonski and goalie Sam Edmondson.
Kaleb Bridgham, a second-team all-star defenseman, is one of 2-2 Gray New Gloucester/Poland’s top guns along with Ethan Cailler and Deryk Belanger while Kyle Lussier and seniors Bru Abreu, Jeremy Williams, Brett Gravel and Sean Bolduc will be expected to lead 3-2 Mount Ararat/Lisbon. Windham, 2-3, has been led in the early going by Zack Callahan, Tyler Johnson and Gage Chenard.