LEWISTON, Maine — Bangor’s relentless forecheck kept Lewiston back on its heels most of the night. The Rams’ defense and Rye Powell’s goaltending kept the Blue Devils at bay at the other end, and a pair of Jake Fournier goals made the difference as Bangor edged Lewiston 3-2 in Eastern Class A boys’ hockey action at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Wednesday.
“This was very important for us,” Fournier said. “We really had to work hard in practice this week, work on our power play, work on our penalty kill, just everything. Overall, our speed was pretty good and we got a lot of shots on net.”
The teams are both expected to be among the best in Eastern A this season, and each had only one loss going into their first of two regular-season matchups. The loss drops Lewiston to 7-2, while Bangor moves to 6-1.
“I was concerned that we didn’t come out playing our best hockey, because there’s really no reason for it,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. “We knew what to expect, we knew Bangor was going to be hungry, and we knew they had a monkey on their back when it comes to playing us, and we knew we were going to face their best game and we weren’t ready for it in the first period. We were adequate, but we didn’t play to the level we expect, and we paid for it.”
The Rams’ forecheck was a thorn in the Devils’ sides all night. Sending two forwards deep into the Lewiston zone with speed was a disruption from which the Devils had a hard time recovering.
“We changed our forecheck this year, and it’s aggressive,” Bangor coach Quinn Paradis said. “We’re a fast team, we’re aggressive and we want to go after them. It worked, it’s worked very well for us all season.”
“We knew what they were doing, and we talked about the adjustments,” Belleau said, “and that’s probably the first time all season we had to make some adjustments in the game. I thought by midway through the third we were finally starting to counter that aggressive forecheck.”
Defensively, Bangor clogged passing lanes and put a stick on a lot of pucks that were otherwise bound for Powell’s crease.
“That’s one thing we’re doing better than last year, we’re getting sticks in lanes, we’re getting guys in lanes, blocking shots. It was a great team effort.”
Powell finished with 24 saves.
At the other end, Lewiston ’keeper Nick Hawk did the best he could to keep the Rams off the board, stopping 17 of the 20 shots he faced.
“The second period in particular, they had six or seven shots right from the slot and Nick came up big,” Belleau said. “And he certainly did give us a chance to stay in the game.”
Despite that disparity for the first two-plus periods, Lewiston had its chances to at least tie the game late in the third. After pulling within one with 2:35 to play, the Devils had a power play with 40 seconds remaining. Despite three good shots on net, nothing got by Powell.
“You can’t give up a penalty with less than a minute left like that,” Paradis said. “Fortunately (Powell) played really well. He’s a senior, he’s played a lot of games here.”
‘It’s too late, though,” Belleau said. “It was too late.”
The Rams found the back of the net first after a slow start to the opening period from both teams.
A turnover high in the Bangor zone turned the Devils on their heels as Justin Courtney swatted the puck through the center zone. Fournier led a charge of three Bangor skaters into the Lewiston end, and as his two teammates curled to the cage and drew the lone defender with them, Fournier snapped the puck from the right circle and banked it in off Hawk’s arm for a 1-0 advantage.
“I had Owen Trundy and Cam Dickson on the left and they had the defender,” Fournier said. “I just shot it blocker side, and it went in off his shoulder.”
Lewiston had a solid chance to equalize in the last minute of the frame. After an unsuccessful power play, the Devils drew an icing call with four seconds to play. On the ensuing faceoff, the puck slid back to Joey Frechette at the blue line, and he ripped a slap shot that pinballed off a pair of skates before bounding to the back boards, just as time expired.
Hawk kept the Rams at bay for the first part of the second, and defenseman Eddie Emerson saved a sure goal off the goal line to help his keeper with about 7:30 to play in that period.
At 8:26, Kyle Lemelin potted a pretty goal on a feed from Evan Gosselin on a 2-on-1 to even the game at 1-1, but the Bangor attack forged ahead and the Rams again took a one-goal lead at 10:19. Fournier netted his second, this time tipping a dump-in from the point from Ben Crichton past Hawk from the right circle for a 2-1 Rams advantage.
“Right place, right time, I got a bit lucky on that one,” Fournier said. “It all counts.”
The Rams pushed the lead to 3-1 early in the third when Courtney finished in front on another feed from Crichton. Lewiston made things interesting with a goal at 12:35 when an Eddie Emerson shot tipped off a defender’s stick and floated over Powell’s head.
“We can learn from this,” Belleau said. “We didn’t play our best hockey, and they played well. There’s a reason for that. You have to take your hats off to them for executing. We can learn from it, and we’re going to have to learn from it if we want to get to where we want to be.”