LEWISTON — Shouts had become shrieks. Tension levels in the Colisee were spiking and it didn’t matter if you were a hockey fan wearing the blue and white of York or the black and orange of Brewer.

In front of the York goal, Alex Ahrikenchikh ignored the noise and his beating heart. “I’ve got my eyes on the puck,” he said, remembering that moment. “I’m judging the angle and trying to set myself.”

Ever look up to see the player behind the puck?

“I try not to. Why, was it No. 4? He got me on one. I didn’t want him to get me on another.”

York is the new Class B hockey champion because the apple-cheeked Ahrikenchikh wouldn’t let Evan Nadeau — Brewer’s No. 4 — or any of his high-scoring cohorts push the puck past him. The underdogs upended the defending champions 4-3 in overtime Saturday, because one teenager was able to hold his emotions together.

Brewer and York met in last year’s Class B final. Ahrikenchikh also was in goal that day, at the wrong end of a 3-1 Brewer victory. “I’ve remembered every one of those goals for a year,” he said. “I wanted another chance.”

Life rarely allows for do-overs. Competition in Western Maine was tough this season. Beating Greely for the regional championship was tough. Ahrikenchikh wasn’t going to let his teammates lose that game.

He’s the goalie, the last player between victory and defeat. The burden can be crushing, especially when you’re young. “I’ve worked on my focus,” said Ahrikenchikh. “I never let a goal get to me.”

You didn’t hear ego in his voice. He has the personality of the best goalies: even-tempered.

During the first period and midway through the second, his teammates trapped at mid-ice and slowed the vaunted Brewer offense. At times, with a stoppage of play in the Brewer end, Ahrikenchikh would skate away from the net to the sideboards on his left, tap the boards and return to the net.

“It was more to keep my legs going.” He grinned. “It’s also a little superstition I have.”

Down 2-1 in the second period, Brewer picked up the pace. The defending champs had a sense of urgency.

Suddenly, the Brewer forwards were taking the puck in their end and rushing the York end. Sometimes they were coming in unchecked.

Breakaways are the test of any goalie. The player with the puck knows his next move. The goalie can only guess. And pray.

Ahrikenchikh couldn’t look for help. His glove hand whipped out time and again like a good jai alai player. He used his blocker. He set his body square or he sprawled. “Did I think the pace picked up? Yeah. But that was good. I was able to get into a rhythm.”

He had no time to indulge his ritual skate to the sideboards. The teams flew up and down the ice. Penalties? This was a virtually clean game. As the minutes melted away in the third period of a 2-2 game, the tension and noise increased. Then Nadeau scored and Brewer had a 3-2 lead.

Before Ahrikenchikh could catch his breath, Nadeau split two York defenders and was a stride ahead, no one between him and the York goalie. That’s when shouts turned to shrieks. Ahrikenchikh’s eyes followed the puck, not the player. He deflected the puck away.

York tied the game. When Anthony Figlioli scored the winning goal in overtime, Ahrikenchikh tossed his goalie stick away and raced down the ice to join his teammates. As they picked themselves off the big pile, they turned to embrace Ahrikenchikh.

“There was so much hype before this game,” he said. “We kept hearing that Brewer was too good.”

So he and his teammates turned deaf ears to the chatter off the ice and kept their poise. Coach Mike Vessey’s boys may have emptied their gas tanks, but they didn’t break down.

“This is so special,” said the kid with the spelling bee name. Somehow he wound up with the championship trophy in his care. “York has never won a (state) hockey championship before. We did it.

“I was prepared.” 

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: [email protected]