BIDDEFORD — They return 11 seniors. That fact alone used to mean Biddeford High would be a sure favorite in boys’ hockey.

But these are different times. No longer are there 45 to 50 players in the Tigers’ program, but 24. And it’s been a while since they’ve been a force.

Biddeford, the school that won three Class A state titles in four years (2007, 2008 and 2010), has not been to the state title game since. The Tigers have been ousted in the regional quarterfinals each of the last six years.

Maybe 2017-18 will be different.

“I definitely see this being a lot more successful than the past couple of seasons,” said senior defenseman Liam Turner. “It’s not like we’ve had bad seasons. We just get to the playoffs and it doesn’t go our way.”

Turner and his teammates grew up watching Tigers hockey at Biddeford Ice Arena. “Always came to games whenever I could,” said Turner, who was on hand when Biddeford won the 2010 championship.

Those young fans are now Biddeford players. Repeating the success is not so easy.

“It’s been hard the past couple of years,” said senior forward Colin Lavigne. “We want to win. We’ve always wanted to win, watching (earlier Biddeford teams) win when we were younger.”

The 2011 Tigers were undefeated before being upset, 4-3, by rival Thornton Academy in the regional final.

Since then, it’s been quarterfinal losses, the past four particularly upsetting.

In 2014, the third-seeded Tigers were upset by No. 6 Thornton (it was hardly a case of home ice advantage since Thornton also uses the Biddeford Ice Arena).

The 2015 loss came in overtime to Scarborough, but the 2016 overtime loss was even tougher. Biddeford led Cheverus 4-0, only to lose, 6-5. The 2017 quarterfinals featured another one-goal loss, 3-2, to Scarborough.

Jason Tremblay took over as coach last season. It was a time to build toward, what he hopes, is a true contender this season.

“We have a solid nucleus coming back – 11 seniors, all who saw time last year and understand the coaching staff’s expectations,” said Tremblay, who coached Cape Elizabeth to two Class B state titles (2005-06) before becoming an assistant coach the University of New England.

Tremblay has another credential on his resume – he played hockey for Biddeford High, graduating in 1994. Back then, Tremblay remembers twice as many skaters in a Biddeford uniform. “It’s changed,” he said.

“But we believe we will be right in the mix, and we have a very difficult schedule.”

Biddeford never has shied away from powerhouses – and its tough scheduling has sometimes hurt the Tigers when it comes time to seed teams for the playoffs. This year, Biddeford plays all the top teams twice, including Lewiston, which is gunning for a third straight state championship.

And the two games against Thornton will be a challenge, because the Trojans look improved. That should have the Biddeford Ice Arena rocking, twice.

“That will be fun,” Lavigne said. “The energy level is always high for those games.”

Biddeford also has two Class B powers on its schedule. The Tigers beat the defending Class B South champs, York, 3-0 in the season opener for both teams on Saturday.


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