LEWISTON—They came so close.

So agonizingly close.

Scarborough’s boys’ hockey team traveled to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee Saturday evening to take on undefeated, favored Lewiston in the Class A state final and instead of rolling over and playing a supporting role in the Blue Devils’ coronation, the Red Storm played like champions, even if they fell one goal shy of the pinnacle in an instant classic heavyweight bout.

Scarborough junior goalie Peter O’Brien held Lewiston in check for much of the first period, but at 8:36, the Blue Devils grabbed the lead, as senior Ryan Pomerleau set up classmate Kurtis Pelletier for a 1-0 advantage.

The Red Storm answered in the second period, coming out with renewed purpose and tying the score on a rebound goal from junior John Valente at 13:20.

And then, despite good chances for both teams, it took a long, long time for the lamp to be lit again.

Neither team scored in the third period, nor in an eight-minute overtime.

So the contest went to a second OT where, finally, there was resolution.

After Pelletier was denied on a golden opportunity on a breakaway, Lewiston kept possession and Pelletier got a second chance, burying a rebound of a Pomerleau shot to send the Blue Devils to the promised land with a 2-1 victory.

Lewiston won its 21st game without a loss this winter, captured the storied program’s 24th all-time championship and in the process, ended valiant Scarborough’s season at 15-5-1.

“I’m just really proud of the effort,” said Red Storm coach Jake Brown. “Not just this game, but all season. The guys displayed in this game what playing as a team can do. We’ll never forget these moments. We played with class and we really stuck together.”

Not quite enough

Scarborough enjoyed a dizzying climb back to the pinnacle after winning just three games and missing the playoffs altogether in 2017-18. After a 1o-win season last winter, which culminated with a quarterfinal round loss to Portland/Deering, the Red Storm went 13-4-1 this year, losing only to Lewiston (twice), Cape Elizabeth and St. Dom’s and also tying eventual repeat Class B champion Greely.

Scarborough went into the Class A state tournament as the No. 3 seed and eliminated No. 6 Portland/Deering (6-1) in the quarterfinals before outlasting No. 7 Edward Little in a triple-overtime marathon in Tuesday’s semifinal round, 3-2 (see sidebar, above, for links to previous stories).

Lewiston, meanwhile, was simply unstoppable this winter, winning 18 times against zero losses (scoring 92 goals and giving up six in the process). As the top seed in Class A, the Blue Devils blanked No. 8 Bangor, 6-0, in the state quarterfinal, then Tuesday, scored five unanswered goals for a 5-1 win over No. 4 South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete in the state semifinals.

Scarborough lost twice to the Blue Devils this season, 5-1 at Lewiston Dec. 18 and 3-1 at home Feb. 1.

The teams met just once before in the postseason, Lewiston’s 2-1 victory in the 2016 Class A state final.

Saturday, the Red Storm sought to join the 1995 and 2015 teams as state champions (see sidebar, above), but instead, they joined the 1996 and 2016 squads and lost on the big stage, as it would be the Blue Devils capturing the championship for the fourth time in five seasons.

Lewiston controlled the first period, enjoying a 14-1 shots advantage, but only one of those shots found the mark.

O’Brien set the tone early by denying junior Michael Belleau, senior Sam Laroche and freshman Brock Bergeron.

With 10:32 to go in the first, sophomore Damon Bossie fired a shot which deflected off the crossbar and out of harm’s way.

After O’Brien denied freshman Cooper St. Hilaire with his glove, Scarborough registered its only shot of the period, but a bid from junior Zach Chaisson, the hero of the Red Storm’s triple-OT win in the semifinals, was snared by Blue Devils’ junior goalie Keegan McLaughlin.

After O’Brien robbed junior Logan Tripp on a breakaway, Lewiston went on the power play and Pelletier twice tested O’Brien, as did Laroche, to no avail.

Finally, with 6:24 to go in the period, Bossie got the puck to Pomerleau behind the goal and Pomerleau spotted Pelletier wide open in front. Pomerleau passed the puck, Pelletier banged it home and the Blue Devils were up, 1-0.

Lewiston hoped to add to the lead, but after Pelletier stole the puck and raced in alone, O’Brien stopped him cold.

O’Brien later twice denied Tripp and the score remained 1-0 heading to the second period.

“You’re never comfortable with a one-goal lead in a state championship game,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said.

“We had some nerves and (Lewiston) did a good job clogging the neutral zone and prevented us from dumping pucks in,” Brown said.

In spite of the 14-1 shots disparity, the Red Storm weren’t rattled.

“After the first period, we came into the locker room confident,” said senior captain Nolan Matthews. “We knew we were still in it.”

In the second period, Scarborough turned things around.

Dramatically.

The Red Storm came out fired up and nearly tied it 33 seconds in, but senior Nolan Matthews couldn’t quite reach a feed from senior Cam Budway in front of an open net.

Scarborough went on the power play at 5:35, but couldn’t solve McLaughlin, who denied senior Dawson Gendreau, Chaisson, Matthews and Gendreau again.

After O’Brien made a key save on a shot from Pomerleau on a rush, the Red Storm went back on the attack and after sophomore Sam Rumelhart’s redirection of a shot from the blue line was saved by McLaughlin, McLaughlin also denied junior Grover Wallace.

Then, with 1:40 remaining in the second, Valente had a shot saved, but stayed with the puck and buried the rebound to make it 1-1. Junior Michael Valente was also given an assist.

A late save by O’Brien on a shot from Lewiston senior Owen Cox sent the contest to the third period deadlocked.

“(Scarborough) took it to us in the second period,” Jamie Belleau said. “They were taking the walls away. When we used the middle, they collapsed pretty quick.”

The final period (or so we thought) featured good chances both ways, but no goals.

With 13:07 to go, the puck bounced right out to Blue Devils’ junior Joey Gendron in front, but his backhanded shot was stopped by O’Brien.

After O’Brien denied Belleau, Scarborough got a great chance with 5:43 on the clock, but after a Budway steal and pass to Gendreau from a prone position on the ice, Gendreau was robbed by McLaughlin.

With 4:50 left, Bossie tried to set up Michael Belleau in front, but Belleau couldn’t quite reach the puck.

Then, with 4:01 remaining, the Red Storm went on the power play, after Pomerleau slashed O’Brien.

Scarborough couldn’t take advantage, however, only generating one shot, by Rumelhart, which was saved by McLaughlin.

After Wallace had a shot blocked, the Blue Devils got the final chance of regulation, but O’Brien robbed Belleau short-handed and the contest went to overtime.

In high school hockey, teams play eight-minute overtime periods with the first goal being the winner.

On this night, it would take two.

The Red Storm came out strong to start overtime, but McLaughlin saved bids from Budway and senior Ethan Jasa.

After Pomerleau just missed wide, Scarborough junior Cory Schular had a great look in front, but McLaughlin stuck out his pad just in time to make the save.

Pelletier then had a chance to win it after stealing the puck, but O’Brien stopped him cold.

O’Brien then twice saved bids from Bossie.

Late in overtime, Budway had a shot saved by McLaughlin, then O’Brien denied Tripp and the contest went to a second extra session.

After the ice was resurfaced, the drama continued to rise until at last, the Blue Devils and their legion of followers could exhale and exult.

Just 29 seconds into the second overtime, O’Brien denied Pomerleau.

After an O’Brien save on a shot from Laroche, the Red Storm transitioned to offense and nearly won it with 6:59 on the clock.

Rumelhart raced in and shot with McLaughlin making the save, but play was stopped for a review to see if the goalie really did make the save.

With everyone on hand holding their breath, the play was upheld.

No goal.

And the contest continued.

Lewiston continued to pressure for the winner, but O’Brien continued to stand tall, twice denying sophomore Evan Knowlton.

With 3:59 remaining, John Valente raced in looking to play the hero for Scarborough, but his rush was broken up by the defense.

And then, suddenly, the Blue Devils won it.

Pelletier would run the gamut of emotions on the final sequence, first breaking in one-on-one with O’Brien only to be denied.

But Lewiston kept possession and senior Drew St. Hilaire passed to Pomerleau, who put a shot on goal.

O’Brien made the save, but Pelletier was there to play the hero, rebounding the puck into the net.

“After I shot it and missed, I was a little bummed, but I went around the net and got in front to screen (O’Brien’s) eyes, then I got the rebound and redirected it,” Pelletier said. “I had no clue what was going to happen, I just tried to see if I could get it to the net as fast as I could because every shot on net counts. You never know what’s going to happen, if it’s going to do a rebound, you never know.”

“A really good player made a great play,” Brown said. “Our forwards didn’t have time to get back and help out.”

At 8:21 p.m., the Blue Devils had a 2-1 victory and a state championship and they celebrated accordingly.

In a mass of jubilant humanity.

“(Scoring) just felt so good,” said Pelletier. “It didn’t feel real. It’s so amazing. We kept our confidence and pushed through.”

“We were just putting everything to the net,” Pomerleau said. “Anything can happen and look what happened.”

“You need a lucky break and we got one,” added Jamie Belleau. “I thought we played really well and we had chances and played really well in overtime.”

Lewiston wound up a perfect champion.

“Every season we get everybody’s best game, so this is really sweet to go 21-0,” Pelletier said.

“It’s hard to go undefeated with the schedule we play,” Jamie Belleau said. “You have to take your hat off to our guys. I’m proud of them. I’m lucky to coach them. I’m proud of how we weathered the storm. We’ve talked about adversity, discipline and composure. The guys did a great job. I told the kids this game would be the hardest game they’ve played all year. We had a lot of guys play well. Our defense and our goaltending was good. We were resilient.”

Lewiston led in shots the whole way and wound up with a 42-26 advantage. The Blue Devils failed to convert on their lone power play. McLaughlin made 25 saves.

Red Storm pride

Scarborough went 0-for-2 on the power play, but O’Brien’s sensational 40 saves kept the Red Storm in the game for nearly 58 high stress minutes.

“I thought Peter was unbelievable,” Brown said. “He’s a competitor. He really stayed focused. He saw the puck well the whole game.”

Scarborough nearly sprung the upset and turned heads with its effort.

“We got a group of guys that battled,” said Jasa. “I’m so proud of everyone bouncing back and giving Lewiston a heck of a game. Give credit to my teammates. That’s just an incredible group of guys that left everything out there.”

“The kids stuck to the game plan and did what we wanted to do,” Brown said. “Even in the overtimes, we had some good chances to bury the puck, but that’s the way overtime hockey is. We just didn’t get the bounce. We knew we’d have to play gritty in the defensive zone. We really put an emphasis on playing the game in front of us. (The Blue Devils) like to stretch the ice, but for most of the game, we did a really good job of it.”

“Scarborough’s well-coached and Jake’s like a son to me,” said Jamie Belleau. “His kids did everything they could. Hats off to them. They’re very structured. They had a great game plan.”

The Red Storm graduate seven seniors who made quite the impact on the program.

“I’m really going to miss the senior class,” said Brown. “You can’t replace guys like that. They turned the page for Scarborough hockey and because of them, we’ll have more success down the road. It was a great group of guys that trusted the coaching staff. When we won three games, they didn’t doubt us once. When you go through that kind of a season, there’s a special bond. We built with them the next couple years. They did a great job bringing new guys in and showing them how we play.”

Scarborough does return a lot of firepower next winter and after coming so close to the mountaintop this season, the Red Storm will be bound and determined to finish the job.

“I think we’ll continue to play with the Scarborough identity and play like we did tonight,” Brown said. “Even guys who didn’t get shifts tonight learned a lot from being a part of this. The younger guys will be hungry next year.”

Press Herald staff writer Kevin Thomas and Sun Journal staff writer Wil Kramlich contributed to this story.

Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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