The Bulldogs (6-12-0) closed the regular season Feb. 16 — a 7-3 loss to Hampden — and then waited for others to finish before the Heal points were finalized.
“We just kept practicing and hoped we were good enough to get in,” first-year coach Ted Fabian said.
The Bulldogs were.
Houlton/Hodgdon (5-13-0) couldn’t catch Lawrence, which earned the seventh seed and will play at No. 2 John Bapst (12-5-1) tonight.
The teams will face off at 7 p.m. at Sawyer Arena in Bangor.
“It’s the playoffs and anything can happen,” Fabian said. “There is a lot of parity in the league. One of our goals was to get progressively better as the season went along. Another goal was to make the playoffs and then make a run.”
The Crusaders edged the Bulldogs 5-4 on Feb. 13 at Sukee Arena. The Bulldogs led throughout the game, but then lost leading scorer Tyler Boudreau to a lower leg injury. Boudreau missed the third period and the regular-season finale against Hampden.
Fabian said he expects Boudreau — who has 19 goals and 14 assists for 33 points — to play tonight.
Boudreau is skating with Andrew Carpenter (20 goals) and Josh Doolan. Cody Martin also sees time on the top line as well.
“I’ll match my top line with anybody in the state,” Fabian said.
John Bapst coach Gene Fadrigon said he expects another tough, physical game tonight.
“For their numbers, they’ve certainly done a good job,” he said. “They are physical and we’ll have to be ready for that. Lawrence won’t quit. They seem to have that refuse-to-lose attitude. Lawrence is dangerous.”
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Messalonskee returned to practice Monday as it awaits who it will face in the Eastern B semifinals Saturday at Sukee Arena.
The Eagles (16-2-0), who earned their first top seed in program history, will play the winner of No. 4 Hampden (11-7-0) and No. 5 Orono (8-9-1).
“It’s a big week of practice,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “(Monday) and Tuesday we’ll work on parts of our game we need to improve. Starting Wednesday, we’ll start focusing on our opponent Saturday. We’re going to go scout the game and we’ll go from there.”
Messalonskee, the defending regional champ, lost to Camden 5-4 in double overtime in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship last Saturday. The Eagles won their final five regular-season games.
“We’re healthy,” Latendresse said, “and that is big for us. Last year at this time we weren’t.”
Added senior captain defenseman Dom Dexter: “It was nice to get a little break and to have a full week of practice. I think it will help us.”
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Skowhegan (12-5-1) couldn’t get to the Eastern A playoffs fast enough.
The No. 6 Indians, who dropped their final two regular-season games in overtime, will play No. 3 St. Dominic (11-6-1) at 6 tonight at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“We’ll forget about those last games as quick as we can,” Skowhegan coach Jeff Fowler said.
The Indians and Saints didn’t meet in the regular season, but they had three common opponents — Cony, Bangor and Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop.
St. Dom’s went 2-1-0 against those teams while Skowhegan went 1-3-0.
However, the Indians are in the Eastern A playoffs for a second consecutive season, and Fowler hopes the experience will pay off.
“We’re a smarter team with more experience,” he said. “We want to rebound from those two losses.”
Like Skowhegan, St. Dom’s enters the playoffs coming off two tough one-goal losses.
The Saints dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to Falmouth before losing to Bangor 5-4.
“We lost a few tough ones down the stretch,” St. Dom’s coach Steve Ouellette said. “We’ve been moving the puck a lot better. We have a younger team and it took us awhile to get going, but we’ve been playing pretty well.”
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By the numbers: Lawrence is one of nine teams in the state to make the playoffs with a losing record. Three of the five Western B playoff teams finished below .500. … The difference between fourth place in Eastern A — and the right to host a quarterfinal game — and seventh was 7.8 Heal points. Western A top seed Scarborough (17-1-0), coached by Norm Gagne, takes a 16-game winning streak into the playoffs.
Bill Stewart — 621-5640