WATERVILLE — They’ve been partnered up for so long now, one could imagine a scenario in which nobody involved with the Waterville Senior High School hockey team even knows what their actual names are.
It’s simply “Matt and Andrew,” or, sometimes, “Andrew and Matt.”
So inseparable are Purple Panther senior defensemen Matt Jolicoeur and Andrew Roderigue, they’re even paired together for their junior team with the Maine Moose. Where Roderigue has put up impressive point totals this season, including 18 goals from the blue line, Jolicoeur has been just as key in Waterville’s run to Tuesday night’s Class B North regional championship game.
The top-seeded Panthers meet No. 2 Old Town/Orono at 7 p.m. at Alfond Arena on the campus of the University of Maine in Orono.
“It’s kind of like what we’ve said all along, (Jolicoeur) sees the ice really well,” Waterville head coach Dennis Martin said. “Defensively, he wins the one-on-one battles, and he’s strong on the puck.”
But don’t be fooled by Jolicoeur’s consistency in his own end of the rink. He just finished off his second consecutive 30-point campaign, posting 10-27-37 totals during the regular season.
“We’re both good defensemen, but we’re both pretty offensive,” Jolicoeur said, deferring to talk about Roderigue instead of himself. “When we both have those qualities, it’s better for the team, too.”
This season, Waterville allowed only 26 goals in 17 regular season games against Class B competition. Seven of those goals, however, came at home against Old Town/Orono in the season finale.
The Black Bears (15-2-2) lost only twice during the regular season, both of those coming at the hands of Waterville. Waterville won 6-0 in Orono before a spirited late-game comeback by the Purple Panthers turned into an 8-7 win on Feb. 26.
“They have some speed,” Jolicoeur said. “Over the course of the season, they had the most speed of any (Class B) team that we played. Of course if a team is coming at you flying, it makes you pick up your tempo. I think it suits us. I think it’s better for our game.”
It certainly suited Jolicoeur’s game. He scored twice in the first meeting between the two teams and then scored a power-play goal in the final minute of the third period that was the difference in the rematch.
“Matt’s had some success against them, for whatever reason,” Martin said. “We kept fighting back and battling back. We might have been a little off that day, but you’ve got to give them credit — they played hard. They were determined, and they threw a lot off stuff on net.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising that Jolicoeur and Roderigue combined for six goals and 11 points between them against Old Town/Orono this winter.
The Panthers’ top defensive pairing understands their role in jumpstarting a potent offense — an offense that’s scored more than 150 goals thus far.
“Me and Matt have to be playing our best. I feel like it really gets the offense moving,” Roderigue said. “It all starts in the defensive zone. If we make a bad pass, then it just ends up right back in our zone. That first pass is really crucial.”
If there’s one staple in hockey playoffs, it’s that the regular season means little. A hot goaltender here, an unlucky bounce there, and it’s the difference between advancing to the next round or taking off the skates for good.
As a senior co-captain, Jolicoeur isn’t ready to pack up the gear just yet. He said the motivation to repeat as Class B state champions is stronger than it was to simply win it a year ago.
“We didn’t put in all this hard work to not bring this home,” he said. “We’ve worked hard every day in practice, and this is what we want to do. We want to win.
“We’ve had high expectations all season. Obviously the goal for us is to win it again. It’s put a lot more pressure on us, I think, but we feed off of that.”
Travis Barrett — 621-5621