Eric Aldrich still cannot help but smile when talking about winning a state championship with the Waterville hockey team in 2009.

“You just never forget that whole time period. It’s hard to forget. I played a lot of juniors and I’ve had a lot of concussions, but I’ll never forget that whole season,” Aldrich, 23, said Thursday. “It was really an honor to be a part of that tradition. Just the whole atmosphere was so great at the time. It was an honor to play with them and win a state championship. No one can take that away from us.

“…Waterville has such a great tradition and it’s going to carry on with you for the rest of your life. It may just be a state championship but it meant a lot to me. You remember it for the rest of your life.”

Aldrich scored the Purple Panthers’ first goal in that Class A title game on March 7, 2009 as Waterville raced out to a three-goal advantage before holding on for a 3-2 win over St. Dominic Academy. It was Waterville’s 20th state hockey championship in the program’s storied history.

Now, nearly seven years later to the day, another group of Purple Panthers — Aldrich’s younger brother, Jackson, included — will look to make their mark in school history when Waterville (18-1-1 Class B North) takes on Yarmouth (16-4-0 Class B South) for the Class B championship Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

“We’ve been together for like three years now and our first goal had been always to win a championship,” Jackson Aldrich, a junior, said. “All the pieces are set into place and I think the best chance to win one is right now.”

Jackson Aldrich was 9 years old when Eric and his teammates won Waterville’s last state championship. The younger Aldrich does not remember too much from the title game, but said his brother has given him some advice on how to approach Saturday’s game.

“It’s funny because you feel like there’s so much you can say but you can’t. They just have to be confident going in,” Eric Aldrich said. “Going into a state championship you have to know your job and you have to execute. You have to go out there and give it everything you have. You can’t leave anything out there.”

If there is something this group is lacking, it is not confidence.

“I’ve never had this much confidence in a team,” senior Michael Oliveira said. “We’ve made it this far so let’s finish it off.”

The comparisons to the 2009 team are hardly foreign to this season’s Waterville team. Head coach Dennis Martin has told the players on a number of occasions how much the former team reminds him of the current one.

“We had two strong lines that could score goals. We had defenders that could jump into the play and handle the puck real well,” Martin said. “We had solid goaltending, just a lot traits with their work ethic with both teams and the unselfishness of everybody on the team.”

For Waterville, much of that chemistry and confidence has been three years in the making. In the 2013-14 season the Purple Panthers were the benefactors of a large, talented freshman class — as well as senior captain Nick Denis, a transfer from Winslow — that has become the core of this winter’s regional championship team.

Defensemen Matt Jolicoeur and Andrew Roderigue, as well as forwards Justin Wentworth and Jackson Aldrich each have more than 30 points on the season and are all juniors. Starting goaltender Nathan Pinnette is also a junior, while classmates Michael Bolduc and Zach Smith are strong contributors as well at forward and defense, respectively.

“When they came in I knew they were going to be a special group,” Oliveira said. “They’ve been key component of our success.”

“We knew as a group we were going to develop into bigger and better players,” added Jackson Aldrich. “It all came together and here we are now.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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