In its march to the Class B championship game, few teams have put up much resistance against the Waterville hockey team.

Outside of its loss to Class A North champion Lewiston 5-1 on Jan. 27, the Purple Panthers (18-1-1 Class B North) have played in just four games all season decided by two goals or less. One of those contests, however, happened to be against their opponent in the Class B title game Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, Class B South champion Yarmouth (16-4-0).

“They seem really similar to us. They have two solid lines, they have some solid defensemen that can move the puck. They have a good, solid goalie,” Waterville coach Dennis Martin said. “They’re well-coached and they’re going to do all the right things.”

If the first meeting between the Purple Panthers and Clippers is any indication, Saturday’s showdown should be a good one. Yarmouth jumped ahead 2-0 on goals from its senior captains, Patrick Grant and Walter Conrad, at Travis Roy Ice Arena in Yarmouth on Jan. 9 before Waterville stormed back with three unanswered goals in the second period. Jackson Aldrich scored twice before Michael Oliveira got the winner, with Justin Wentworth assisting on all three.

“When we played them earlier this year, they came at us in waves. We did a pretty good job defensively against them. We let down a little bit in the second period where they got three on us,” Yarmouth coach David St. Pierre said. “We’re just going to have to figure out how to slow that down and make sure that our lines are really going hard defensively.

“…They’re a really, really strong team. We have a lot of respect for them. They have a lot of offense, a lot of speed, very solid goaltending. We know we’re in for a battle.”

If the Purple Panthers are going to capture their 21st state title Saturday, they are going to have to find a way to slow down Grant and Conrad. The duo led the Clippers in scoring with 38 and 35 points, respectively, during the regular season and Conrad presents an extra challenge as a very good puck-handling defenseman.

“We need to play how we play, start from the basics, skate hard and play the natural game and it will all come from there,” Oliveira said. “Once we start playing, it will all be in our heads and it will come from there.”

Both teams have plenty of reasons to be confident given their paths to the state final. Waterville received a bye into the semifinals, where it exercised some demons in getting past rival Winslow — who ended the Purple Panthers’ campaign the season prior — 2-0. The Purple Panthers picked up another emotional win over a rival in the regional final, ousting Messalonskee — who had won the previous four regional titles — in convincing fashion, 5-2, at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena in Orono.

“That was a big confidence booster for us, coming out of the second and third rounds of the playoffs, beating two rival teams,” Oliveira said. “Knowing we’re playing at our best right now, it is really convincing that we can finish it off on Saturday.”

Yarmouth, like Waterville, finished as the top seed in Class B South and earned a bye into the semifinals. There, the Clippers rolled Kennebunk 5-1 and went on to score a dominant decision in the regional final, 5-0, over Gardiner. The win clinched an opportunity for the Clippers to compete for their first state title since 2002.

“I’d like to think that our team is peaking right now. We’re both playing great hockey and it’s going to be a great contest on Saturday,” Conrad said. “They’ve just got a lot of guys that can fly and I think they really compete hard. I think it’s awesome because we just hit that level, too.

“We’re all flying out there, every single guy in the Yarmouth locker room is flying too. It’s going to be a really high-tempo game on Saturday night. I’m really excited.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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