LEWISTON — Throughout the 2015-16 season, depth and balance lifted the Waterville hockey team above its competition.

Those traits — plus a well-placed slap shot from junior defenseman Andrew Roderigue — were critical in the Purple Panthers surviving a double overtime marathon with Yarmouth to capture the Class B championship, 3-2, Saturday at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

For the season, Waterville (19-1-1 Class B North) had seven players record 29 or more points. The minimal dropoff between the forward line of Michael Oliveira, Nick Denis and Cody Pellerin to Justin Wentworth, Jackson Aldrich and Michael Bolduc kept near-constant pressure on opposing defenses. Roderigue and Matt Jolicoeur were two of the best two-way defensemen in Class B, while Chase Wheeler and Zach Smith more than held their own.

That being said, you do not win state championships without strong goaltending, and junior Nathan Pinnette had some of his best games this winter in the postseason.

“The biggest improvement on our team has been Nathan. He’s just been a wall throughout the season and after last year, he’s improved so much,” Oliveira said. “All of his offseason training and everything, it’s definitely shown. He’s been big for us all year.”

Pinnette’s improved play from last year to this was hardly an accident. He said he began taking lessons with former University of Maine goalie Alfie Michaud a few years ago to help elevate his play.

“I’ve been practicing hard and I do take private lessons,” Pinnette said. “We’ve been working hard to get me there.”

In 17 games during the regular season, Pinnette had an .896 save percentage and 2.13 goals allowed average. He was particularly sharp after Waterville’s lone loss, a 5-1 defeat at Class A champion Lewiston on Jan. 27. In the final five games of the regular season, he allowed just five goals in convincing wins for the Purple Panthers.

“He’s gotten better every week, every game,” Waterville coach Dennis Martin said. “We have confidence in him.”

In the Class B North tournament, he was not called upon to make a ton of saves, but was often up to the task when he was needed. He made 16 saves in the regional semifinals in a 2-0 win over Winslow, while in the Class B North final he had 14 saves in a 5-2 win over Messalonskee.

Against the Eagles he allowed a goal early to Jared Cunningham off a nice feed from behind the net from Brandon Nale, while the second one came with just 1:10 remaining in the third period with the Purple Panthers well in control.

Pinnette saved his best performance of the postseason for Saturday. Yarmouth jumped ahead 2-0 in the opening period, but Pinnette was not entirely to blame for either. The first came on an odd-man rush, while the second was a breakaway following a Waterville turnover at its own blue line.

“There are very few that he’ll let in that shouldn’t have gone in,” Oliveira said. “Most of the time it was a defensive breakdown or something just didn’t go right in an odd-man rush. Honestly, this year I can’t remember any weak goals he’s let in. He’s just been really strong.”

Yarmouth had its chances as the game progressed and the pressure intensified. Pinnette made a number of key saves when Yarmouth went on the offensive in the second period, including when the Clippers had a 5-on-3 chance for 1:31 between the end of the second and start of the third periods.

Later, Pinnette made an initial save on a shot with just under five minutes remaining in regulation where he was drawn well outside the crease, yet retreated just in time to stop a wrap-around attempt on the other side of the net off the rebound.

He remained tough in goal through the overtime periods — despite some strong chances for the Clippers — and finished with 31 saves.

“Nathan held up after he had that tough one on the second goal,” Martin said. “Other than that, he was a wall for us.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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