All the pieces were in place, with the bulk of the roster back to defend its state championship from the previous season. Managing all of the pressure and expectations accompanying all of those pieces, however, can be challenging.

Waterville Senior High School head coach Dennis Martin led the Purple Panthers to a second consecutive Class B state championship this winter, and for his efforts Martin has been named the Morning Sentinel Hockey Coach of the Year.

Winslow/Gardiner girls coach Chris Downing was also considered.

For the first time since the 1980-81 seasons, Waterville claimed consecutive state titles. But in order to bring home the big trophy at the end, Martin insisted that his team focus only on what was directly in front of them.

He was fond of the “One goal, one team” mantra ad reminding his players that they were a family from start to finish.

“One goal at a time, one game at a time, one period at a time, right down to one shift at a time,” Martin said.

Martin’s team went 20-0-0 against Class B competition this season, their only loss to Class A state champion Lewiston, for the second consecutive year.

He credited the players on the roster with rising to every challenge presented to them.

“They’re a one in a million group of kids,” Martin said. “The biggest thing with them, and I commend them for it, is they all have the passion and the will. They’re work ethic made them a special group of young men that knew that every day was another day to go to work and get better.”

“I can’t thank Dennis enough for everything he’s done for us,” Waterville senior captain Andrew Roderigue said. “I love what he’s all about. He’s all about winning and taking it a period at a time, a shift at a time, and getting better every day. He’s all for it.”

Waterville went into the season with all but two regulars returning from the team that won the state title in 2016 in double-overtime against Yarmouth. On the surface, it appeared all Martin had to do was roll out the lines and the rest would take care of itself this winter.

But Roderigue said that wasn’t the case.

“Last year we were more (balanced), our lines were very equal,” Roderigue said. “With Michael Oliveira and Nick Denis, it made our first and second lines really fast and both of them scored close to same amount of goals. This year, our first line really had to step it up this year, and they definitely did.”

And after falling behind late in the third period of the regional finals, and watching York rally from a three-goal deficit to tie the game late in the third period of the state championship game, Martin was happy to see his players fight back in both instances to win.

The two wins completed their long goal of winning the state championship for a second time.

“You always preach that hard work pays off,” Martin said. “You just keep telling them that if you outwork your opponent, good things can fall your way.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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