Ice Cats hockey preview

Head Coaches: Dave Lepage and John Moran

Team Roster: Seniors Patrick Hayes (forward), T.J. Leach (defense), Zhi Liu (Jacky) Liu (defense) and Micheala Rullo (goalie); juniors Jeff Ast (forward), Oskari Filppula (forward), Tyler Harnden (forward), Tyler Hill (defense), Don Kellough (forward), Topi Laakso (goalie), Tyler LaPlante (defense), Michael LeGoff (defense), Tyler LeGoff (goalie) and Pavle Stepanovic (goalie); sophomore Dakota Russo (forward); freshmen Ethan Green (forward), Ryan Jackson (forward), Evan Kellough (forward), Clayton Owens (defense) and Allison Rullo (defense).

Top Returnees: Co-captains Donnie Kellough and T.J. Leach. “Both bring a world of experience and drive for the year ahead,” Coach Lepage said. “With the addition of six freshmen this year, leadership is important and we have two of the best on the ice everyday.” Other seniors returning include Michaela Rullo, Patrick Hayes and Jacky Liu.

What will it take for the team to be better than a year ago? “Looking at last year's season, one might think that we had a frustrating one and quite the opposite. Although our record was not overly impressive, the team realized that they can compete at a higher level than they thought,” Coach Lepage said. “Confidence is a funny thing and all of the returnees know now that we have experienced everything we will see this year. We continue to focus on communication as a key component for our team’s success. We have a good amount of new faces that will add to the mix, as well, so we need now more than ever to be able to create a team philosophy quickly.”

Based on what you have seen in the preseason, what do you feel are the team’s strengths and weaknesses? With Michaela Rullo and Tyler LeGoff both returning and the addition of Pavle Stepanovic and Topi Laakso, the Ice Cats’ goaltending on any night will be a strong point. Up front, the Ice Cats will be able to field two “pretty strong lines from the get go,” but will need to focus on team dynamics and positional play to get the puck in the net, Coach Lepage said. “Hard work and speed will be a focal point of the coaching staff the entire year,” he said.

Three goals you may have for the team? “Believe that we can play with anyone; trust in each other to do their job; and lastly, play every game like it’s our last game of the season,” the coach said.

To be competitive, what are three key things your squad must do? Coach Lepage responded, “Defensively, we will be strong from the net so we have to find a way to get production and score goals. We must have that killer instinct around the net to make sure we can put our team in the best possible situations going into the late moments of the game.” He added, “The team must find a way to create a unity among them, there are no stars — just a group of hockey players looking to make the Ice Cats a successful hockey program.”

The final goal — “Compete, compete, compete. Show up to every game with a desire to be the best at their job,” Coach Lepage said.

What three things have you encouraged about this year’s team? “The general feeling of desire to play the game. The entire team loves to play hockey and that level of enthusiasm is something I haven't seen in a while. Their commitment to the game is tremendous,” Coach Lepage said. “We will have our ups and downs, but I do have the beginnings of a closer-knit group than in the past. Being a teammate is not only being there to celebrate, it’s also being there to support and encourage when the failures come. The character of the team is already clearly evident.”

Coach Lepage added, “The work ethic has been very consistent. These players show up to practice every day ready to go to work. It may not pay off early in the season, but I am sure that will lead us to some happy surprises in the late months of the season.”

What Players Think

What do you see as the three keys for success this season?

Donnie Kellough: Communication, physicality and working 110% all year long.

T.J. Leach: The three keys for success for this season are character, consistency and commitment. Our team will be successful through dedication to the FALR Ice Cats and the drive to win.

What are you most excited about?

Donnie Kellough: I am probably most excited to play and possibly beat Bonny Eagle this year, since we never have in Ice Cats’ history. I plan to play hard and leave it all on the ice, win or lose, it’ll be a great game. Come see us on Friday, Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. at home!

T.J. Leach: I am extremely excited to see how well we will play this year compared to last year. We got a big help from the Fryeburg side of the team this year with two new offensive players and two new goalies. They have molded to the team already, and I can’t wait for the first game of the season.

“We will have a good season if we…”

Donnie Kellough: We will have a good season if we work hard in practice, on and off the ice, all the time! I think we have the energy and power to win about half our games this year, which I am the most exited about. I think we have a really good team that bonds well and works hard. I can proudly say I am a captain and leader of this team.

T.J. Leach: We will have a good season if we communicate. Communication has been stressed to us from our coaches and is the most important component to working as a team and being successful. If our team works hard and focuses on communication on the ice, we will be a powerful force for the upcoming season.

The Schedule

Sat., Dec. 10, 4:00, Leavitt

Mon., Dec. 12, 7:20, Windham

Sat., Dec. 17, 2:00, at Marshwood

Fri., Dec. 23, 7:00, Bonny Eagle

Fri., Jan. 6, 7:00, Marshwood

Wed., Jan. 11, 8:30, Windham at USM

Sat., Jan. 14, 6:00, at Noble

Tues., Jan. 17, 8:30, Bonny Eagle at USM

Sat., Jan. 21, 4:00, Noble

Sat., Jan. 28, 4:00, Westbrook

Thu., Feb. 2, 6:00, at Cheverus

Sat., Feb. 4, 4:00, Massabesic

Mon., Feb. 6, 7:20, Gorham

Sat., Feb. 11, 3:00, at Massabesic

Mon., Feb. 13, 6:40, Kennebunk

Wed., Feb. 15, 8:00, Poland at Hebron Academy

Sat., Feb. 18, 4:00, Mt. Ararat

Tues., Feb. 21, 8:30, at Westbrook

• Ice Cats home games are played at the Bridgton Ice Arena, on the campus of Bridgton Academy.

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