Preview: Ice Cats ice hockey

ICE CATS PREVIEW

Head Coach: Dave Lepage

Assistant Coach: Mike Payne

Roster: Coach Lepage reported that it is hard to list top players at this point, but “we are returning a strong core of experienced sophomores who played a ton as freshmen last year.” The Ice Cats added over 12 freshmen to the team.

Team strengths:  Coach Lepage thinks one of strength this year is that “we have a good core of fundamental hockey players.”

“Their skill level is probably the best I have seen in years and they really want to learn how to play the game and be successful,” he said. “Our defensive unit has some experience from last year and should be able to handle the season pretty well.”

Three of the six are returnees from last year are Cam Lepage, Jake Domegan and Liam Chisari, while the Cats also return starting goalie Graham Payne.

Key questions marks: With 19 players either being freshmen or sophomores, the Ice Cats are obviously very young.

“Most of those freshmen will be put in situations that they will need to adjust to at first,” Coach Lepage said. “That adjustment timeline will be the key to either a quick start or a long season.”

What have been three major points of emphasis during the preseason: “We need to be competitive, increase our foot speed and learn how to think the game a little more,” the coach said.

What will the team need to do to start the season on a positive note: With so many new faces, team chemistry is going to dictate how well the Ice Cats do in terms of a fast start.

“The team needs to create a bond quickly with each other. The quicker they get to know each other and look at each other as teammates, the faster we will start,” Coach Lepage added. “The Ice Cats have a long history of combining schools so I feel confident that this team will bond quickly. They respect each other already and have already had moments of togetherness.”

From what you have seen thus far, what do you like the most about this year’s group: “They are probably one of the most coachable teams I have been associated with. They are willing to try new things and are determined to be successful. The coaching staff has thrown some pretty tough challenges at them already and they have responded well. That bodes well for our very important season,” Coach Lepage said.

Finish this line, To be successful this season, the team needs to… Learn how to play as a team. “Hockey is a five-person sport that typically in youth leagues gets dominated by one or two really good skaters. At the high school level, we focus more on team play and systems because quite honestly, that’s how good teams play good hockey,” Coach Lepage said. “They don’t rely on any one player to do everything for them — they rely on their teammates to do everything together.”

Opening night: The Ice Cats open the season Friday, Dec. 8 on the road against Maranacook. The Ice Cats first home game at the Chalmers Ice Arena (at Bridgton Academy) is against Massabessic/Old Orchard/Bonny Eagle on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 5 p.m.

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