Winter Preview: Merger to give Ice Cats more life

SP-ice-cat-head-onlyVARSITY ICE HOCKEY

Head Coach: Dave Lepage, ninth year

Assistant Coaches: Mike Misner, Jeff Lovering and Tavish Leland

Team record from a year ago: 3-14-1

Returning players: Dakota Russo, senior, forward; Donnie Eaton, junior, forward; Evan Kellough, junior, defense.

Top newcomers: Nick Bowie, senior, forward; Davis Turner, junior, defense; Noah Smith, junior, defense.

Other varsity players: Strong sophomore class, Travis Townsend and Mason LaPlante, forwards, Kaleb Currier and Nick Lepage, defense.

Team strengths: Coach Lepage — Any time an ice hockey program can go from a team of 10 to a team of 26, they are going to be stronger. Combining all three schools (Lake Region, Fryeburg Academy and Oxford Hills) is the big story here no matter what our end of season record looks like. That one decision to merge will mean that the sport will be here for a longer time than we first thought.

Our defensive core of players has proven to be very tough in the early season practices. We have some young goalies this year so a strong set of blue liners will help tremendously.

With excitement comes passion and I am hoping that the excitement of having two teams (junior varsity and varsity) will translate to players playing with a fire that we have never seen before in this area.

Weaknesses: Coach Lepage — Although we have a good amount of numbers, there are only a few that have varsity hockey experience so there will be some nerves that we will have to shake off.

We must also ensure that we play as a team. Although most of these guys have played together at some point, its been a while since most of them skated together so the coaching staff is focusing on team philosophy and communication among all players — no matter what school they come from.

With two teams being scheduled, it is a packed season for those who would swing from varsity to JV. Injuries to key young players are always a concern.

Team goals: To come closer as teammates and individuals for a bigger goal; to set the stage for success in any way we can for this year and years to come for our now unified youth program.

What will be your emphasis this season? Coach Lepage — As previously mentioned, the biggest goal is communication. After that, the coaching staff wants to be able to have the kids become better players at every level. We do have a good amount of young players — some will become better skaters and shooters, others will be forced to think about the game in a different way. They will need to understand their role in a person unit by playing good positional hockey.

For the team to be successful, what must happen: “We must figure out what type of hockey the Ice Cats play and then compare only to ourselves, game in game out. We cannot play to loose — we must figure out how to play our game to win,” Coach Lepage said.

Academic eligibility will always play a huge part in any team’s success. Team success on the ice must mean that the players are getting it done in the classroom as well in order to be on the ice at 100%

“Each game is a new opportunity to be successful and not an opportunity to make a mistake. That philosophy must override any fear that new players have. If we can be intense and still have fun as a group then our success will come no matter what,” the coach said.

Complete the following, “I am looking forward most to see…” Coach Lepage — “A crazy packed house at Bridgton Ice Arena for an Ice Cat game that is competitive and exciting because it will not only be a great experience for the fans, it will give the entire local hockey community a sense of pride and accomplishment.”

The Schedule

Home games are played at Bridgton Ice Arena

Saturday, Dec. 7, at Noble, 6 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 9, Westbrook, 7:20 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 12, at Mt. Ararat, 6:30 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 16, South Portland, 7:20 p.m.

Dec. 27-28, at Kennett Christmas Tournament, TBA

Thursday, Jan. 2, at South Portland, 7:15 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 4, Edward Little, 4 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 9, Leavitt, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 11, at Bonny Eagle, 6:20 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 15, at Poland, 8 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 17, Marshwood, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 25, at Westbrook, 3:10 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 27, Massabesic, 7:20 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 1, Noble, 4 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 8, at Marshwood, 2 p.m.

Monday, Feb. 10, Windham, 7:20 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 12, at Massabesic, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 15, Bonny Eagle, 4 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Windham, 8:30 p.m.

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