AUBURN – Excitement was in the air Monday afternoon at Norway Savings Bank Arena as the area’s high school girls’ hockey teams hit the ice for the first practice of the preseason.
There are two main things that players and coaches are excited about after last year’s shortened pandemic season that only allowed 12 games to be played compared to the regular 18 regular season games: playing in front of the fans and the return of the fans. playoffs.
“We really hope to have more people (to watch the games) and just more energy from the crowd,” said Emma Roy, senior at St. Dominic’s Academy. “We really missed it last year, and (the fans) watching the games online and not having that many fans was not the same.”
Capacity building restrictions set by the state of Maine made it difficult for schools to allow fans in arenas. Being silent in an empty arena was different for almost everyone.
The fans provide the energy to the players.
“It wasn’t as bad as we thought, but it’s so much better to have your fans there, to cheer you on,” said Charlotte Cloutier, senior at Lewiston. “(The fans) are providing this adrenaline rush because you want to prove your worth to them; you want to make them happy and show them what you have.
Lewiston coach Ron Dumont, whose team trained across the river on Monday, hasn’t felt a difference in training without fans, but he understands what it means for players that the stands are full.
“For me (not having fans) hasn’t changed anything, it’s a non-entity,” Dumont said. “For the kids it is and the fans are very important. We love to have fans, they’re great for kids and they’re in high school, it’s the time of your life. Moms, dads, friends, parents and grandparents can come to the games. It’s family oriented and you didn’t have that last year.
St. Dom’s / Gray-New Gloucester / Monmouth / Winthrop coach Paul Gosselin said fans were that missing piece last season.
Red Hornets senior forward Edward Little / Leavitt / Poland Caroline Audette said it was strange not to see his parents in the stands last year.
“It was difficult to play without fans, especially my parents who have been attending my games since I was five; they couldn’t even be there (they had to broadcast the games), ”Audette said. “It felt like we were playing for our coaches and our teammates which was good, but at the same time it’s good to have people cheering you on.”
Gosselin felt that games did not have the same meaning without there being playoffs to play for.
“It was like (the games) were scrimmages, there wasn’t that intensity that games usually bring,” said Gosselin. “The fans added a lot to that intensity, I think; that was missing last year. Even though we were able to play, it felt more like a scrum than a game.
The coaches are also looking forward to having three full months to work with the girls compared to the month and a half they had with their teams last season.
The Red Hornets saw firsthand during the summer scrums what it was like to play in front of the fans again.
“I think a number of girls (last season) said how weird it was to just hear the skate blades,” Red Hornets coach Dana Berube said. “For me, it kind of reminded me of when I was a kid when we had early morning workouts. We had a scrum this summer and it was amazing how many fans we had. “
Lewiston senior defenseman Lilly Gish is very excited to make the playoffs.
“Obviously we didn’t have a playoff last year. I think it will be fun and (we) will show up to see what happens with it, ”Gish said.
The Blue Devils were the 2020 State Champions and are eager to defend this State Championship. Senior forward Leah Landry believes the team still hold the league title, as they were the last team to lift the trophy.
“I think we still wear (the swagger),” Landry said. “Last year there was no playoff so it’s hard to say exactly what was going to happen. “
The Red Hornets reached the regional final in 2020, losing 5-0 to the Blue Devils. Audette likes the games to still have meaning this season.
“This year we definitely have to work hard to win every game,” said Audette. “If we’re going to qualify for the playoffs and have a successful year, we have to win games. “
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