Edward Little defensemen Cam Audette, left, and Dylan Campbell before a recent practice at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — Norm Gagne would like to see Dylan Campbell get less ice time and Cam Audette get more.
But what the Edward Little boys’ hockey coach would really like to see is his two star defensemen paired together. The Red Eddies just aren’t ready for that yet.
“Cam and Dylan are my stalwarts that are back from last year. Would I like to play them together? Yeah,” Gagne, the longtime coaching legend now in his second year at EL, said. “If I had the depth to do that this year they would be. Where we are right now, this is what I’m working on.”
Beyond the senior Audette and junior Campbell, Gagne has returning sophomore defenseman Will Cassidy, returning sophomore forward-turned-defenseman Marius Morneau and newcomer sophomore defenseman Keegan Moon at the blue line. For a coach who is pinning success on how his team plays in its own end, that’s not quite all the ingredients of a recipe for success.
“I need another couple of defensemen, because it’s tough to play four D, really,” Gagne said. “We tried to do that last year. I mean, Dylan logged ice — I mean, he was out there almost every other shift, if not double-shifting sometimes. I don’t want to burn them out.”
One reason Campbell got so many minutes in an All-State season was a long stretch of the season that Audette was out due to injury.
“It wasn’t too bad. I was used to it my freshman year (at St. Dom’s),” Campbell said. “I’ve been working out, conditioning, so I can be out there more, and be more aggressive, and just try to make my team better.”
Audette got hurt Christmas morning, which was early in the season, and didn’t come back until two weeks before playoffs. And even when he did come back, he said it was at less than 100 percent.
“It hurt a lot,” Gagne said. “It hurt a lot because we had to adjust with taking Ben Lane (Robichaud), who’s an offensive player for us, we had to put him back on D. And it really made a difference in losing him (Audette). Having him back and ready to go this year makes a big difference for us.”
The injury ruined a chance for Audette and Campbell to build a blue-line chemistry together, after they were paired together “a little bit” last season, according to Audette.
“We played well together. Good puck movement,” Audette said.
Instead, Audette had to watch Campbell and the rest of the team from the bench in a suit, rather than suited up for the team he was supposed to be captaining.
“It was challenging, but (the coaches) helped me out a lot. They gave me options to still help lead the team,” Audette said. “It was unfortunate not being on the ice for the team.”
Audette said Campbell was “fun to watch.” He’ll likely get to see more of Campbell’s play from the bench this year, though now back in full pads. The plan is for Campbell to pair with Cassidy, and Audette with Morneau.
“Right now, I’ve got those four — lefty-righty, lefty-righty is what I’m trying to do — and then I’ve got Keegan Moon, right now, as my fifth defensemen,” Gagne said.
Both Campbell and Audette like their new partners, and both will be counted on to be the leader of the pairing.
“I think people look up to me, and for me to set a good example and show them how we should play, not just on the ice but off, too. Work ethic,” Campbell said.
Communication will be key, according to Campbell, who said the defensemen have been sitting together in the locker room to grow their bond. Audette said he’s taken his partnership with Morneau one step further, and trying to hang out off the ice with his underclassmen blue-liner.
If everything goes well for EL, those pairings could be broken up, and Campbell and Audette could be put together for what would be a dynamo duo on defense.
“As the season goes on, yeah I do (see that as a possibility). That would be great,” Gagne said. “That would be great if I could do that. And when you see that, you’ll say, ‘Hey, he’s got some confidence in some of these other guys now,’ and we’re taking a big step. That’s going to be a big step. But, yeah, I do see that. I’m hoping. I’m hoping it’s going to work out.”
That would mean a deeper defense that Audette said believes it can stop some of the best lines in the state.
“The sky’s the limit, I think,” Campbell said.