Boys' hockey: Lewiston trio faces a friendly competition in net

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Lewiston High School goalies who are in a tight battle for the starting spot on the defending state champion Devils are from left to right Conrad Albert, Shawn Michael Chabot and Jacob Smith. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

LEWISTON — The goaltending position has been an afterthought at times during Lewiston’s two-year run as Class A state champion. The Blue Devils scored so many goals that the lack of goals allowed at the other end didn’t seem as impressive.

This season, that position is now one of the Blue Devils’ biggest question marks — in a good way.

The real question for coach Jamie Belleau and his staff is: Which goalie do they choose?

The answer isn’t so easy, but it’s also not a concern for Belleau — the Blue Devils have three netminders to choose from, and there doesn’t seem to be a bad choice among them.

Senior Conrad Albert and juniors Sean Michael Chabot and Jacob Smith are all vying to fill the void left by graduated starter Jacob Strout.

“I think right now the expectation is to give all three of them a chance,” Belleau said. “There’s no easy way to put it, when you’re a goalie there’s only one goalie who can dress in a game, so I think some healthy competition is good for them.”

All three have experience at the varsity level, and they all got some time in net during an exhibition series against Boston College High School of Massachusetts this past weekend.

“If there’s any indication from this weekend, I think obviously the experience they had last year didn’t hurt them,” Belleau said. “They all looked pretty good.”

The players insist the competition they’re currently in — and one that could last much of the season — is a friendly one.

“It’s not really been like competition, per se,” Albert said. “I think it’s been more like fun during the practices, just trying to get each other better, and getting up to our full potential playing where we should be playing.”

“We’re all pretty good friends, and when the three of us are on the ice we’re really making each other better because each of us are competing for that spot, and since we’re friends we’re really trying to make each other better,” Chabot added.

Rather than focusing on the number “3” with respect to how many of them there are, Smith said the trio is all focused another “3”: Helping the Blue Devils win a third consecutive Class A crown.

“Obviously we all want to get that top spot. But we know that there’s always one goal at the end,” Smith said.

The first step to that ultimate goal comes Saturday against Scarborough in the season opener. Belleau said in the week leading up to the game he still hadn’t made a firm decision about who will get the first starting nod.

“I probably have an idea of what I think I’m going to do, but I haven’t made any decisions yet, and the kids will know as soon as I think it’s appropriate,” Belleau said. “We’ll let them know, and we take a lot of pride in communicating with the kids. We’ll talk to them on a day-in, day-out basis. Obviously we got a game coming up Saturday, we’ll have to make a decision there, and then I think I have an idea in my head what’s going to happen, but I don’t like to pigeonhole.”

Belleau also said any plan he has now for rotating his keepers can change depending on how any of them play in any particular game. 

“He hasn’t really talked to us about how he’s going to split up time, but I think what he’s more leaning to is who is going to be the most consistent for him throughout the season, and who can ultimately get the team to that goal that we all want, which is another state championship,” Albert said.

Chabot said it’s up to the two goalies not starting in a game to try and earn the next start.

“When one of us is doing better we’re obviously cheering for each other,” Chabot said. “But we also want that spot, so when someone else is doing better you realize what you have to work on, you get better at it, and then you kind of just go out there and do your best you can.”

The trio has been working with goalie coach John Racine to try and get ready for the competition — both their own and the opponents they’ll face. Belleau said he’ll rely on input from Racine to help make the decision on which goalie starts.

The trio can rely on some sage advice from Strout as to how to deal with what could be a roller coaster of a season for all three of them.

“He always said, ‘Keep your head, keep moving forward, just never give up,’ so that’s what I’m going to take in and I’m just going to work at it,” Smith said.

Strout set an example for all three to follow, not only winning the internal competition to become the Blue Devils’ starter and elevating his position on the high-powered team to much more than an afterthought, but also earning a pair of state titles.

Now, three goalies will have a chance to maintain that positional momentum as the team goes after another championship.

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Lewiston High School goalies who are in a tight battle for the starting spot on the defending state champion Devils are from left to right Jacob Smith, Shawn Michael Chabot, and Conrad Albert. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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