AUBURN – Cam Blouin knows he’s going to see a lot of rubber this season.
He just hopes he doesn’t have to spit too many of those pucks out.
Blouin, a freshman who in his goaltender’s crouch barely reaches the top of the cage, will for the next four years backstop the fledgling Oak Hill/Lisbon ice hockey team that has been thrust into the jaws of Eastern Class A.
“They had 50-plus kids try out for Lewiston (High School),” Blouin said. “They have a lot of talent to choose from. We had a meeting, and we had a roster, it was done. It’s going to be tough against teams like that.”
Tough, say Blouin and his teammates, but not impossible.
“It’s going to be a lot different, a lot more fast-paced,” said Oak Hill senior Nate Lavoie. “Last year, we went 13-2-1, which is good, but we were just playing JV teams. It’s going to be a lot different, a lot tougher this year.”
Back to basics
The biggest challenge the team had to face was forming a team in the first place.
Two years ago, Lisbon had a Class B program with Monmouth Academy, but their numbers dropped dangerously low, so the program disbanded.
“It was tough for the kids not to be able to finish out the season together,” said coach J.P. Adams, who coached that team, and has stayed with the program.
Blouin’s brother, Justin, was the team’s senior goalie then, and had been an All-State selection his junior year.
“My brother was an awesome goalie, he was going to be nominated for an All-Star team,” Cam Blouin said. “It’s nice to be able to play on a team like this, like he was able to.”
By rule, the team needed to play at the club level for two years before applying to regain its varsity status.
In that time, the school formed a new alliance – with Oak Hill High School of Wales.
“We started as a club team two years ago,” said Lavoie. “Our AD came out halfway through the year and gave us the opportunity to play, and we took it.”
Lavoie and his teammates plotted their path to varsity status, including a few pitches to the school board.
“We went to the school board and the first time, they didn’t let it pass,” said Lavoie. “The second time, we went back and they passed it, but they told us we had to raise $10,000 by fundraisers.”
The players raised nearly $6,000 this season, and each player kicked in about $380 to be able to play.
“We have a two-year probation with the school board,” said Lavoie. “If we do well enough, we can go back and propose that they fund our team, at least some of it.”
The one catch this season and in those to follow, though, is that the schools’ combined enrollment classifies the team as a Class A team.
“Really, the MPA needs to look at how they do this,” said Adams, who is once again a varsity coach. “It needs to be restructured, because really, it’s not fair for a team like ours to have to play against the powerhouse teams, at least not yet.”
Helping the hybrid team, though, is a smattering of players who at one time played for St. Dom’s, one of those established Class A powers.
“We went to the semifinals my freshman year at St. Dom’s,” said Oak Hill senior Kevin Laplante. “To get this going here is good. Now we have the kids here, enough to finally have a varsity program. I’ve had more experience at that level, and I hope I can help pass that on to the rest of the team. Tyler (Pomerleau) and Tom (Edgecomb) also came over from St. Dom’s.”
Combining players from Oak Hill and Lisbon hasn’t been an issue, either.
“We wouldn’t have been able to have a team, to play Class A hockey,” said Blouin. “We wouldn’t have had the kids. A lot of our talent is coming from Oak Hill. Without them, we would have been in a lot of trouble this year.”
The middle school program in Lisbon appears to be strong, and even this year, Adams is optimistic that the team can pull off an upset or two.
“We’d like to pull off a shocker or two,” said Adams. “I went up to the coaches’ meeting and a lot of people looked at us and laughed a little, and told us, ‘good luck.’ I’d like to show people we can play and compete at this level.”