LEWISTON — The L/A Fighting Spirit Junior “A” Hockey roster isn’t completely set, but 20 players hit the ice for the opening of training camp Monday morning.
A 21st player — Jordan Crowe, a 19-year-old defenseman from Scotland — spent his morning running up the steps of each of the 34 sections at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee after his equipment didn’t make the trip from London, England, with him.
His equipment arrived in time for the afternoon session.
“These are guys who we have signed, but we are treating (training camp) like if the guys haven’t been on the ice all summer,” Fighting Spirit owner and coach Rod Simmons said.
Simmons expects the full slate of players for upcoming season to be here by next week. Some players had previous commitments, and others are recovering from injury.
The Fighting Spirit, who primarily played out of Laconia, N.H., last year will have essentially a new roster, with only a handful of returners from last year’s squad. A year ago, the team went to the North American 3 Eastern Hockey League final, losing to the Jersey Wildcats in a three-game series.
The training camp, which will run the rest of the week with double sessions from 10-11:30 a.m. and 3-4 p.m., won’t be a battle to see who makes the team, but rather where players slide into Simmons’ depth chart.
“One of our goalies isn’t here,” Simmons said. “We have Claes Andre, who was the No. 1 goalie in the league, but I don’t want to get anybody complacent. There’s going to be guys fighting for spots — everybody is on the team, it’s, ‘Where do they fall on the team?'”
The other returning players are defenseman David Fish and forward Mike Heffernan. Fish led all defensemen on the Fighting Spirit in scoring with nine goals and 12 assists in 41 games played. Heffernan was third in scoring overall with 19 goals and 24 assists in 41 contest.
For Simmons, the summer flew by as he and his coaching staff spent weekends all over the country to fill out the roster.
“These guys are all hand-picked, we went and recruited every single one of them, or pro scouts and agents sent them to us,” Simmons said. “Advisers have said these guys need a couple of years (of junior hockey).”
Players on the roster hail from Scotland, Oregon, Sweden, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Massachusetts, New York, and Kennebunk and Eliot, Maine.
Simmons expects this year’s team to be bigger and better than last year’s team that went 33-6-2 during the regular season
“We recruited a better team than last year,” Simmons said. “I expect, expectations are that we will be better than last year. We are bigger, stronger and we are deeper. Last year, we were riddled with injuries, so I brought in bigger and more defensemen. We won’t have three forwards back on defense like we did during the championship series.”
Joe Mooney played at Kennebunk High School last season as he helped the Rams to a Western Class B finals appearance, a 5-4 loss to Gorham.
Cam Dufault is from Eliot. His father is Paul Dufault, who played center for the University of New Hampshire football team from 1982-84, and appeared in one game for the Los Angeles Raiders during the 1987 season. Cam played with the Wenatchee Wolves out of Washington, where he had a goal and five assists in 33 Northern Pacific Hockey League games.
The first game action of the year will be Friday, August 28, as part of the team’s “Spirit Weekend,” when they plan on playing an exhibition game at the Colisee at 7 p.m. They had a team lined up, but over the weekend the team canceled their plans on coming to Lewiston. Simmons said at the very least they will have an inter-squad scrimmage if they can’t get another team in.