Local player’s decision: UMaine

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LEWISTON – Mark Anthoine’s biggest concern this week has been studying for midterm exams at Lewiston High School.

And then there was this pesky college hockey thing.

Anthoine, 16, who played hockey for St. Dom’s as a freshman, and now skates for the Portland Junior Pirates of the Atlantic Junior Hockey League, announced this week a verbal commitment to play college hockey for the University of Maine in either 2008 or 2009.

“It came down to where I saw myself fitting in the best,” Anthoine said Wednesday. “They’d been watching me for the last two seasons. This year, they brought me in for a visit. I really liked what I saw.”

Anthoine has been busy this year, thanks to his 30-goals-in-30-games start with the Pirates, playing mostly against players two, three or even four years older.

Harvard was the first big-name school to come calling.

And they came hard.

Anthoine visited the Crimson, and spoke with head coach and former NHL player Ted Donato. Anthoine was impressed, especially with the prospect of earning a degree from the prestigious school. But it wasn’t quite right.

“Harvard is a great school, and it has amazing academics,” Anthoine said. “But I wasn’t looking just at that. My plans, I want to go as far as I can with my hockey career, and we felt that Maine was the best fit for that.”

Maine coach Tim Whitehead is prohibited by NCAA regulations from commenting on Anthoine’s status until he signs a national letter of intent the November prior to his matriculation at the university.

Anthoine said Wednesday he may wait until the fall of 2009 to start at Maine.

“It could be 2008 or 2009,” Anthoine said. “It all depends on what I feel is right, when it’s going to fit best for me, and also for the team, when Tim (Whitehead) feels it’s the best time for me to come.”

Though he played just one season for former Saints’ coach Bob Boucher, his old coach remembers that even then, at 14, Anthoine had something different about him.

“You could tell he was something special by his skating ability and by his quick release,” Boucher said. “He was already a good player. I think he’ll fit right in there.”

If and when Anthoine steps onto the ice in a Maine uniform, he would become the fifth St. Dom’s skater in the past eight years to play Division I hockey, joining Joey Dumais (Quinnipiac), Jamie Gilbert (Massachusetts), Derek Damon and Greg Moore (Maine).

Since the commitment from Anthoine isn’t in writing, he can technically change his mind any time between now and when he officially signs his letter of intent. He doesn’t see that happening, though.

“I’m pretty much at the point where there’s no turning back,” Anthoine said.

At 16, Anthoine can also be drafted by a team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, like the Lewiston Maineiacs. That, Anthoine said, is an avenue he still considers open.

“I know some players out West, friends of mine, that have committed to colleges, but have gone to play major junior because that’s what they figured was best for them and their future in hockey,” Anthoine said. “It’s always good to have options, and something to fall back on.”

For now, Anthoine said he’s going to worry about being 16.

And studying.

“It’s been a fun week,” Anthoine admitted, “but it’s been a busy week.”

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