LEWISTON — Apparently, 3,430 minutes between the pipes weren’t enough for Adrien Lemay.
The Lewiston Maineiacs’ standout 20-year-old goaltender, who led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league in minutes played this season, stood in his crease at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee for the last time on Wednesday. His teammates swarmed him after the Maineiacs lost in Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs, suffering a series sweep at the hands of the Drummondville Voltigeurs for the second consecutive year.
He stood back after the traditional post-game handshake, and, with the grace that has endeared him to area hockey fans since his arrival in January of 2009, Lemay raised his stick to those fans one final time.
“It’s been great here in Lewiston,” Lemay said over the sound system after being selected the game’s No. 1 star. “The fans have been great to us here all year.”
After playing in 60 games and facing more than 2,100 shots, Lemay has every excuse to take some time off.
But he’s not.
Thursday night, less than 24 hours after his junior career ended, Lemay suited up for another familiar team, joining the Florida Everblades of the ECHL for a road game in Charlotte on Thursday.
“Last year was a great experience, and I’m going to bring that with me this time,” Lemay said. “All the players are faster there, and all the players are better. I think that will help on the defense, with them being older and there being more communication.”
After the Maineiacs’ first-round exit last year, the Everblades took a chance on the then-19-year-old keeper. He joined the squad for what was supposed to be a brief tryout. They liked him so much, he stayed with Florida through the end of the season and the playoffs.
Wednesday, Lemay learned he was going back. Not bad for a goalie who found his way back from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League just 14 months ago.
“Everything is possible,” Lemay said. “That’s what I take away from all of this, from this journey. With a young team, we beat the No. 1 team in the league this year. It’s hard to play juniors, and it’s been tough, but through all that adversity, it’s been worth it to get through it all. It’s helped make us all better.”
“It’s going to be tough to lose Adrien here, but that’s how it goes,” Lewiston coach J.F. Houle said. “It’s a cycle, and I am sure he’s going to do well wherever he goes. He was a big reason we had a chance to win so many games this season.”
Lemay isn’t the only Lewiston player on his way onward and upward this week. Defenseman Matt Boyle, who is likely to continue his playing career while attending a Canadian university next season, will get a crack at the professional ranks, too. He reported Thursday to the Texas Brahmas of the Central Hockey League in North Richland Hills, Texas.
“I’m going to go down and see what it’s all about,” Boyle said. “I still have my eyes and my heart set on going to university. I’ve been away from home now for four years, and things change when you leave home. I wouldn’t mind going back for a while.”
This experience, though, Boyle said, may set the stage for future professional opportunities.
“I’ll see what it’s all about, and then it’ll help me decide what I want to do after university,” Boyle said.
In Boyle, Lewiston is losing its most steady defenseman.
“Ever since he came back from his injury at Christmas, he’s been solid,” Houle said. “He’s the oldest guy we had back there, he had the most experience.
“He was really good in the locker room,” Houle continued. “He’d always come up laughing and cracking jokes.”
Texas will be happy to have Boyle,” Houle said, noting his penchant for gritty, steady play in the defensive zone.
“He’s physical, he doesn’t take any crap from anybody,” Houle said. “That’s what made him so valuable to us as a defenseman. He’s steady on the back end and responsible in the zone.”
Lemay and Boyle are the only two players ineligible to return to the Maineiacs next season due to age restrictions, and only two — captain Billy Lacasse and Lewiston native Eric Bonawitz — will count as 20-year-olds on next year’s roster.
“This is going to be a very competitive year to be a part of this organization in camp,” Lewiston assistant general manager Tim Schurman. “Not a lot of spots, and a lot of talent.”
Houle also said he’s looking forward to the competition already taking shape in next year’s training camp, and the prospect of coaching the team for a full season.
“I’m looking forward to training camp and really getting a look at the players, and getting the systems I want to see installed early,” Houle said. “The last six months, we’ve played so many games, I really didn’t have much time to install everything I wanted, and I didn’t really get to know all of the players as well as I wanted because of all of the trades and everything. I’m excited to get to know the players a little bit more and install my philosophy in there. I was a hard-working player, and that’s what I want to bring to this team, to our players.”
After meeting with the fans for one last time Thursday night at the team’s annual send-off gathering at the Colisee, the players scattered to their homes for the offseason.
But that doesn’t mean the team won’t be paying attention to them.
“Every player has a meeting before they leave,” Houle said. “They all know what they have to work on over the summer, and we’re going to be active in keeping an eye on them, to make sure they develop how we want them to.”
The next big item on the Maineiacs’ calendar on the hockey side of things is the draft, scheduled for the first weekend in June, while off the ice, rumors continue to swirl about a potential shakeup on the front end, one that would bring in a new face or two to stabilize business operations.
Regardless of what happens, general manager Roger Shannon said Thursday that the coming year will be far less tumultuous.
“I must say how proud I am of this group and the staff for hanging in there during some tough days,” Shannon said. “I brought in nine new kids for the new coaches at Christmas, three 18 year olds and six 17 year olds, not exactly veterans of the league you might say. And despite coming in on a 15-game losing streak, this group found a way into the playoffs and competed as hard as their youth would let them. The next six months will not see that kind of activity, we will look at filling holes and building toward our future together in Lewiston both on and off the ice.”