He won’t walk away with the Travis Roy Award, score the winning goal in a Lewiston-St. Dominic showdown or hoist a state championship trophy. But there’s a strong possibility that Mark Anthoine will emerge as Maine’s best high school hockey player over the next two seasons.

Following in the footsteps of New York Rangers prospect Greg Moore, Anthoine has forsaken the traditional four years of high school, one or two years of prep school progression and will chase his dreams of becoming a collegiate and professional hockey player on a different road.

It’s a longer and potentially bumpier path, but one that could transform Anthoine into an elite player by the time he reaches his destination.

While most of his Lewiston High School classmates will start football, soccer, cross country or golf season on Monday in an effort to stay in hockey shape, Anthoine’s junior campaign on the ice already will be in full swing. He is playing on one of two USA Hockey Select teams against squads from Germany and Switzerland in the Three Nations Tournament at ESL Sports Centre in Rochester, N.Y.

Anthoine, a 15-year-old right wing with a blistering, left-handed shot, kicks off his tournament today. Games continue through next Friday.

“It’s exciting. It’s the payoff for all the hard work that you and your family put in,” Anthoine said. “We (left) Thursday at 6 a.m., and USA Hockey pays for everything.”

Two hundred American players born in 1990 and 1991 gathered for a tryout camp in Rochester last month. Anthoine made the cut.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone who watched Anthoine advance through the ranks of Lewiston Area Youth Hockey or caught a glimpse of his 2004-05 freshman season at St. Dom’s, when he racked up 18 goals and 17 assists in 33 games.

His game has grown exponentially at the junior hockey level. During that ninth-grade season, Anthoine suited up for the Portland Junior Pirates’ entry in the Midget AAA Division when he wasn’t lighting the red lamp for the Saints.

Last winter, Anthoine played exclusively for the Junior Pirates’ Metropolitan Junior B League team. He tallied 47 points in 44 games and was the youngest player to make the all-star team.

“It’s a pretty big step up, because you’re playing against young men. Last year, I was a 14-year-old going up against some guys who are almost 20,” Anthoine said. “The first month of hockey season you try to get your body used to it. You learn to make quicker decisions, and by the end of the year you’re able to do a lot more.”

Skating into the path of 200-pound defensemen isn’t the only challenge of junior hockey. It’s a juggling act to remain enrolled at your local high school while traveling up and down the Eastern seaboard.

Anthoine is scheduled to advance another level in the Junior Pirates’ development program this season, to the ‘A’ team in the Atlantic Junior Hockey League. The squad tackles a 60-game schedule that includes weekend bus trips to Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.

“I’m in school most of the time,” he said. “There are four or five Fridays where I might leave early if we have a longer trip, but I try to just stay ahead of it. You can schedule around it.”

There is an added adjustment this fall as Anthoine makes the switch from private St. Dom’s to public Lewiston High School. He admitted that he won’t know how that change will affect his academic or social life until the school year starts.

Fortunately for Anthoine, he is a superb student, as evidenced by the colleges and universities already beckoning. Last week, Anthoine and his parents traveled to Connecticut to meet with the coach from Yale.

The family also has visited Harvard, Brown, Northeastern and Holy Cross.

“I think this is the year where we’ll probably start making decisions,” Anthoine said. “I’m probably not going to go to prep school. Some colleges think you need to go to prep school. I like junior hockey.”

Whichever program winds up with Anthoine’s services could inherit the most accomplished Maine player since Moore, who also left St. Dom’s after his sophomore year to enter the USA Hockey development program.

Anthoine was an all-star at the Hockey Night in Boston tournament in 2005. He has played in two other Massachusetts tourneys, the Pre-Draft Showcase in Walpole and the Beantown Classic in Marlboro, where the grandstands were crawling with National Hockey League scouts.

No doubt the scouts will be in Rochester for the next six days, also.

“I’ve thought about it,” Anthoine said of potentially joining St. Dom’s products Moore and Derek Damon in the pros. “I look up to Greg Moore just like anyone else. I think he’s one of the best players ever to come out of Maine.”

Don’t be surprised if Anthoine acquires that same kind of local fan club someday.


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