LEWISTON — Shawn Hird looked around the parking lot outside the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Tuesday night and quickly found a familiar face: Former competitor and fellow local sports product Brady Blackman.

Blackman and his family attended the Lewiston Maineiacs’ billet barbecue as a host family, having been assigned, at least for training camp, one of the young hockey players vying for a spot on this season’s roster.

They weren’t looking for Hird, although they could have been.

Hird, 18, is one of a pair of local skaters invited by the Maineiacs to try out for the state’s top junior team, joining soon-to-be-19-year-old defenseman Eric Bonawitz, once a skater for St. Dom’s who now patrols the blue line for the Syracuse Stars.

“Any chance we get to give a local player a chance to make the team, if we feel he’s good enough, we’ll do that,” Maineiacs’ coach and president Don MacAdam said. “Every player we’ve invited to camp this week, we feel has a chance to make the squad, and that includes the local players.”

Hird began his high school-level career at Edward Little, and now plays for the Portland Junior Pirates. His first reaction Tuesday, after meeting the rest of the players in camp at a team meeting before the barbecue, was laced with a hint of surprise.

“There are a lot of bigger kids,” Hird said at the barbecue. “But we all have to play hockey.”

After his first spin around the ice with the rest of his Team White teammates, Hird was ready to keep going.

“It’s different, it’s another step up,” Hird said. “I made the jump from EL to the Pirates and that was a big step, and this is like the next step in that progression.”

Bonawitz, meanwhile, is used to the junior hockey atmosphere away from home, having lived last winter in Syracuse. The Stars compete in the Eastern Junior Hockey League. Bonawitz had two goals and 10 assists and 57 penalty minutes in 40 games there last season.

“The speed is about the same, maybe a bit faster here, but it’s a lot more physical here,” Bonawitz said.

Now that he’s in camp, Bonawitz is one of only 10 blueliners here, with seven spots available on the squad.

“I still really don’t know what I want to do,” Bonawitz said. “I feel really good out there. I’ve been playing all summer and training. We’ll see how it turns out. I grew up here watching them, and it’s always kind of been a goal of mine. The last few years I haven’t had a lot of looks (from colleges), so I figured I’d see how it might go here.”

Hird has a tougher battle. Of the 42 players listed on the official invite list, seven are goalies and 10 are defensemen, leaving 25 forwards for 13 or 14 spots.

“There’s a lot more skill out there,” Hird said. “I’m just happy to have the shot. Everybody has a skill, so I’ll work hard and see what I can do. If not, it’s still a great opportunity.”

Either way, whether Hird and Bonawitz make the roster or not, MacAdam and Shannon remain committed to one day finding and cultivating top-level hockey players in the greater Lewiston-Auburn area.

“It’s part of our commitment to the community,” Shannon said. “Someday, we’d like to have more than one player on our roster from right here.”

Former St. Dom skater Eric Bonawitz of Lewiston is one of two local skaters trying out for the Maineiacs.

Shawn Hird, left, of Auburn is one of two local skaters invited by the Maineiacs to try out for the team.


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