LEWISTON —Lewiston Maineiacs’ GM Roger Shannon has made some tough decisions in his day.

Friday may have been one of the toughest.

Shannon and the rest of the Maineiacs’ staff met with four players Friday night following the third and final intrasquad scrimmage game and delivered the grim news that they would be placed on waivers, effectively ending their stay with the team. Among the four cut was Philip Wright, a backup goalie on the team to begin last season. A 19, though, Wright fell victim to the age game.

“It was long and emotional for everybody,” Shannon said. “I’m going to do my best to give him a place to play, because that kid deserves it. We’re not putting any continuity plan together having a 20-year-old and a 19-year-old together here. It’s not rocket science. He’s such a great kid. He’s one of the top 10 kids I’ve met in any sport, and I know the community loves him. It was very tough.”

Joining Wright on waivers are Tomy Dery, Justin Cloutier and Marc-Andre L’Herault.

On waivers, these players are eligible to be picked up by any of the 17 other QMJHL teams.

“We’d rather do it that way for the kids, because if you try to trade them, other teams are less likely to give them a chance because they’d have to give something up, and we want these kids to have a chance to play,” Shannon said.

With the cut, the number of players remaining in camp is down to 35. There hasn’t been a final number set for a season roster, but the number being tossed about is in the low- to mid-20s. Shannon said he expects another cut Sunday, down to around 30 players.

Tough sleep

Tired won out over trepidation.

When Tyler Piercy finally fell asleep early Friday morning, he’d finally finished making the most important decision of his young hockey career: He’s staying with the Lewiston Maineiacs as long as he can, and he’ll try to make the team as the regular backup goaltender.

And he’s confident he made the right choice.

“After last night’s game, I had a meeting with (head coach) Don (MacAdam), and he said he’d give me the night to decide,” Piercy said. “Me and my dad, we talked a bit and we somewhat decided what we wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure. When I got back to my billet’s, I gave him a call, and we talked about it a bit. I laid around until 11:30, 12 o’clock, made my decision and then laid in bed and thought about it for an hour or two.”

Finally, he said, the week caught up to him a bit.

“It’s been a long couple of days,” Piercy said. “I had a decent sleep once I fell asleep, but getting there was the tough part.

“This is my dream, and I’m going to keep at it,” Piercy continued. “It’s going to be just as hard to make this team as it would be to make it in the NCAA.”

With his decision, Piercy isn’t exactly giving up on school all together.

“I’m from Fredericton and I live right near UNB (the University of New Brunswick), and they just won nationals, so it’s not like that would be a bad option, either, later on down the road.”

Still undecided

Another player on the fence about his stay in camp Thursday was Lewiston’s Eric Bonawitz. His situation is unique, in that he can remain in camp at his own expense because he lives in town. He plans on taking as much time as he can.

“They gave me a week to decide, because they don’t want to jump me in too soon,” Bonawitz said. “I don’t want to play in the first game and think, ‘Oh, I made a mistake.’ I’m going to sit out this weekend’s games and next week, I’ll probably know by then where I stand and we’ll see how it goes from there.”

Bonawitz’s last team, the Syracuse Stars, are fully aware of the chance Bonawitz has in Lewiston, and have told him to do what he feels is best, he said.

For the local hockey player, the situation is rather unique. He essentially grew up playing around the Maineiacs. Seven years ago, when the team first skated into the Twin Cities, Bonawitz was 11.

“I’m kind of in the same boat as a lot of the other kids here, because this is the kind of hockey they grow up around,” Bonawitz said. “I can see this, they can see this and we both have the same goals in mind.”

As for sleep, Bonawitz said, even with the extra time, Bonawitz had trouble closing his eyes.

“I have a bit of time, but it was still hard to sleep,” Bonawitz said.

Familiar faces

Two players skated onto the ice during the Maineiacs’ morning practices Friday, and they immediately looked out of place. They were faster than the rest, had better shots and seemed much more familiar with the drills and the workouts than anyone else.

Of course, they at one time were on the same level. But a year or two in the American Hockey League can change that.

Stefan Chaput and Chad Denny, a pair of former Lewiston Maineiacs players, showed up at the team’s training camp Friday morning and skated drills with the prospective players.

“It’s a benchmark,” MacAdam said. “If you can catch them, you can skate at the American League level.”

One of the final drills of the morning session gave the former players a head start from the blue line to the red line, and the rest of the skaters had to try and catch up. Only one — 19-year-old Billy Lacasse — caught Chaput, and none of the skaters caught Denny.

“Both guys are excellent skaters, and both guys are positive, upbeat guys,” MacAdam said. “It’s nice to have them around.”

For Chaput and Denny, being back feels like old times, but it’s very different than what they’re now used to.

“There are a lot of good, young kids here and they’ll do well,” Chaput said, “but it’s very different from a pro camp.”

“Every year, faces change, but every year there are players drafted from the Lewiston Maineiacs by NHL teams,” Denny said. “This organization has been great to me, and it’s still a good organization to play for.”

Chaput will play in the Travers City rookie tournament on Sept. 5, and then report to the Carolina Hurricanes’ main camp on Sept. 16.

“I can’t wait,” Chaput said.

Denny, meanwhile, reports to camp with the Atlanta Thrashers on Sept. 12.

“I’m a forward this year, they moved me from being on defense, so I’m going to have to adjust a bit,” Denny said. “I’ve been working out hard, and I’m looking forward to it.”

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