LEWISTON It wasn’t hard to pick Stefan Fournier out of the crowd.

His blond hair flapped in the breeze as he rounded the final turn at Lewiston High School’s track and field complex. Taller than most of the rest of the hockey players in the Lewiston Maineiacs’ training camp, Fournier also spent a lot of the summer bulking up, and had put on a good deal of muscle.

Wednesday was a day he’d been training for.

“This gives players who have worked all summer, who’ve been training hard, the chance to show the coaches that they want to be here,” Fournier said.

That, the Maineiacs’ coaching staff said, is exactly the attitude they were looking for.

“A lot of the younger kids did really well in testing,” coach J.F. Houle said. “Some of the people, you wish they were in better shape, whether they were invited or veterans, but really, so far, so good.”

The Maineiacs officially opened camp Wednesday, and the players, instead of taking the ice, were put through a series of rigorous tests to measure agility, strength and endurance.

“We want to cover a lot of the components you see in hockey,” goaltending and fitness coach Reg Bourcier said. Push strength, pull strength, agility and cardiovascular for anaerobic are all things we tested.”

And, Bourcier, said, for the most part, the players this year tested well.

“I think a lot of the players left the coaches a bit surprised with how well everything went, honestly,” Bourcier said. “In terms of the summer, and how the players did, I’d say it went very well.”

After arriving at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee for warm-ups, the players all divided into groups. Some went outdoors, to the ‘T’ run, where players ran forward, sideways and backward for a time. Others stayed in the weight room and tested jumping and balance, and pure strength with the bench press and pull-ups.

After completing all of the stations at the rink six in all the six groups of players walked over to Lewiston High School to run a timed mile.

The quickest player in the mile? Second-year player Sam Henley, who crossed the line in less than 5:30. The slowest players still broke 6:30.

Fournier was in the middle, closer to the top. That, he said, was in part due to his ability to train hard all summer, the first since beginning his QMJHL career during which he was healthy.

“I had a couple years now where things didn’t go my way, but to start this summer, I started in good shape,I was able to hit it hard from the start,” Fournier said. “my feet were already forward and I put a lot of effort into training.”

Just as important as the evaluation Wednesday was the chance for the team to begin bonding as a unit. With a few new additions to the team over the summer, and also some players who arrived halfway through last season, training camp is a good chance for the players to learn a bit more about each other.

“Coming into training camp allows you to build chemistry with the guys,” forward Cameron Critchlow said. Critchlow was acquired last season from the AcadieBathurst Titan.

“It allows you to get a feel for everything, there are a lot of new coaches and staff here, too,” Critchlow said. “It gives you a little bit more of a chance to work on the systems and get to know them a little more.”

The players escaped to the Great Outdoors in Turner Wednesday afternoon for more team bonding exercises and to relax.

But that won’t last long.

Thursday morning, beginning with the goalies at 8 a.m., the team will be split into two units and hit the ice.

“It’s important that they’re in shape right away,” Houle said. “They’ll notice Thursday in practice, too. We’ve set up a practice that is high intensity with a lot of reps. You’ll be able to figure out the guys who are not in shape pretty quickly. It will be a good gauge on the ice to see who’s ready.”

“This is the time when having worked hard all summer pays off,” Fournier said.


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