LEWISTON — Connor Anthoine made a commitment, and he’s going to stick with it.

Anthoine, a 17-year-old forward from Lewiston, was a ninth-round pick by the Lewiston Maineiacs in June’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League entry draft. He’d also already verbally committed to the University of Vermont.

Ultimately, Vermont won out, largely on account of being first in line.

“Honestly, this is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Anthoine said Tuesday. “After talking it over with my family this week, and thinking it over all week, it’s all I thought about. I felt this was the right decision. It’s very hard to walk away from an opportunity like this, though.”

Anthoine was no surprise to Maineiacs’ GM Roger Shannon, but was was very much an unknown to the team’s coaching staff and to some of the scouts. As he made his way through training camp, though, he generated some buzz.

The team projected Anthoine, who would have been one of the younger players on the roster, as a third- or fourth-line player this year, his first in the league.

“There’s no question he has the skill to be here,” Shannon said. “He’s a good player.”

Shannon and Anthoine and his family met a few times in recent days, to go over everything that would be involved in joining the Maineiacs’ organization. Ultimately, though, Anthoine, at least for now, preferred to stay the course and return to the Green Mountain Glades of the Eastern Junior Hockey League.

“I told Connor, ‘We’re not disappointed in you at all,'” Shannon said. “I said, ‘We’re very disappointed for the team.’ He made a decision based on a lot of information, and you know what, he’d made a commitment to do something, and I am sure there was plenty of advice, and it’s good advice, to stick to his commitment.”

“To have had the chance to skate here, with the talent of the players on this team, it really was an honor,” Anthoine said. “To work with this coaching staff, it was an incredible opportunity, and I really appreciated the team giving me that chance.”

Anthoine also left open the possibility that he’d be back, if not this year, then perhaps at next year’s training camp.

“Obviously they still own my rights, they drafted me,” Anthoine said. “They’ll always be here as an option. Not that it’ll be easy for me to make the team if I do decide to try it later, but it’s good to know that the chance will still be here.”

Shannon also said the team is open to the possibility that Anthoine could return.

“Things change all the time, especially in dealing with teenagers,” Shannon said. “He’s obviously still be on our protected list, and he could decide at any time to say he’s available to us. It could be at Christmas, it could be in two days, it could be next year. But we’re really happy he chose to give it a go with us, and we were impressed with his skills as a hockey player.”

The loss of Anthoine drops the official number of players left in training camp to 31, and the number of forwards to 16. Shannon also hinted Tuesday that a player who’d previously been released may return to the team, depending on whether the team can work things out with him on the educational front.

Note: Both Maineiacs’ managing consultant Bill Schurman and head coach J.F. Houle will be out of town for a bit. Schurman will be in Rouyn-Noranda for the league’s governors’ meetings, while Houle will also be at league meetings, these in Montreal.

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