LEWISTON — Their nerves disappeared as their skates made the season’s first cut into a freshly lain sheet of ice at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

Less than nine months removed from its first Maine Principals’ Association-sanctioned girls’ ice hockey state title, St. Dominic Academy was back on the ice Monday, the first day girls’ hockey programs across Maine were allowed by MPA rules to resume skating together. Girls’ hockey programs get a two-week head start on other MPA-sanctioned sports in the winter season due mainly to ice-time concerns.

Many of the Saints’ skaters spent the hockey offseason working on skills, and playing on summer and fall teams.

But a handful have yet to get a true break. Twins Kellie and Kayla McLellan are among those who were back on the ice just 48 hours after an emotional and heartbreaking loss in the Class C state soccer final. A small school, St. Dom’s has many athletes who play multiple sports.

“Transitioning from my soccer bag to my hockey bag (Sunday) night was tough,” Kayla McLellan said.

“I think it hurts still, a little, but playing hockey will help take our minds off it,” Kellie McLellan added. “We’ll get in the swing of things again and move forward.”

Kayla McLellan, one of the offensive sparks for the Saints’ soccer squad this fall, will be a go-to skater for the ice hockey team, as well. The Saints lost their so-called “big 3” to graduation and transfer, and will look to last year’s supporting cast to step in and be the core of the team this season.

“We still have quite a bit coming back, including our goalie, which is huge,” St. Dom’s coach Don Boucher said. “We have the whole supporting cast coming back, too. We might not have a superstar this year, but I think as a whole, we’ll be fine.”

Across the ice, skaters from Lewiston High School filtered slowly into the Colisee. After a tough season and lower numbers a year ago, the Blue Devils have reloaded with a strong freshman class. They were more than ready to get back onto the ice.

“It was a trying year, we did what we could last year,” Lewiston coach Ron Dumont said. “You have to go through that. The kids were great about it, I appreciate all of the effort we saw last year, and now we all want to get back on track this year. We’re kind of champing at the bit.”

In Auburn, at Ingersoll Arena, the Leavitt Little Red Hornets, a co-op team formed by skaters from Leavitt Area High School and Edward Little High School, took to the ice for the first time, as well.

“Everybody’s excited,” EL/Leavitt coach Eric Geoffroy said. “They’ve had a countdown going on Facebook and the whole thing. It’s exciting to see their enthusiasm.”

After a solid season a year ago, and with very little lost to graduation or transfer, the Red Hornets are poised to begin the season with an unfamiliar target on their backs: That of a potential preseason front-runner.

“The girls bought in at the end of the year last year, and I think it’s going to happen earlier this time around,” Geoffroy said. “It’s going to be a good year.”

None of the coaches or players were willing to proclaim their team as a favorite on Monday, though, mostly because they hadn’t yet seen firsthand all of the teams’ new skaters, nor those from the other squads.

But optimism reigned in all camps.

“I do feel like we have a target on our backs, which will make it extra hard,” Kayla McLellan said, “But we’re ready. This is a good group of girls.”

“It should be a good little crew,” Geoffroy said. “We have a couple of good freshmen coming in who are promising, and some of the newer girls did some clinics over the summer. We have some work to do, but in time, we should be all right.”

Teams are eligible to open the regular season on Nov. 25, also two full weeks before the boys’ teams. The tradeoff is a postseason that begins 18 days before the boys’ playoffs.

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