The Leavitt-Edward Little girls’ hockey team had started decking out its brand new locker room at the nearly complete Norway Savings Bank Arena already.

“We’re pretty excited and we’ve put a lot of effort into making it some place special for the team,” said Red Hornets coach Shon Collins.

Before those accommodations will be ready, the Red Hornets began their real work Monday for the season ahead. Girls’ hockey teams around the state began practice this week. That included both Leavitt-Edward Little and Lewiston. St. Dom’s won’t have a varsity team this year.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for a few weeks,” Collins said. “I like the interaction with the girls and just being out there coaching.”

The Red Hornets took to the ice at Ingersoll Arena. They won’t christen the new ice until hosting a round robin tournament Nov. 16.

“The round robin is the first competitive event of our season,” Collins said. “That’s a nice one for us to kick off the opening of our arena.”

Collins’ team has the promise of some good things this winter. The club graduated six seniors but still has a solid group that should make them a contender. The Red Hornets went 15-5 last year before losing to Greely in the regional final.  

“There was a concern coming in,” said Collins, noting that he lost some experienced talent in those seniors. “There’s a crop of freshmen that we’ve got coming in. I got to see them play summer hockey. I was impressed. There’s a talented group of hockey players coming in.”

Add that to the returning talent and the Red Hornets should have a quality team to display on its new ice.

“We’re going to have the talent to be up there with the top teams in the state,” Collins said. “Whether it comes together or we play together as a team and all those things you need to be a successful team, that remains to be seen. I’m excited about the level of talent that we have here.”

Across the river, Lewiston has great expectations for a new season as well. The Blue Devils lost to the Red Hornets in double overtime in the semifinals last year. Lewiston, which finished 14-5,  has most of that team returning after graduating only a few seniors.

“My core will be there,” said Lewiston coach Ron Dumont. “That junior class has some really highly skilled players. We picked up a couple kids last year that were freshmen that are still going to be there.”

Dumont is also adding more promising freshmen as well as goalie Paige Fontaine. She was with the team as a freshman.

“I wasn’t going to have a goalie,” Dumont said. “That’s one big hurdle that’s taken care off.”

Both local squads  have numbers in the 20’s, but St. Dom’s wasn’t able to maintain that level of participation. The Saints graduated four seniors last year and struggled to have a full team a year ago after injuries and illness. St. Dom’s will play just a junior varsity schedule this year. So that eliminates some natural rivalries but opens the door for other challenges on the schedule.

“Unfortunately, St. Dom’s isn’t involved this year,” Dumont said. “So we had to get other teams that we were able to do crossover games with, both home and away. Scarborough and York our typically skilled teams. That should make a little more tough hockey to play.”

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