LEWISTON — Relaxed but without reservation, Connor Anthoine joined his SUNY-Geneseo teammates in the assembly line of autographs on the eve of the 2014 NCAA Division III Hockey Championship.

The hometown kid was ready to enjoy the moment.

Across the table from him were a dozen 6-to-12-year-old Twin City Titans, Sharpies in hand, watching the hometown hero’s every move. Anthoine, a freshman at Geneseo who grew up in Lewiston, couldn’t help but think of when it was him looking up at his hockey heroes in awe.

“It brings back memories of myself back from when I was playing youth hockey and seeing University of Maine guys come in here. You just got so excited to see stuff like that,” Anthoine said shortly after posing for a picture with the group.

The NCAA handed out its Division III hockey awards Thursday night at a gathering of all of the Frozen Four teams at the Ramada Inn.

St. Norbert junior goaltender David Jacobson won the Sid Watson Award as the nation’s top Division III hockey player. A few All-Americans were recognized and some of the best players in the country rubbed elbows in the ballroom.

But Connor Anthoine was the star of the night.

Even with family, friends and former neighbors eager to welcome him home, Anthoine didn’t seem worried about distractions Thursday night.

“To a certain extent (there are distractions). I’m trying not to let them bother me too much,” he said. “I’m trying to stay focused on the game, but it’s definitely been a lot of fun.”

Anthoine is determined to take it all in this weekend, while keeping his eye on the real prize — SUNY-Geneseo’s first national title.

Geneseo’s bus arrived in Lewiston Wednesday night. Before checking in to their hotel, the Knights extended their eight-hour trip a few more minutes to get a peek at the Androscoggin Bank Colise, a building Anthoine hasn’t played in since youth hockey.

“All of the memories came back, from playing for L-A travel and Junior Maineiacs and now being in college and being able to play here,” he said. “It’s a dream come true for me.”

“Being able to walk into my home rink and knowing that I have to play probably the most meaningful games of the season, obviously the butterflies are here,” Anthoine added. “But I think I’ll be good to go (Friday), honestly.”

SUNY-Geneseo (23-6) will skate against St. Norbert College (26-3-1), winners of two of the last three national championships, in Friday’s first semifinal at 4 p.m.

Cam Hampson, another Geneseo freshman, said the butterflies started fluttering on the bus and continued through the team’s morning skate at the Colisee.

“There’s a lot of anticipation,” he said. “It’s our first time here, so we’re all just really excited about the experience. We’re just going to try to make the best of it, no matter what.”

Jacobson gladly accepted handshakes and back-slaps from his teammates, but immediately put the Watson Award, named after the legendary Bowdoin coach, on the back burner.

“I relate it to a nice move without a goal. It doesn’t mean anything unless you score,” Jacobson said. “We’ve still got our goal in mind here, the national championship. We’re looking forward to playing (Friday) and that’s all we’re thinking about right now.”

Geneseo coach Chris Schultz received the Edward Jeremiah Award as Division III Coach of the Year. He led the Knights to their first national semifinal in their fourth NCAA tournament appearance overall. The Knights finished first in the SUNYAC (14-2) and earned an at-large bid to the tournament. They picked up the program’s first-ever tournament wins last week with victories over Nichols and Norwich.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point goalie Brandon Jaeger picked up the Elite 89 Award, given to the athlete with the highest cumulative GPA who is participating in the finals of each of the NCAA’s 89 sports. Jaeger, an accounting and business administration major, boasts a 3.79 GPA.


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