Manny Guimond of the Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland high school hockey team. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — If there was any question that it was a new season for the Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland girls’ hockey, goalie Manny Guimond found the answer she was looking for from the very first game.

She faced 30 shots in an overtime tie against Yarmouth/Freeport. That was a number she rarely faced last year as a freshman, albeit behind a more experience defensive corps. This year, however, it was just the first of many games where Guimond has been pelted by flying pucks.

“Kind of surprising,” Guimond said. “I didn’t think it was going to be that much.”

“We had the conversation that she should be expecting more shots, more high-risk shots, this year,” Red Hornets assistant and goalie coach Kris Bennett said.

Thankfully for Guimond, she likes a lot of shots. And this year she’s getting just what she asked for.

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“She just realizes this year — last year there were several games where she probably faced less than 10 shots, and this year it’s 10 or more a period, if not more,” head coach Dana Berube said. “And I think she’s got a pretty good mentality about it.”

Guimond got a little reprieve in the Red Hornets’ second game, pitching her first of two shutouts this season in a win against a struggling Mt. Ararat/Morse team. She needed that relative rest because the next game might have been the toughest for her and the team.

Guimond faced 41 shots in just two periods during an 11-1 loss to Greely/Gray-New Gloucester before getting taken out of the game with an injury.

“It was really hard, especially having to come out of the game,” Guimond said. “I really wanted to go back out.”

“We kind of had to put the straps on say ‘hey, you need to make sure you’re 100 percent so that you can play and be good for the season,'” Bennett said.

Berube said the injury “threw a scare” into the coaching staff, the thought of missing such an important piece of the team. They had to battle with Guimond to hold her out of action for more than a week, but luckily for the Red Hornets there was nearly two weeks before their next game.

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That next one, a 7-5 loss to Winslow/Gardiner, “was the only one that she’s really kind of — in my opinion — kind of fought the puck a little bit,” Berube said. “But since then she’s been very solid, has given us a chance to compete every night.”

Sure there’s been more blowout losses, to Greely/New Gloucester again and to South region contenders Portland/Deering and Cheverus/Kennebunk, but there’s also been close wins and competitive losses.

A 1-0 defeat at the hands of rival — and then undefeated — Lewiston/Monmouth/Oak Hill has been the highlight of Guimond’s individual season so far. She faced 44 shots and stopped 43 of them. It was almost more shots than Guimond could believe.

“That Lewiston game in particular, she made some saves that, like I said, I don’t think any other goalie in the state really can make,” Berube said.

Bennett said it took a team effort to quiet the Blue Devils for the first time this season, but Guimond was also “on top of her game.”

And it’s that game, that performance, that Guimond and the coaches can keep referencing as the season goes along.

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“It’s one of those that you look back and say ‘do you remember the Lewiston game? Think of that. The checklist: Am I facing the puck? Are my angles right? Am I out far enough?’ That’s a good game to point to and say ‘that’s the effort,'” Bennett said. “But we always know Manny brings the effort in every game.”

It’s games just like that one that the coaches — Bennett in particular — prepared Guimond for coming into the season. They worked on squaring up, pushing out on breakaways and point shots, controlling rebounds, and not being afraid to cover up the puck.

“More whistles is better,” Bennett said.

Blue Devils coach Ron Dumont said after that game that Guimond “played outstanding.” It’s something Berube says he hears a lot.

“I don’t think I’ve had a game yet where the opposing coach hasn’t shaken my hand and said ‘Manny’s a hell of a goalie,'” Berube said. “We’re young, we’re inexperienced. We’re still in the playoff hunt, so that’s good, and the only reason we’re there is because we have Manny between the pipes and we got a couple very good leaders that are kind of keeping things together.”

If the Red Hornets do make the playoffs (they’re currently in the fifth out of six playoff spots in the North region) Berube said he “absolutely” thinks they could steal a game — depending on seeding and opponent — with the heroics that Guimond is capable of providing.

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Guimond said she lives for those opportunities.

“I make sure I’m prepared more (for the big games) than other games,” Guimond said.

“The shots are fun, when they take a lot of shots,” she said.

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Bulldogs forward Emily Demers, foreground, watches her shot bounce off the shoulder of Red Hornets goalie Emily Demers during Saturday’s game in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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