Lewiston High School’s Jeromey Rancourt celebrates after scoring an unassisted breakaway goal against Falmouth goalie Spencer Pierce during a game in 2017. (Sun Journal File Photo)

AUBURN — One season removed from helping Lewiston High School to a second consecutive state championship as its captain, and after one year away from home honing his skills in Michigan, Lewiston native Jeromey Rancourt is coming home to play.

The Twin City Thunder announced Monday morning that they’ve signed Rancourt to play for the United States Premier Hockey League’s newest franchise beginning in the fall.

“It will be nice being closer to home,” Rancourt said. “It’ll definitely be easier on travel, and on my family, being able to help out.”

Rancourt is the team’s first player, and his signing is more than just symbolic.

“Jeromey has played in the Maine Moose program for five years,” Thunder owner and GM (and Moose owner) Ben Gray said. “The level of play he brings to the table is high. In the past year, he’s piqued the interest of a couple of DI programs already, and he’s a great addition to our team.”

Last season, Rancourt played with the Fox Motors U18 team in Michigan, putting up 14 points in 32 games in the Tier I league in which they play. The team also skates in a Michigan Amateur Hockey Association league, and those games’ records were not readily available.

“Points come and go,” Rancourt said. “That’s not really the most important thing about playing, so long as the team is winning. But in general, the difficulty is higher in games at the junior level, and I definitely noticed. Guys are a lot bigger, they’re a lot faster, and smarter. And positioning was a big deal, even if you were off by two feet, it changes the angles on everything.”

With the extra year of junior hockey under his belt, the Thunder are looking forward to Rancourt helping lead the team on the ice next season.

“That year in Michigan, it opened his eyes to a whole other level of hockey,” Gray said. “It will still be a transition, because this will be another step up, but he should excel.”

And more than on the ice, Gray said, having Rancourt there as a leader will be important. A three-year, full-time varsity player at Lewiston, Rancourt put up more than 100 points, including 44 in his senior season, but more importantly for those looking to recruit him, he wore the captain’s ‘C’ both his junior and senior seasons.

“He’s the type of player you want a bunch of on your team,” Gray said. “His quality and character are solid on and off the ice. We saw it at Lewiston, we saw it with the Moose for five years. If we can get more like him, we’ll be in good shape.”

The Thunder are expected to announce more player signings in the coming weeks, ahead of their invitation-only tryout camp May 4-6 at Norway Savings Bank Arena.

“We’ll start rolling out more players soon,” Gray said, “but the first player in program history, it’s a big deal. Realistically, our roster should be rounded out by the end of June, the latest, and I think we already have a good core to look at.”