Lewiston High School boys hockey coach Jamie Belleau, right, watches a drill at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Monday afternoon on the first day of preseason practice. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — If last year’s regional final was a nightmare for some Lewiston boys hockey players then Monday morning’s wake-up call might have been a welcome reminder that a new season had begun.

A little more than eight months after Lewiston’s three-year Class A state title run ended at the hands of rival St. Dominic Academy, the Blue Devils were back on the ice — the same Androscoggin Bank Colisee ice where last season ended.

Even a 5:30 a.m. first practice couldn’t mute the Blue Devils’ excitement, even if the early start time might have caused some grogginess on day one.

“Those are the best practices, you know, coming out here early with the boys and just get the work in and get after it,” senior forward Ryan Pomerleau said Monday afternoon, before the Blue Devils began a second tryout session at the Colisee.

“(The morning practices) started about five years ago, when we had close to 60 kids trying out. We separated the groups. But in the last couple of years we’ve decided to keep it, just make the best of it,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. “We try not to overdo things right away, at least I don’t try to overdo it. We try to keep our practices up-tempo, get some conditioning in within the drills. You know, I remember the days where I thought that you had to be ready to play a six-period game the first week of the season. We don’t. So we utilize it wisely, I think, and the kids seem to have a good time.”

Before the action really got underway, the elephant in the room — last year’s regional final loss — had to get addressed.

“I mean, you always try to turn the page and say, ‘Last year is last year,’ but I also think it’s important to be honest. I mean, it certainly motivated me,” Belleau said. “You know, we’ve been fortunate enough to have good players who have worked hard and had three state championships. Last year we came close, good group of kids, and a lot of the guys from last year’s team are still in the locker room. So, I mean, I don’t think I’d be intellectually honest if that didn’t motivate us a little bit more.”

“After all that (happened last year) we just want to work harder, get stronger, get faster,” senior forward Kurtis Pelletier said.

Pomerleau said the team has “a good core coming back.” Belleau said he’s got 11 new freshmen in the program, which he’s “really excited” about.

Lewiston High School boys hockey coach Jamie Belleau, right, goes over a drill at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Monday afternoon on the first day of preseason practice. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Pelletier and Pomerleau said the chemistry in the locker room is already good, and they intend for it to keep getting better.

That will align with one of the elements Belleau said he is looking for in the initial practices of the new season.

“It’s important to get off on the right foot, but it’s important to do it the right way,” Belleau said. “The way I like to do it is, as a staff we like to simplify things. I mean, we’re only looking for a couple things, and that’s your attitude, your effort and whether you can get along with the team. And if you do those three things, I tell them we’ve succeeded today.”

Even the teams drills at the start of the season are simple, “but every drill’s got a purpose,” Belleau said.

The players showed from the first practice that they’re not taking any drill too lightly.

“We did a standard puck-progression drill just to get their feet moving, their hands warmed up. Everybody’s going full-speed, and after they did it I said, ‘Good job, but slow down, relax,'” Belleau said. “But that’s good, because they’re hungry and they want to impress the team, and they want to impress each other, and they want to impress the coaches.”

Belleau didn’t want his players to get ahead of themselves, noting that the season “is going to be a marathon, it’s not a sprint,” a sentiment that the veteran Pomerleau echoed.

Still, it’s hard for the players to not get too excited for the games to begin, with the regular season starting at defending Class B state champion Greely on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

“It feels like it’s going to be tomorrow, but we’re just going to grind it out,” Pelletier said.

Lewiston High School boys hockey coach Jamie Belleau, far left, and some of his assistant coaches watch a drill at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Monday afternoon on the first day of preseason practice. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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