Cole Ouellette of the Maine Nordiques and Jeromey Rancourt of the Twin City Thunder have been the de facto faces of their respective junior hockey organizations because of their long-standing ties to the Lewiston-Auburn community.

The pair helped build the current Lewiston High School hockey dynasty and were standout players on back-to-back Class A state championships in 2016 and 2017. They then became key members of the Twin Cities’ two junior hockey clubs.

Now, their junior hockey careers are winding down, as, it seems, is their time playing hockey in their hometown.

Cole Ouellette, left, of the Maine Nordiques and Liam McCanney of the Northeast Generals compete for the puck during a game last month in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Both will play their final regular season home games this week. The Nordiques and Ouellette host the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. Meanwhile, at Norway Savings Bank Arena, Rancourt and the Thunder face the South Shore Kings on Saturday at 6 p.m. and the Northern Cyclones on Sunday at 4 p.m.

“It has set in, not so much at the beginning of the year because I knew I had a lot of games coming up,” Ouellette said of what could be playing his final games at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. “Now that it’s the last two games, it’s just setting in.”

Rancourt, the first player the Thunder organization signed, has enjoyed playing on both sides of the Androscoggin River.

“It has been amazing being able to play in front of the community that I grew up in,” Rancourt said. “Also being around to see guys like Cole and the younger guys with the (Blue) Devils doing well. It’s meant a lot to me, especially being close to my family.”

In addition to helping the Blue Devils climb back to the top of the Class A hockey, they also left their mark with the Hallowell-based Maine Moose as members of the team that won USA Hockey’s Tier II 16U national championship during the 2015-16 season and the Tier II 18U National championship the following year.

Ben Gray, who owns the Moose, coached that 16U team.

Twin City Thunder’s Jeromey Rancourt shoots at the goal past PAL Islanders’ Devin Moran in January. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“We have a lot of great memories of both of them,” said Gray, a St. Dominic Academy graduate who is also a co-owner of the Twin City Thunder. “I am not surprised both have been very successful. They both had successful careers at Lewiston High School, with the Moose and now with their respective junior programs.

“With Jeromey going to Plymouth State, it’s going to be a great fit for him. I am not sure if Cole has decided where he’s heading yet, but wherever he does end up for a school, he will be a great asset for their program as well.”

ROLE MODELS

When the Lewiston Maineiacs were based at the Colisee, only two of the several Lewiston-Auburn players who tried out made the team: Colby Gilbert of Auburn in the 2004-05, and Eric Bonawitz of Lewiston in 2009-10.

Gilbert led Edward Little to back-to-back Class A state championships in 2003 and 2004. Bonawitz played his freshman year at St. Dom’s in 2005-06 before beginning his junior career, playing two years with the Portland Jr. Pirates and a season with the Syracuse Stars.

Greg Moore (2002-06) of Lisbon and Mark Anthoine (2010-14) of Lewiston both had four-year careers at the University of Maine.

Ouellette and Rancourt are players for the next generation of hockey players in Lewiston-Auburn to look up to.

“They are great role models,” said Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau, who coached Rancourt and Ouellette when they were Blue Devils. “The reality is if you want to play hockey at the next level, everybody is going to tell you, even the best of high school hockey players, they are going to go on and play (junior) hockey when they are 18, 19, 20 years old to develop, that’s just the hockey model. The fact Jeromey and Cole had four years here to experience some success, win some championships and help them where they get where they are now, they have put in the work now to play at the next level.”

Rancourt has played for one of the Thunder teams — the USPHL Premier team in 2018-19 and the National Collegiate Developmen Conference team this season — both seasons of the organization’s existence.

Ouellette played two seasons for the L/A Nordiques and was recognized as one of the NA3HL’s best defenders, before moving up and playing an important role with the NAHL Maine Nordiques this season.

The Thunder and Nordiques organizations hope that Rancourt and Ouellette are the first of many local players who move up the ladder from youth hockey to high school hockey to junior hockey, and hopefully into college hockey.

“It’s definitely exciting to see players coming up through the youth and high school, or whether they go away for prep school and end up back here for junior — it’s something we have not had in the past,” Cam Robichaud, the Maine Nordiques associate head coach and director of player recruitment and advancement, said. “We are really excited to offer it to players who are potentially at that level and have the option to stay home, get an education here in the state of Maine, play a higher level of junior hockey to be exposed to college (teams).”

TEAMMATES FOR LIFE

The bond that exists between Ouellette and Rancourt is part of the culture that Belleau has built with the Lewiston program. He tries to stay in touch with his players after their four years of high school hockey are over, and instead of coaching them on the ice, he coaches them in life.

“I have a relationship with Jeromey and Cole because that’s the type of environment we have in our locker room,” Belleau said. “Jeromey spends a lot of time with my family, I consider him a part of my family. Cole, I don’t see as quite much, but all of a sudden I will get a call from Cole or a text from Cole.

“Those (players) are a part of Lewiston High School hockey, and I don’t think they forget it, either. That’s what makes coaching high school sports kind of special, being able to build those types of relationships.”

Belleau’s life lessons began early in Rancourt and Ouellette’s high school careers.

“(Jamie) had us in the gym quite a bit; mornings we had double sessions and we would practice every day,” Ouellette said. “He would always be on me about school work, which is actually very important because the first two years I wasn’t worried about my grades too much. He helped me a lot with that to keep me in check.”

As Belleau said, his bond with Rancourt’s bond with his high school coach also includes Belleau’s family.

“He was my baseball coach in Little League for one year, and really from freshmen year (on), I built a bond with him and his sons,” Rancourt said. “They looked up to me — James and Mike — and are some of my best friends, they are like brothers to me; and his daughters, I love them, too, like they were my own family. Whether it’s camping or going on vacation with them — at Christmas time I am at their house, that kind of thing. I buy them gifts.

“I don’t how to describe the relationship, we just gelled really well.”

NOT DONE YET

Rancourt and Ouellette try to remain contact with each other as much as possible.

“I text him all the time,” Ouellette said. “I ask him how’s he’s doing on his away games, and he calls me every once in a while on the bus trips. We still keep in contact quite a lot.

“I am very proud of Jeromey. It’s nice to see he’s going to play more hockey at a very good level. We have been playing all our lives together. It’s really nice.”

Ouellette is still exploring his college hockey options. Rancourt hopes Ouellette can find a place where he can continue his dreams.

“We grew up playing hockey for the Maine Moose,” Rancourt said “There are memories that will never leave (us), I think we will be tied together in that aspect. I miss playing the kid, that’s for sure, he’s one of my favorite players to play with, along with many others I can name. His vision of the ice is so unteachable, and just his patience as the years go on and the levels (of play) go up, he’s proving he can continue to do that. I think it’s just amazing.

“Like I said, I am so proud of that kid for everything he’s doing. I hope he finds the place where he wants to play college hockey.”


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