AUBURN — Five players who played high school in Maine a season ago are testing the the waters of Tier II junior hockey at Twin City Thunder main camp at Norway Savings Bank Arena.

Leading the way is St. Dom’s graduate Jacob Lewis, the only player to play Class A. The other four played in Class B: Gavin Simpolous of Cape Elizabeth, Brandon Mason of the Kennebec Riverhawks (Waterville/Winslow) and Presque Isle teammates Connor Demerchant and Colby Carlisle.

The first difference the group noticed from high school was the speed of the game at this level.

“It was definitely a little difficult because of the pace of play is a lot different but after a little bit you get use to it,” Demerchant said after his first game on Thursday. “

Connor Demerchant skates towards the action during the Thunder Day hockey game at Norway Savings Bank Arena on Thursday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

They are all here for different reasons.

Lewis has signed up to play for the Maine Moose 18U team this season.

“(I am looking) to just get the experience playing against guys who are probably older than me who have been through this kind of stuff before,” Lewis said. “This is a first time coming to a junior camp like this, so I am just excited.”

Lewis led the Saints in scoring last season with 13 goals and nine assists in 22 games. He also appeared in one game with the L/A Nordiques of the North American 3 Hockey League prior to the high school season’s start.

He decided to come to Thunder main camp after talking to a few people close to him.

Mason is here for the experience as he prepares to play for the Riverhawks for his senior season and with the Maine Moose organization with their Tier II 18U split season team. He’s looking to see where he stands for the 2021-22 season, when he is looking to play junior hockey full-time.

“I played with the Moose basically all my life, I split between high school and Moose (and) it surely helped me prepare for this (camp),” Mason said.

He believes playing for the Moose helped him adjust to the speed that a main camp provides.

Demerchant  signed up to play for the Thunder’s Tier III Premier League team after graduating from Presque Isle. Demerchant (20 goals and 36 assists) and Carlisle (27 goals, 35 assists) were on the most proflic line in high school hockey in Maine last year with Gage Letourneau (31 goals and 31 assists).

Demerchant is a little disappointed he isn’t on the same team as Carlisle this week at Thunder camp.

“I was hoping we were on the same team, but it is what it is,” Demerchant said. “I am sure we will play with each other sometime.”

Carlisle, meanwhile, is fine that he isn’t reuniting with his former teammate at main camp.

“It would have been nice, but it’s always good to get the chemistry up with other players and new guys,” Carlisle said.

Carlisle, an incoming senior at Presque Isle, is planning to play for the Wildcats for the upcoming hockey season. He also plays soccer for the school.

Gavin Simopoulos skates towards the action during the Thunder Day hockey game at Norway Savings Bank Arena on Thursday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Carlisle isn’t concerned if the high school hockey season will be played just yet, he’s just hoping for the fall season to be played.

“I just hope we have (high school sports) in general,” Carlisle said.

Another player who has high school hockey eligibility remaining is Simpolous, who will be a senior. The Capers’ leading scorer (17 goals, 13 assists) a season ago is still up in the air on his plans for the upcoming season with the fate of high school sports still undecided.

“It definitely is (up in the air),” Simpolous said. “The whole online school, it gives us a little more freedom of what to do for our upcoming season.”

Simpolous has spoken to Cape Elizabeth coach Jake Rutt, who played at the University of Maine and with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs prior to his college career. Rutt told Simpolous what to expect at the junior hockey level when that time comes.

Simpolous, who played for the Thunder’s USPHL Summer Showcase team in July, has made a good impression so far this summer with the Thunder coaching staff.

“He’s a good player. he played in the showcase and he had a really good weekend for us,” Thunder co-owner and coach Dan Hodge said. “We talked to him about coming to camp and here he is. We will see, he’s a big kid but plays a really nice game.”

Given the upcoming high school season is an unknown, Hodge is leaning on the side of giving Simpolous and Carlisle more time on their decision for the upcoming year.

“There will obviously be some leeway,” Hodge said. “The lack of information is frustrating. I mean you don’t know, so it’s hard to put an answer to that.”

Hodge has been also impressed Brock James of Falmouth, who played prep hockey at Berwick Academy this past season and was drafted by the team in the NCDC Future’s Draft.

Others who played prep school hockey in Maine last season have attended camp. North Yarmouth Academy had a pair in Ryan Joyce of Westbrook and Cal Davies of Harpswell, while Kents Hill had one player in Justin Harshaw of Davie Florida. Hebron Academy had goaltender Ben Hathaway in camp.


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