Some of the most valuable players in high school hockey this season have those willing put on goalie pads when their team is in a pinch because of COVID-19.

NHL teams are scouring cities they play in for anybody who has played at a competitive level to serve as an emergency backup goaltender — sometimes known as an EBUG — such as the New Jersey Devils, who signed former University of Southern Maine goalie Kyle Shapiro earlier this month.

Emergency backups are more common in the ECHL level due to the trickle-up effect that happens when an NHL team calls up goalies from its AHL affiliate and then the AHL affiliate plucks a goalie from the ECHL club. On Friday, the Maine Mariners called upon former Lewiston High School goalie and current Auburn city worker Marc Gosselin to serve as the backup goalie for this weekend’s games in Portland.

Lewiston backup goalie Avaya Desjardins, who is normally a defenseman, is in position to make a save while she tracks the action in front of the net during a hockey game against Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland on Jan. 10 at The Colisee in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

At the high school level, especially girls hockey, wherein most teams only have one goalie on the roster, teams are scrambling to find a solution in the event their goalie misses a game for any reason — which, due to COVID-19, has been more common than usual in 2021-22.

Lewiston girls hockey coach Ron Dumont found his team in such a predicament in a game against Scarborough on Dec. 15 when starting goalie Kim McLaughlin was injured in the second period. The Blue Devils played the third period with no goaltender and lost 4-2.

After that game, he asked his players if anybody wanted to volunteer to play goaltender. Freshman defenseman Avaya Desjardins said she give the position a try.


Desjardins practiced twice as a goalie in December. Dumont said the main concern was Desjardins’ safety.

“I wanted her to feel comfortable. I didn’t care if (the puck) went in,” Dumont said. “I wanted her to feel comfortable so she didn’t get hurt, because if kids don’t feel comfortable, they can stiffen up and get hurt. I had to make sure that was taken care of before I thought of putting her in a game.”

The Lewiston coaching staff wanted to keep things basic for Desjardins, so they taught her to stand at the edge of the crease and stay square to the net.

Desjardins quickly noticed a few things from the goalie crease.

“It’s definitely hard (to keep track) of the puck because of how fast it moves around,” Desjardins said. “But, you can see so much more when you are in the net; you have the whole ice to see. It’s challenging when (the players) are all coming down at you, but you have to try your hardest.”

The way Lewiston’s schedule worked out in December, McLaughlin was cleared to play for the Blue Devils game against St. Dominic Academy/Gray-New Gloucester/Winthrop/Monmouth on Dec. 22.


A few weeks later, McLaughlin had to miss the Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland game Jan. 10. Desjardins was going to see real action in net.

“So I told Avaya, ‘Do the best you can,'” Dumont said. “I told the girls, ‘She’s not a regular goalie. She will get in front of (the first shot), but you got to be there to clean up the mess, if there are deflections and stuff. You can’t expect her to (get to everything).’ A seasoned goalie will hopefully cover up rebounds themselves or let the puck come to them.”

Desjardins only let in the first shot she saw in the game against the Red Hornets, and even then, she got a pad on the puck before it went in. She stopped the other 11 shots she faced in the Blue Devils’ 7-1 win.

Desjardins said by the second period, she was comfortable in goal. Being a defenseman gave her some insight into playing goaltender.

“I knew where my teammates were going to be, so I know what’s going to happen and stuff,” Desjardins said.

Defenseman Maddie Weymouth played goalie for St. Dominic Academy/Gray-New Gloucester/Winthrop/Monmouth when Maddie Boulet was injured last season. Weymouth was a goalie on the Winthrop field hockey team that won the Class C state championship this fall.


Weymouth said there are similarities but also differences at the position in the two sports.

“It’s definitely different, because in field hockey you use your feet more, instead of (being) in skates,” Weymouth said. “You have to step more than skate. It’s different, but you use your hands and move the same way, but you just have a smaller goal.”

Weymouth added that making saves is slightly different. In hockey, goalies try to catch the puck with her glove. In field hockey, they want to deflect the ball away from the net.

Like Desjardins, Weymouth didn’t have much prep time last season. She only had one practice.


One of the few girls teams to carry two goalies this season is Cheverus/Kennebunk/Old Orchard Beach/Windham. Its coach, Scott Rosseau, said the pandemic prompted him to be proactive.


“Kiera Delahanty, our backup, is a senior who never played goalie before, but luckily we have enough players,” Rousseau said. “We approached her at the beginning of the year about making the switch, because what happens if (starting goalie) Ella (Lemieux) gets COVID? That has happened and we needed somebody, but we couldn’t ask someone who was a complete beginner to hockey.”

Delahanty was a third-line forward before making the switch.

“She has really made a huge sacrifice for the team so we would have a backup goalie,” Rousseau said. “She has done an amazing job. She has gotten in a few varsity games and plays for our (junior varsity) team. This year of all years, you have to be prepared for anything that will go wrong because it will go wrong.”

McKenzi Horton has been Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland’s lone goaltender since joining the team last season. Coach Dana Berube said the Red Hornets do have a plan in case something happens to Horton.

“We have a backup plan. Is it what we want? No,” Berube said. “I have been trying to get a second goalie the past couple of years. … We have one that wants to join the team next year. Right now, we have a backup plan, and that’s the best we can do.”

Berube declined to provide details, only saying that there is a player on the Red Hornets’ roster who will play if needed.


“We make sure that girl is always dressed, and, God forbid anything happens, we can get a quick change and get (her in pads) as quick as possible,” Berube said.


The St. Dom’s boys team is always looking for someone to lace up the pads if goalie Jayden Lynn can’t play.

“We have actually talked about it to the whole team; there’s (Timmy Ouellette and Thomas Casserly) that have volunteered to do it,” Saints coach Dan D’Auteuil said. “They said they want to do it. I have tried to get them to find a volunteer at school. Maybe we can get a kid to fill the net even though he can’t skate that well; at least he can be dressed and be out there.

“It’s something we have been thinking about all year, figuring what we will do if (Lynn) can’t make (a game) or he gets hurt; we could be in trouble.”

D’Auteuil isn’t too keen on moving Ouellette or Casserly to goalie because of how valuable they are at their natural positions.


“We haven’t figured which one we want yet because it takes one of our skaters, and we don’t have a big number of skaters off the ice,” D’Auteuil said. “It’s one of those decisions I don’t want to have to make.”

Having one goalie also is difficult during practices for the St. Dom’s boys team.

“With one (goalie), it has forced us to redesign every drill we have done and every practice plan we have done to try to make it work, basically, from a half-ice philosophy,” D’Auteuil said. “It has made it hard, but we had to adjust.”

St. Dom’s girls coach Paul Gosselin nearly had to use Weymouth in net this season.

“If we didn’t have more girls out because of COVID, it was going to happen (against Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland on Jan. 19),” Gosselin said. “She was willing to do it, but we didn’t have enough girls to play, anyway.”

Since Weymouth is the de facto backup, Gosselin wishes she could be in goalie pads and sitting on the bench during the games.


“It’s not the perfect scenario. I always liked to have two goalies so they can have an internal competition,” Gosselin said. “Usually, in girls hockey, it’s not usual that you have two goalies; I had some in the past, but it’s not often.”

While Weymouth attends Winthrop High School, this year’s starter, Abrianna White is a student at Monmouth Academy. Gosselin said it’s a good thing they don’t go to the same school, in case one school experiences an outbreak.


Goalies come in all shapes and sizes, so finding the right equipment — pads, helmet, glove, blocker and chest protector — isn’t always easy.

Desjardins tried on two different sets. First, she tried on her friend Gabe Pomerleau’s goalie equipment.

“When I texted her (initially when McLaughlin went down the first time), ‘It looks like we will have to put you in. What do you think about goalie?’ She was not sure, but that weekend she tried one of her buddies’ equipment, a guy she knows at school,” Dumont said. “She (texted a picture) and she looked like a goalie. I was like, this is going to be perfect.”


The second set she tried on was Camree St. Hilaire’s, the former Lewiston goaltender.

“Initially, when we practiced her around the holidays, when (McLaughlin) initially got hurt, Camree St. Hilaire, who played goalie for me, she was home and brought all of her equipment in case she used it (while in town),” Dumont said. “She’s small like Avaya. Avaya used all of Camree’s equipment. But what happened was (St. Hilaire) left for school with all of her equipment because she’s still playing in college (with Assumption College’s club team).”

With St. Hilaire no longer in town, Desjardins used Pomerleau’s equipment and McLaughlin’s jersey, since it is the only one designed for goalies.

D’Auteuil said the St. Dom’s boys team equipment options.

“Luckily, Jayden has some siblings that have all played goalie,” D’Auteuil said. “We hope we have some equipment there. I have some old equipment at home from my son. We are trying to figure that out, or they will be in there with some small equipment.”

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