Your presence is felt primarily at practice, where able bodies are at a premium.

You absorb what you can, because someday your time will undoubtedly come.

To many, you are just another name on a roster, someone whose playing time is often predicated on injuries or blowouts.

You are the backup goalie, a thankless yet crucial position. It’s also a role that’s difficult to play.

Maranacook junior Tyler Plante and Waterville senior Cody Thibodeau know all too well what it’s like to wait and then wait some more before finally earning what every goalie wants: A starting gig.

“It’s not easy,” said Thibodeau. “As a young goalie, it’s tough. You need to learn a few things.”

Thibodeau served as a backup goalie for two seasons before finally earning his opportunity last year as a junior.

Plante, too, saw limited ice time as a backup goalie his freshman and sophomore seasons playing for the Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop co-operative team. He, too, is ready to step into a more prominent role.

The two goalies are connected because each won a starting job in their junior year.

Waterville opens its season Saturday at defending Eastern A champ Lewiston. MHW opens Friday against Gardiner at Kents Hill.

“It’s an adjustment, a big adjustment,” Plante said. “It’s difficult as a goalie because if you have a bad game everybody notices. You have to be a (backup). Obviously, everyone wants to play but there’s so much you have to learn. I feel like I had two years to adjust and learn.

“I’ve been waiting for this year because I knew I’d be the No. 1 goalie. I’ve waited my turn.”

Plante last season played in just three games as the backup to senior starter Jon Dale.

However, Plante opened a few eyes with a strong playoff performance against Waterville in an Eastern A quarterfinal game.

Plante, of Wayne, stopped 36 shots in a 3-2 overtime defeat while filling in for Dale, who was out with a concussion.

“It’s hard to lose in the playoffs but I thought I played well,” Plante said. “Everybody said we didn’t have a chance because a sophomore would be in goal. But we played really well. I remember on the bus ride home everybody was talking about the next year. I couldn’t wait.”

MHW coach Andy Dube said Plante’s come a long way during the last three years.

“He’s matured quite a bit,” he said. “He’s ready. I think he’ll feed off that last game (against Waterville). He really stepped it up. It’s in the back of his mind. He has that confidence now. He got us to the playoffs and nearly got us another game. He’s definitely ready.”

Thibodeau opened last season as the top goalie for Waterville after playing behind stalwarts Nolan MacDonnell and Ryan Cormier his freshman and sophomore years, respectively.

He said while he longed for an opportunity to play, he understood his role.

“Those guys were heavily experienced,” Thibodeau said. “It would’ve been nice to play but you have to put the best of what you have on the ice. I understood that. In the long run I think it helped me out a lot more. I learned a lot from them.”

Such as?

“They taught me how to keep my head on straight on and off the ice,” Thibodeau added. “It was just nice to have older role models. I really got to see how they kept their heads in the game. As a young goalie, that isn’t easy to do. It was nice to figure out how to do that.”

Added Waterville coach Dennis Martin, whose team finished 9-10-1 last season and reached the regional semifinals: “Cody really solidified us there. He proved himself when he got the opportunity. Those guys, Nolan and Ryan, knew what to do. He learned a lot and is really prepared now. He continues to prove himself every day.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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