Hampden’s Adam Thompson (16) trips Kennebec’s Justin Bolduc in a Class B North quarterfinal last season at the Penobscot Ice Arena in Brewer. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans Buy this Photo

Before he even leads his first workout of the season, Richard Fortin found himself between a rock and a hard place.

The new head coach of the Capital Region Hawks hockey team — a group comprised of student-athletes from Maranacook, Winthrop, Lawrence, Madison and Spruce Mountain — will walk through the doors of the Camden National Bank Ice Vault on Tuesday for the team’s first session of individualized workouts with about one-third of his players available to skate.

Lawrence and Spruce Mountain players are unavailable to participate because of coronavirus concerns. Spruce Mountain is in full remote learning for a week, while Lawrence — because of Somerset County being designated “yellow”by the state — can’t go either.

“Each sending school in our co-op will determine athlete eligibility, so that puts us in a situation that, I’ll probably be lucky if I can get my full team on the ice at the same time, unfortunately,” Fortin said.

Welcome to winter sports during a pandemic.

The Maine Principals’ Association pushed official team practices into January. On Monday, players could still meet with coaches for individual skills and conditioning work.

Fortin said he was prepared for the possibility of players having to sit out due for COVID-19 safety reasons. But it doesn’t make the job of evaluating a new group of players any easier.

“We’ve been meeting about this for a while now, (Maranacook athletic director Brant Remington) and myself. We’ve been having a couple of meetings with other winter coaches. But obviously, when I say unique, obviously I know there are other ice hockey co-ops, but we have some challenges that the basketball coach doesn’t have. When I’m evaluating players, I’m trying to figure out the chemistry. This is my first year coaching this team. I know a few (of the players), but I don’t know most of the team. (Tuesday) will be the first time I meet most of the kids. I have to sort of do my evaluations and see the chemistry, keeping in mind that 1/3 of the team won’t be there. You’re running a practice, and you see a couple of defensemen that work really well together, and you start thinking about pairings. Well, next week, I might have the Spruce skaters back with us, and the Winthrop skaters might have to drop out. And I think that (situation) might be week to week.”

Fortin has also been forced, for the moment anyway, how he runs a hockey workout.

“I can tell you, my style of coaching, typically, 80 percent of what I run is small area battling drills,” Fortin said. “I like to do a lot of 3-on-3s, 3-on-2s and tight area stuff, and essentially, I can’t do any of that. My entire coaching philosophy and how I run practices is kind of out the window. Essentially, when kids are standing in line, they’ve got to be 6 feet apart. And all the drills are going to be individual, just one kid going at a time.”

Jon Hart, the head coach of the Kennebec RiverHawks hockey team — with players from Waterville and Winslow — got creative with his squad Monday afternoon, putting the team through a virtual workout.

“These guys want to skate,” Hart said. “If anybody’s ever skated before, you can work out seven days a week for a year, you’re still going to be miserable the first week of skating. This is a little different.”

While Hart said it wasn’t the same as being together on the ice, he was happy to be able to catch up with the Hawks online.

“I think the most important thing is to just get the kids to sweat a little,” Hart said. “To just be involved with it mentally. I don’t think it’s going to give us some huge, physical edge to do a couple workouts online. But, I do think mentally, just to be involved (helps). Some of these kids have never played for me, not many, but some. Just to get them to hear my voice and see my face, it’s important.”

Cony’s Zack Whitney collects a face full of ice from Gardiner’s Jon Flynn during a game last season in Hallowell. Staff photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

Cony did manage to hit the ice at the Ice Vault in Hallowell on Monday afternoon. While coach Shawn Johnson said the workout went well, he already has a mix of kids who are not playing this season over COVID-19 safety concerns.

“It went as well as it could go,” Johnson said. “I’ve got a couple kids not playing because of (COVID), actually. I’ve got some kids who are pretty nervous about it, so they are not playing. Then, I have two other kids who are out quarantining right now, it’s just like, holy smokes. It’s just a whole other thing to worry about. You worry about all kinds of stuff (with players), whether it’s grades, getting in trouble, you name it. Now, it’s a whole other thing where everybody is on the edge, like ‘When’s it going to happen to us?’ or ‘Who’s going to get it? How’s it going to spread? When’s it going to shut down?’ It seems like that’s always in the back of your mind.”

Maranacook’s Vita Scott competes in the Alpine event in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference ski meet last season at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Maranacook Alpine ski coach Ronn Gifford was able to lead his team through a workout Monday in Readfield, and was thrilled just to be able to get members of his team together.

“What we’re going to do is, a little bit shorter (timed) practices, but a little higher intensity and minimize time together, but make it as effective as possible,” Gifford said. “I had a few kids missing the first day, which is pretty normal. But, in general, everyone was there, was psyched to be there, psyched to be together and we had a good leg workout day for us.”

Messalonskee indoor track coach Matt Holman did not lead his team through a workout on Monday. In fact, no Messalonskee team had a workout Monday, as the school district decided to wait an additional week before starting workouts.

“I’ve got mixed feelings,” Holman said. “We want everyone to be safe. For me and our coaching staff, we feel the safety of the students is of obvious and utmost importance. The ability for them to stay in school is hugely important. I would hate to push the envelope, cause some sort of spike in numbers, and then have school go remote for any longer than necessary. I don’t want to say we’re used to (the situation), but we’re understanding and we’re accepting (taking a) back seat on this one.”

Holman said he’s been impressed with what the school district was able to do with fall sports, and hopes that will continue into the winter season.

“Messalonskee has done a great job advocating for the athletes and working with the coaching staff to stay within the guidelines, stay within the rules and allow for some semblance of a season,” Holman said. “(To give) an opportunity for athletes to hone their skills, better their craft, and give them an activity to be a part of.”

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5610

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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