Nic Cota has been a three-sport standout at Bangor High School. He has been a linebacker-tight end for the football team, a forward who was converted to defense in hockey and a shortstop for the baseball team.
But his first love is hockey and he said he wants to improve so he can play in college, which has prompted him to pass up his senior year at Bangor to play for the Portland Junior Pirates.
The Pirates are based in Saco and have a team in the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League and another one in the Atlantic Junior Hockey League. Cota said he will start with the MJHL team but has been told he could move up to the AJHL.
He will live with a family in the area, Mike and Lisa Morrison, and will attend Scarborough High School.
“It was definitely a very difficult decision because the Bangor sports experience is more than most will ever experience,” said Cota. “I’ve played in two state championship football games, an Eastern Maine championship game in baseball and in the championship game at the Senior League World Series. My decision to join the Pirates had nothing to do with my experience in Bangor. It was great academically and athletically. My coaches were tremendous and I played in more big games than most.
“But hockey is my passion. It is my most heart-felt sport. I started playing when I was four years old. Hockey is the hardest sport to make it in and many have told me I have no shot. That has given me the drive to do this,” added Cota, who will turn 18 next month.
“We play an 18-game schedule in high school but the Pirates play a 65-game schedule not including the seven showcases we’ll play in,” explained Cota.
He also said they have a “beautiful rink” and exceptional workout and locker room facilities in Saco and they have three off-ice training sessions a week.
“The more games you play, the better you get. And the more you train, the faster and stronger you get,” he added.
Cota attended a week-long showcase of players in Pittsburgh in March and said he received several offers to play junior hockey including one from the Junior Pirates.
“One thing I noticed is that you need speed to be able to play at the next level and that’s what I’m concentrating on right now,” said the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Cota, who is also playing third base for the Bangor American Legion team this summer and intends to play for them again next summer.
“It’s unfortunate to lose him for his senior year,” said Bangor High hockey coach Denis Collins. “He will be greatly missed. He’s a very good player. He’s dependable. He was very supportive of everything we did with him (moving him from forward to defense). He was very easy to coach.”
However, Collins understood Cota’s reason for leaving.
“He definitely needs to play more games if he’s going to play at a higher level,” said Collins.
Cota said he will be coached by former University of Maine defenseman Jeff Libby.
Cota noted that he will be joined at Scarborough High School by friend and former rival Matt Lee, an outstanding defenseman at Waterville High School. Lee will also play for the Junior Pirates.
“He’s a great kid. I’ve played with him during festivals and we bonded very well,” said Cota.
He said he will miss playing football the most as he will be able to play baseball at Scarborough High.
He praised his parents, Jon and Gail, for their support.
“They have done more than anyone can imagine for me and our family,” said Cota, the second of four children.