Ryan Manning needed a break.
So rather than try out for the Hampden Academy hockey team a year ago, Manning elected to take his freshman year off after playing hockey for most of his young life.
“I was sick of hockey and I knew they already had two or three [experienced] goalies so I wasn’t going to see a lot of playing time,” Manning said.
He had played for the Bangor travel peewees and travel bantams and they reached the state championship game each year only to lose in the final.
That also took a toll on him mentally, he said.
But a funny thing happened.
“Halfway through the season, I realized I definitely missed hockey. I had made a big mistake,” said Manning.
So he put on the gear again and has emerged as an important cog in Hampden Academy’s resurgence.
The Broncos are 7-7 and in third place in the Eastern Maine Class B Heal points standings following Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over John Bapst of Bangor, which came on the heels of a 3-2 victory over Old Town.
Manning made 29 saves against Old Town and 20 against John Bapst, including 11 in the third period as the desperate Crusaders pressed for the equalizer.
The 15-year-old Manning has played the majority of the games and the Broncos have held their opponents to three goals or less in 10 of their 14 games.
He said he didn’t know what to expect when he returned to the sport in November.
“I was able to adjust to the speed of the game but not to the shooters [initially],” said Manning, who noted that he was facing slap shots, snap shots and wrist shots that were significantly more challenging than the ones he faced in bantams.
But he has adapted to the shooters as he has gained experience.
“I think I’ve done a decent job for my first year. I’ve seen a lot more playing time than I expected. I’ve definitely improved,” said Manning.
“He has been very consistent,” said Broncos goalie coach and former Bangor High and University of Southern Maine goalie Jason Tuck.
“He has been outstanding for them,” said Old Town coach Brett Hale. “I’ve been really impressed with him. In the two games we played them, he shut us down completely. He’s very good on his angles, he controls rebounds really well and he has a great glove. He has been a big reason behind their success.”
Hampden beat Old Town 4-3 early in the season.
Manning is thoroughly enjoying hockey again.
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” said Manning. “We’ve got a great group of guys and a great coaching staff.”
Rams not panicking
The Bangor High School Rams have hit a speed bump.
After stringing together an impressive 10-1 start that firmly entrenched them atop the Eastern Maine Class A Heal points standings, the Rams dropped back-to-back games to Lewiston (5-1) and Western Maine power Thornton Academy (7-0) last week.
Their lead over surging Lewiston has shrunk dramatically. Lewiston is 9-0-1 in its last 10 after a 1-3 start.
But the Rams aren’t pushing the panic button.
“We’re going to keep our heads up and stay positive,” said Bangor senior left wing Connor Griffin. “We’re not going to get down. It’s times like these when it’s most important to stay together as a team and as a family.”
Griffin also said they ran into “two really good teams.
“They moved the puck so well. We’ve got to be more prepared,” Griffin said.
“Every team goes through low points during a season,” said junior center Zach Papsadora. “We haven’t been putting the puck in the net as much as we were at the start of the season.”
Papsadora also said they have been practicing a lot lately and speculated that “we may have been a little burned out.”
Junior center Carl Farnham said the two losses could be beneficial down the road.
“It was a little bit of a wake-up call,” said Farnham. “It was good for us. It shows us that we have to work harder. And we have to get faster.”