BREWER, Maine — Mike Shedd of Brewer and Zach Williams of Orono are defensemen for the Maine Moose midget major hockey team that is going to the national championship tournament March 28 through April 1.
They’re going to have a lot of time to express their excitement about the tournament, discuss any strategy or plans, talk about the weather, call their teammates, count license plates and more. Much more.
That’s because Williams’ mother is driving them to Lansing, Mich.
“It’s a 14- or 16-hour drive,” Shedd said.
The long drive won’t be unusual for the team, according to co-owner and general manager Ben Gray.
“Some are flying and some will drive,” Gray said, “but they’ll all get there Tuesday. We’ve scheduled a two-hour practice for Tuesday night.”
“We’re leaving Monday, and we’ll get there Tuesday,” said Zach Williams, who added that he was looking forward to the first half of the road trip.
“The ride out will be fun, but the ride back will depend on whether we win or lose,” he said.
Shedd and Williams are part of a six-player contingent from Orono and Brewer high schools that play for the Moose Under-18 team, which is based in Augusta and coached by Jeff Ross. Shedd, forward Joey Fowler and goalie Patrick Spaulding play for Brewer. Williams, defenseman Andrew Holt and goalie Mike Brown play for Orono.
The team will be missing a key element, however. Kents Hill defenseman Logan Day broke a leg this winter and will be out for the tournament. The Moose will have to work around the injury because they aren’t allowed to use a replacement who hasn’t played for them all season.
But the Moose remain optimistic.
“We had our ups and downs,” Shedd said, “but when we all play 110 percent, we do well.”
That showed at the state tournament last fall after the Moose upset 2011 national champion Lewiston 3-0 in the state final. Midgets — ages 15-18 — can’t play youth hockey and high school hockey at the same time, so the U-18 midget team waits until spring after playing their state championship final in mid-November.
“We came into the state tourney as underdogs,” Shedd said of the team’s 4-5-1 record and fourth-place finish among six teams during the regular season.
Shedd sees a lot of scoring prowess among the other forwards, including Rikard Keussen of Sweden and Ryan Caswell of Canada along with Fowler, Jodie Tyler, Galen Casey and Tyler Boudreau.
“We’re not just one line,” Shedd said.
Shedd generally plays on the first or second defensive shift, he said.
“We switch around some, but Cal Roberts usually [is his partner],” Shedd said.
Williams and Shedd agree the key to overcoming Day’s injury could be the play of Spaulding and Brown.
“We have two really good goalies who should keep us in any game,” Williams said.
Spaulding and Brown normally alternate games.
“They’re both very good, very talented and very focused when it comes to game time,” Shedd said.
In the meantime, Shedd and Williams have been trying to stay sharp.
“We’ve had a few practices,” Shedd said. “One at Lewiston and a couple at Sukee [Arena in Fairfield].”
He and Williams also try to get any extra ice time they can.
“When you stop skating, that’s when [you have trouble],” Shedd said.
Despite being a defenseman, Williams is working to improve his scoring.
“I’ve been working on my shot a lot,” he said. “Mostly alone.”
“It’s a little tough [to play together after a long layoff], but this is high-level hockey,” Williams said, “so we just jump right back into it.”
Their pool-play games are 2 p.m. March 28,against Mission, Ariz. That’s followed by a 10 a.m. Thursday game against Metro Maple Leafs (Md.) and a game 6 p.m. Friday against Team Michiana (Ind.). Playoffs, which include the top four teams in each of the two pools, start at noon March 31 and finish with the national championship April 1.
Williams is ready to face that atmosphere.
“Andrew Holt and Mike Brown said it was mainly the experience [that would be most memorable], it just blows your mind,” Williams said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”