OLD TOWN, Maine — Ryan Bernard is looking forward to Monday.
That is when Bernard will take the ice for his first practice as the head coach of the Old Town High School hockey team.
“I’m very excited. I can’t wait until Monday to get out there with the guys. It looks like we’re going to have a very young team. It’s going to be a growing year for us,” said Bernard. “I’ll be relying on the upperclassmen to help guide the underclassmen.”
The 29-year-old Bernard, who will be assisted by Tyler Dufour, has coached football, soccer and track in Arizona, but this will be his first foray into hockey.
“I love coaching and I have a passion for hockey. This is a great opportunity,” said Bernard, who played three years of hockey at Old Town High School and also played soccer and ran track.
He graduated from the University of Maine in 2006 with a degree in secondary education after spending one year at Rivier College (N.H.). He spent three years in Arizona before returning to Old Town.
Bernard said he has benefited from playing under such coaches as former Old Town coach Gene Fadrigon, who guided the Coyotes to state Class B titles in 1992 and ’93, and his assistant for one season, Nate Leaman.
Leaman is now the second-year head coach at Providence College after an impressive eight-year stint at Union College. He won the Spencer Penrose Award, given to the nation’s top coach, in 2011.
“I was a freshman when [Leaman] was at Old Town and it was a great year to learn. I was really lucky. He was amazing,” said Bernard, who is an ed tech at the Old Town elementary school.
Bernard said he and Dufour will preach fundamentals and a team-first attitude.
It will take a few days to evaluate his team and decide “what we’ll be able to do. We don’t know what we have yet,” Bernard said.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a great season,” added Bernard, who is replacing Brett Hale.
Hale led Old Town to back-to-back Eastern Maine Class B playoff berths the past two years, ending a playoff drought dating back to 1993.
Old Town was 11-7-1 two years ago and 10-9-1 last season.