BANGOR, Maine — Two Maine girls, separated by a few miles at home, were just feet apart at the Rhode Island Sports Center in North Smithfield, R.I., last Sunday morning.
White team forward Morgan Trimper of Bangor was on a breakaway and Gold defenseman Olivia King of Old Town was trying to stop her in the final game for the under-13 girls hockey division New England District Festival.
“It was just me and Olivia,” said Trimper, who was making her first festival appearance. “We were both laughing the whole time.
“She was looking at me, and I was staring at her. We were talking to each other going down the ice.”
King, participating in her second festival, tried to disrupt Trimper as they proceeded toward the Gold team’s goal.
“I … put my stick in front of her shot, but it went through and the goalie saved it,” said King.
Both girls play for the Maine Freeze, the travel organization for Brewer Youth Hockey, Bangor Youth Hockey and the Penobscot Valley Hockey Conference. Trimper, the daughter of University of Maine baseball coach Steve Trimper, plays for the U16 Tier II girls team, while King is the lone girl on the Tier II Peewees.
Participants in the NED Festival, 15 skaters and two goalies from each of the district’s five states (Massachusetts is its own district), were selected from among approximately 40 hopefuls based on tryouts held in January at the Bank of Maine Ice Vault in Hallowell.
Similar processes were conducted for five boys groups, U13 through U17. The ages 14-15 and 16-17 girls groups had their participants based on state allotments determined by NED girls directors.
Trimper and King were on separate teams because the event is not designed to determine a winning state team but to determine the most talented players. Players from all five states are split up among five teams and each team plays four games over a three-day period.
For boys and girls ages 14 and up, the top 17 players at the district level are selected for national festivals by a group of evaluators including NCAA Division I and Division III coaches and USA Hockey National Team Development coaches. From those national festivals, USA Hockey, which represents amateur hockey in the U.S., picks players for the Olympic, national, national junior and select teams.
While Trimper, who has been playing hockey for seven years, and King, who has been playing since she was 4, will not be eligible for national festivals this year, the idea of having a U13 festival is to get participants familiar with the process.
“Yeah,” said King about playing in future festivals. “They [other players] are really competitive and playing with them makes you even better. I want to keep on.”
Trimper feels the same way.
“If I play on a better level, it’ll help me get better, then I can probably go to the national camp,” she said.
The two girls were impressed with the play of their teammates from other states.
“They passed really well and got in the high slot a lot and they got a lot of shots in front of the net,” said Trimper.
That didn’t mean the Maine girls couldn’t blend in with them.
“This girl from Massachusetts was really good,” said Trimper. “She was on my line, and we learned to play together really, really well. She did a lot of passing with me and we got two goals on the same shift.”
That quickness with which the girls were able to play together at a high level impressed Steve Trimper, who was able to see Friday’s games because his Black Bears were playing in Hartford, Conn., Saturday and Sunday.
“I thought Olivia and Morgan, they both not only held their own but excelled at that level, so it was exciting,” he said.
As a coach, he was also impressed with how all the girls were able to combine their talents.
“I didn’t see games three and four, but … they were really starting to jell,” he said. “And it only took four short games to get that together, so it just goes to show how good the talent is that they were able to click in three or four games.”
He also knows the benefit of playing with and against strong competitors.
“We don’t go down [to Florida] and play slouches at the beginning of the year,” he said of his UMaine team. “We play the Miamis and the Clemsons because if you put yourself in front of the best, you get better.
“I figure it gave her an opportunity to play in front of top-level hockey and see where the bar is set and go from there.”
King and Morgan Trimper know what they have to work on now.
“Quick passing and skating really hard all the time,” said King.
“I got … back from the coach to keep trying out, keep trying and get better and listen to what they say and it will come in handy later when you play in other games,” said Trimper.
Those games could come in June at the New England District Development Camp. Campers go by invitation only, but participants at the festivals usually get invitations.
“I think so. It’ll be a really fun experience,” said King.
Trimper plans on going and expects her twin sister, Ally, will also be invited. The festival was the first time they hadn’t played together, and Morgan believes they have a special asset on the ice.
“We have like a twin telepathy,” said Morgan Trimper.
Every little bit helps.