When Justin Courtney was 4 years old, he wanted to be a basketball player.
But he was told that he had to be 5 before he started playing.
“So I went over to the hockey rink and I fell in love with hockey,” said Courtney.
It appears as though he made the right decision.
The Bangor High School senior defenseman has been named one of eight semifinalists for the prestigious Travis Roy Award given to the state’s top player in Class A hockey.
The other semifinalists are Lewiston High’s Kyle Lemelin and Matt Poulin, Brunswick’s Cam Heatley, Biddeford’s Nik Lemieux, Scarborough’s Cam Loiselle, Falmouth’s Andre Clement and Thornton Academy of Saco’s Alex Fallon.
The list will be reduced to four, two from the east and two from the west, and the winner will be announced at the annual Maine Class A hockey coaches’ banquet after the season.
The award is named in honor of Yarmouth native Travis Roy, who was paralyzed after crashing into the boards on his first shift at Boston University.
Courtney’s former Bangor teammate Parker Sanderson won the award last year.
“It’s an honor to be on a list with so many big names. I’ve played with (or against) Kyle Lemelin since I was a little kid. I played on a festival team with him. He has always been a great player,” said Courtney.
Courtney has had an impressive season in leading the Rams to a 15-3 record and the top seed for the Eastern Maine Class A playoffs. Bangor plays No. 5 Brunswick in the semis on Saturday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
The 17-year-old Courtney has racked up nine goals and 17 assists. He leads the Rams in assists and is second in points behind Trevor DeLaite, (16 goals, 11 assists).
“I just focus on getting the puck to the net to try to create scoring opportunities for our forwards through tip-ins or rebounds,” said Courtney. “I try to get my shot off quick and put it on net.”
He said being included on that list couldn’t have been accomplished without his teammates.
“Our guys do a lot of hard work down low on the forecheck and they feed me the puck. We’ve tried to create scoring opportunities and we’ve been lucky enough to have the puck bounce into the net (sometimes),” said Courtney.
“He has had a great year,” said Bangor coach Quinn Paradis. “He has great hands and his hand-eye coordination is very good. He keeps his shot low and he has a quick, little wrist shot that has created several tip-in opportunities for his teammates.”
“He makes good decisions, he shoots the puck well and passes the puck well,” said Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau. “He’s real good defensively. He keeps kids to the outside and plays the body well. He’s pretty solid and he has good offensive skills.”
Courtney said the key to his game is simplicity.
“You don’t want to overthink your game and press for points. If all you think about is points, things aren’t going to go well,” said the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Courtney.
Courtney was a first team All-Eastern Maine Class A selection a year ago when he scored seven goals and had six assists.
“There were more expectations on me,” said Courtney, who used those as motivation to elevate his game.
Courtney, a co-captain along with Cam Dickson, is a multi-sport standout. He was a solid defender for the soccer team in the fall and is an outstanding pitcher who will take the mound for the University of Maine beginning next fall.
But his focus is now on the playoffs and trying to help the Rams win their first ever Eastern Maine Class A hockey title.
“We have a really tight-knit team. There’s a group of us who have known each other since mites (age 8 or younger),” said Courtney. “We have a group of guys who love the game.”