ORONO, Maine — The Maine Freeze will have a Midget Major youth hockey team of sorts in the fall, but it will not have a regular schedule and there will be no tryouts necessary, according to Todd Cray.
The Freeze is the travel hockey organization for the Orono-based Penobscot Valley Hockey Conference, Bangor Youth Hockey and Brewer Youth Hockey programs. The Freeze runs teams from Squirts through Midgets in both Tier II (Maine’s top level) and Tier III and is working to expand the number of girls’ teams.
Cray will serve as the Midget liaison to the Maine Freeze Board of Directors this year. The board is made up of three officers from each of the three clubs that the Freeze draws its players from.
Marc Inman is overseeing the Midget program for the Freeze board.
“The Midget Major [ages 17 and 18] team has been foundering the last few years,” said Cray, a former president of the Maine Freeze.
A youth hockey team usually consists of 17 players — nine forwards, six defensemen and two goalies.
“We would have 20 generally try out,” Cray said, “then some would decide to play [high school] soccer and quit [hockey] or play football and quit.”
Each year, a few also enroll at prestigious prep schools in southern New England or elsewhere in order to play more games or make it easier to be noticed by college or high-level junior hockey programs.
The Midget Minor teams (ages 15 and 16) are not affected by the Midget Major decision.
The Midget season is held in the fall because, according to Maine Principals’ Association rules, a varsity player in a high school sport cannot compete for another sports entity in the same season.
So the Midgets start at the end of August in order to be done before the start of the high school ice hockey season in mid-November, therefore creating the conflict with soccer and football. The younger age groups start at the end of October because their players won’t be playing high school varsity sports.
And players can’t skip a high school event (game, practice or etc.) to play hockey, either.
According to Cray, if a player misses any team-sanctioned event to play another sport, the player draws a warning. Two strikes and the player is suspended from the high school team, Cray said.
The original thought was to eliminate the Midget Major team altogether, Cray said.
“When the high school season ends, the parents said they still wanted a team,” he said. “So we set up a tournament squad and practice team, just to keep players ready for the high school season.”
The team, which is sanctioned by USA Hockey, will play the occasional game, but it won’t be an official event for the Freeze Midget Major team. They will count toward the opponents’ minimum requirement for number of games played.
“It gives other teams in the area another team to play,” Cray said.
There are a couple of people interested in coaching the team, Cray said.
“It gives them exposure to coaching that age group, it gives them more experience and it helps them build their resumes,” added Cray.
The Freeze numbers problem isn’t necessarily a symptom of what’s happening statewide.
“We had 60 midgets total (players born from fall 1995 through 1998) try out for our travel teams (U16 and U18),” David Weatherbie, vice president of Casco Bay Hockey Association in Portland, responded in an email. “No issues with numbers. We will have one team at each age group.”
Cray is hopeful that the Freeze situation may turn out that way, too, as younger players coming up through the Freeze system in future years decide to stick with it because they’re familiar with it.
“The goal is to have Minor and Major Midget teams at each level,” Cray said. “As more players matriculate through the Freeze program, I think we’ll see the numbers increase.”
Snow slows Freeze tryouts
Tryouts for the Freeze’s Peewees (birth years 2001 and 2002) and Midgets Minor (years 1997 and 1998) were postponed due to Tuesday’s snow storm.
They will be held Wednesday and Thursday at Alfond Arena in Orono, instead.
Peewees tryouts will go from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. Wednesday and 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. Thursday.
Midgets Minor tryouts are 8 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
Wednesday is also the registration deadline for Bantams (birth years 1999 and 2000). Late registrations will be assessed a $20 late fee, and the tryouts are scheduled for March 26-27 at Alfond Arena.