FALMOUTH – Before a group of eager youth hockey players stepped on the ice, University of Maine men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead issued a charge for the first day of the new year.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun!” the coach shouted to the players that surrounded him.
Then, the pint-sized players stormed onto the frozen surface, ready to participate in the Black Bears Mini-Mite Skills Clinic at Family Ice Center in Falmouth.
Saturday’s youth clinic was part of a day of hockey events at Family Ice.
While some were sleeping off New Year’s Eve festivities or taking the initiative and executing fitness-based new year’s resolutions, the Black Bears held their morning skate at Falmouth, where the stands were packed with hockey parents, youth hockey players, and the team’s hockey fans and boosters.
After the Black Bears’ 90-minute practice, Maine’s coaching staff and its freshmen and sophomores returned to the ice to work with 70 players from Casco Bay Youth Hockey, a Portland-based organization.
Some of the players on the ice wore tiny NHL jerseys emblazoned with players’ last names on the back. Others wore Casco Bay Youth Hockey jerseys and a few even wore navy blue Maine hockey jerseys, stickhandling and skating their way across the ice.
Megan Reynolds, a 9-year-old from Gray, found out Friday morning from her parents that she would take part in the youth clinic.
“My mom and dad had been talking about this for a long time, but I had no idea that I’d be doing this!” Reynolds said.
At the start of the hour, Reynolds ran through a series of skating drills, including one that required players to lunge while moving across the length of the ice.
“They were hard but I learned to do them,” Reynolds said.
In a group near the corner, sophomores Nick Pryor and Mike Cornell led 14 players through a series of stickhandling drills.
On the opposite side of them, sophomore forward Kyle Beattie, sophomore goalie Shawn Sirman, junior goalie Josh Seeley and freshman goalie Dan Sullivan skated to each player in a circle and passed the puck across the diameter of a faceoff circle.
“I really liked shooting the puck,” said Issac Crepeau, a 10-year-old from South Portland. “I learned a lot of stuff about hockey. The best part was being able to work with the team, and having fun.”
At the end of the hour-long clinic, the buzzer at Family Ice Center sounded, and the players congregated at center ice for one final speech from Whitehead and to pose for a group photo with Maine’s coaches and players, before a new group of skaters took to the ice for “Skate with the Bears,” an hour of free public skating at Family Ice Center.
“It’s so much fun,” said Pryor, a sophomore forward/defenseman. “I’ve always loved doing these kinds of things, getting out in the community and helping little kids.
“They really appreciate it and I know that all of us are happy about it, getting out there and having fun with them.”
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: