PORTLAND — Deering High faces the possibility of dropping its boys’ hockey program if more players cannot be found. Half of this year’s small team is graduating and, as of now, no players are coming from the middle school league.

“Our numbers are going to be low,” Rams Athletic Director Bill LeRoy said. “We’re in the process of trying to come up with a strategy so we can have a viable team.”

Deering finished the past season with a 10-8 record, but missed the playoffs. Most of the skaters from that team will be gone next year, according to Coach Jack Lowry.

“We’re graduating seven, with seven coming back – two of them being goalies,” Lowry said. “That’s a pretty tall order to fill.”

A hockey team fields five skaters and one goalie on the ice at one time, but a team usually carries at least a second line (five more skaters) on the bench because of the constant substitutions needed.

But even a team of only 10 skaters and a goalie is barely adequate because of the possibility of injury.

Maine has no requirement for the number of players needed on a roster.

Other states, including New York and Idaho, require a minimum of nine skaters and one goalie dressed for a game.

There is no middle school hockey team that directly feeds players into Deering High.

Hockey is a club sport in the middle schools. All the middle school-age hockey players in Portland comprise one team.

Officials with the Portland middle school club team said none of their eighth graders plans to enroll at Deering, opting for Portland High and private Cheverus High.

Deering’s roster features only two freshmen this year. Portland High had 10.

Last summer, Deering and Portland High unsuccessfully petitioned the Maine Principals’ Association for a merger of their boys’ and girls’ hockey programs.

Such mergers – called cooperative teams – are common in hockey, but usually involve smaller schools.

MPA rules do not allow schools to merge teams if their combined enrollment would be greater than the largest high school in Maine.

Deering has an enrollment of 1,003, Portland High 970. The largest school is Lewiston High, with 1,381.

Deering had fielded a girls’ hockey team in 2009-10. But with only six girls returning this year the program folded. Two of the girls, both seniors, joined the boys’ team.

To field a boys’ team next year, Deering will have to recruit more players from within its own student body, or try again for a cooperative team. If it is a merger with a large school like Portland High, an exception to the MPA rules would have to be obtained.

An application for a cooperative team must be made six months prior to the next season and Deering officials are going over their options.

“We can apply again,” LeRoy said. “We will be having that discussion shortly.”

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]