FALMOUTH – There was something different about the Greely High girls’ hockey players as they lugged their gear into the Family Ice Center on Monday afternoon.

The difference appeared in gold lettering on the back of their jackets:

“State Champs 2012″

Might as well put a target on their backs. The Rangers, always a contender, come into the 2012-13 season as defending champions.

“It’s definitely going to be a lot to live up to,” Greely senior forward Etta Copenhagen said. “But I think we’re ready for it.”

Monday was the opening day of practice for Maine high school girls’ hockey teams.

In this, the fifth year of varsity girls’ hockey in Maine, Greely is hoping to do something no one else has — win a second state title. Lewiston won the first one in 2009, then Cheverus and St. Dom’s, and the Rangers last season when they topped Falmouth 7-1 in the championship game.

Now Greely is a team to beat.

“We thrive off of being the underdog. This will be a new experience,” senior defenseman Freyja Victory said. “I hope it’s a good one.”

Greely graduated six players last year, including goalie Emma Seymour and playmaker CeCi Hodgkins. But the Rangers return 10 players, including six of the top seven scorers — Meg Finlay, Paige Tuller, Mary Morrison, Sarah Kurland, Copenhagen and Monica Howland.

“We learned how to work as a team and to come together when it mattered the most,” Finlay said. “Hopefully, we can carry that through this year.”

Greely did not look dominant last year with a 16-5 record, including a three-game losing streak near the end of the season. The Rangers escaped their first playoff game, 1-0 against Leavitt/Edward Little, then beat Brunswick 7-2 in the Western Maine final before rolling past Falmouth in the state championship game.

“Our goal is to make it again to states,” Tuller said, but also to improve our level of play, and improve our record from last year.”

New goalie Maura Perry will be a key. This is Perry’s first year in the position.

“Emma was a big piece, but Maura did really well this summer,” Coach Nate Guerin said. “I don’t expect that to be any really big question mark. She’ll do fine.”

The Rangers should be strong again. But there are several other possible contenders.

“I’m definitely optimistic,” Guerin said. “I think it will be another year like last year, a lot of teams beat a lot of other teams. It’s a hard league to say there’s a favorite.

“I expect (the Rangers) to do well. They work so hard, they should be in every game.” 

A NEW TEAM has joined the high school ranks as Mt. Ararat will field a varsity team for the first time. Ron Hutchins, who helped establish the school’s club program, is the head coach. 

NEW COACHES are heading up programs at Cheverus, Biddeford, York and Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete.

Amy McNally, a former University of Southern Maine forward, takes over for J.P. Lavoie at Cheverus.

At Biddeford, a Potvin is still the head coach, but it is Ashley Potvin replacing her mom, Marie, who retired. Ashley played at Norwich University.

At York, former assistant Jeff Hird is now head coach, replacing Kevin Banfield, who moved across the border to the co-op St. Thomas Aquinas/Dover program. Longtime York assistant Bob Blais remains with the Wildcats.

Former Cape assistant Bob Mills is how head coach, replacing Jason BreMiller.

The first regular-season games are Nov. 23.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: KevinThomasPPH