Deering High will no longer field a boys’ hockey team, but the girls are coming back.

The Maine Principals Association denied a request for the Deering boys’ team to merge with Portland High during the MPA’s Interscholastic Management Committee meeting last week.

The MPA will allow the girls’ team to merge with the Portland High girls’ team this season.

“Some good news. Some not-so-good,” said new Deering Athletic Director Mel Craig.

The Rams have experienced a steady decrease with their boys’ hockey roster. Last year’s team had 14 players. But seven of them graduated.

Few, if any, new players were expected to enroll at Deering. Most were headed to Cheverus or Portland High, according to the middle school coaches.

Deering’s only hope was a merger with Portland High. But such mergers between two large high schools are rare. The MPA does not allow a merger when the combined enrollment of the two schools is greater than the largest high school in the state.

According to the latest figures from the Department of Education, Lewiston High had the largest enrollment last year (1,381), and the enrollments of Deering (1,003) and Portland (970) would easily eclipse that.

Last year, Deering applied for waivers from the rule, so both its girls’ and boys’ hockey teams could merge with Portland.

Both requests were denied at the time. The Deering girls’ team folded with only six skaters, two of whom joined the boys’ team.

This year, MPA again denied the request for a Deering-Portland boys’ merger. Craig said Deering has about six or seven hockey players who now have no team to play for.

The MPA, however, did allow a waiver for the Deering High girls’ hockey players to merge with Portland.

“With girls’ hockey a relatively new sport, as an association, the members are trying to do what they can to build (participation),” MPA Executive Director Dick Durost said.

Girls’ hockey began as an MPA sport in the 2008-09 season.

Portland AD Mike McCullum said current Portland Coach Courtney Rideout would lead the merged team. He was not sure how many Deering players would be joining the Bulldogs. The two girls who played on the boys’ team last year both graduated.

The MPA did allow one boys’ hockey merger. Wells High, which has not had a hockey team, will merge with Noble.

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

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