The Scarborough High hockey schedules look normal for the first time in two years. The Red Storm actually will play home games near home this winter.

Instead of taking a bus to Lewiston, Auburn or a handful of other rinks, Scarborough is playing all its home games at the University of Southern Maine in neighboring Gorham.

“All of our home games are here, which is a big thing for the kids,” boys’ coach Jake Brown said before a recent practice at USM. “It’s good for the school, the community and hockey fans in Scarborough.”

The boys begin their season Saturday. The girls are 4-0 after an 8-0 victory Tuesday night against Greely/Gray-New Gloucester at the Family Ice Center in Falmouth.

The girls experienced a rare losing season (9-10-1) last year. Compounding the struggle was the 1 hour, 40-minute round-trip ride to the Colisee in Lewiston for games and practices. Now the Red Storm spend an hour less on the bus – 40 minutes round trip – for games and some practices.

“It’s a lot better,” said forward Taylor Veilleux, a senior captain on the girls’ team. “Last year took a lot of commitment.”

Scarborough hockey players have been extra-committed for years. A shortage of rinks has meant challenges for high school teams in general, especially Scarborough.

In 2007, the MHG Ice Centre opened in Saco to house the Portland Pirates’ organization, especially its Junior Pirates program. High schools were welcomed, and Scarborough eventually played more and more games. But ice wasn’t always available, and some home games were played as far away as Auburn. Back then, Athletic Director Mike LeGage once referred to his hockey teams as “nomads.”

When the Pirates announced they were leaving Portland in 2016, the MHG rink soon closed. The Red Storm found themselves busing to the Colisee.

“We were lucky to be there because we had no place else to go at that time,” LeGage said.

There were challenges, especially late practices – “we’d get home at 10 or 11,” senior Courtney Brochu said.

Same for the boys.

“It was definitely a challenge,” Brown said. “What was good was the group of guys that we had just loved playing hockey. You didn’t hear them complaining.”

But the commute was never ideal. LeGage knew that.

“We never stopped trying to get into someplace locally,” LeGage said. He checked with USM last year and got some ice time.

But USM is a busy rink. Besides its own teams, there are four other high school teams (three boys, one girls), five middle-school teams, college club teams, youth and adult hockey, and other organizations that use the ice.

Still, rink manager Vinnie Degifico took his shoehorn and found room for full home schedules for both Scarborough varsity teams, and some practice times.

“We just got creative with the schedule,” Degifico said.

Scarborough still has six practices scheduled in Lewiston. Others are at the Cross Insurance Arena and Troubh Arena in Portland.

But if the Red Storm are playing a game, you know it’s at USM.

“The Colisee was a good experience … but this is certainly nice for the family and kids to be back here,” LeGage said. “We’re excited about it … we’d like to be back here full-time if we could. Right now we’re doing what we can with it.”

Ice time has always been at a premium. The MGH closing, as well as Sukee Arena in Winslow, only added to the crunch.

A practice facility built near the Family Ice Center – the Casco Bay Arena – has helped. But teams are still practicing at odd times – the first practice time for high schools using the Bowdoin College rink begins at 4:50 a.m. – and at different rinks.

After years on the road, the Red Storm feel fortunate.

“We’re pleased with the home games,” girls’ coach Caitlin Jordan said. “And we have practice times right after school.”

FRESHMAN FORWARD Calynn Gendreau had three goals and an assist, all in the first two periods, in the victory Tuesday night.

Taylor Veilleux recorded two goals and an assist, and Maya Sellinger added a goal and an assist. Evelyn Boardman and Kathleen Murphy also scored.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-7411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH