Auburn, ME. --- The Mustangs hockey team kicked off its first full week of practice on Tuesday morning with a palpable optimism in the air at the Norway Savings Bank Arena. The team ran through a high-tempo series of drills under first year head coach Matt Buotte in preparations for their first game of the season, coming September 29th at Dartmouth.
"There was a lot of jump for our first 6:30 a.m. skate," said an upbeat Coach Buotte. "The guys showed up ready to work on day one. We have a committed group here and it's fun to see it starting to take shape."
The Mustangs are entering their third season in the ACHA and are hoping to build on a 10-9-1 season from just a year ago.
"The team is meshing extremely well," said second year forward Collin Sheehan. "The guys this year look focused and ready to roll. There's good camaraderie so far and we're all ready to have a great week of practice."
Sheehan, alongside nine others, are returning from the 2017-2018 season. Forwards Sean Coleman, Isaiah Dubois, Drake Goupil, Jordy Knoren, Pat Pearson, and Dana Taylor-Fifeld are also returning as well as defensemen Steve Mercia and Jacoby Robinson. Goaltender Jacob Strout rounds out a skilled group of returning players.
"What's impressed me the most is how close-knit the guys are already," said first year defenseman Shawn Sullivan. "Everyone's competing at high level right now. Whether it's on the ice or in the gym, everyone is pushing each other. To have this kind of chemistry early in the season, I think it's a great sign of what's to come."
In addition to a strong core, the team has filled out it's roster with a strong recruiting class who are looking to make an immediate impact. Local products Evan Cox and Alec Howes, both Lewiston natives, figure to fill the net for the Mustangs with a trio of Gorham High School standouts--forward Carl Bear and defensemen Willy Baxter and the aforementioned Sullivan--adding skill to the line-up. Litchfield, NH native Trevor Roche, Dover-Foxcroft forward Eli McCarty, and Kennebunk forward Zac Brown add additional scoring punch. Leavitt defenseman Parker Springer and Scottsdale, Arizona goaltender Anthony Tilelli will be hoping to keep opponents out at the other end.
"The recruiting class isn't massive, but it's a really good, character group," said Buotte. "They've worked hard to date and there's a ton of skill up and down our roster. I can't wait to see the finished product...we're off to a great start. The guys really want to give this school and community a product they can be proud of."
For Taylor-Fifeld, a third year forward who has been with the program for its entire existence, the positivity surrounding the team is encouraging.""We have a great group of guys this season," he said. "I believe we have a lot of talent and hard-working players this year and I feel that we will win a lot of hockey games. All of us are excited to start playing some hockey and winning some games."