Noah Pease, an eighth-grader at Wells Junior High School, is really glad his older brother, Connor, is playing hockey this season for Noble High School.
With Wells players merging with Noble, this will allow Noah to play the sport next winter when he starts high school.
``Next year would be my last year of youth hockey, but now I can play for a high school team,`` he said. ``It`s really cool to play hockey somewhere.``
Wells joined with Noble, which is located in North Berwick, to form a cooperative high school team.
This season, four players from Wells, which never had a high school hockey team, are playing for the Knights for the first time.
``Last year, I played bantams at Dover, (N.H.), and I was pretty disappointed not to play high school hockey,`` said Connor Pease, a sophomore defenseman.
``The bantam season lasted all winter, and my whole team was playing high school hockey and it kind of made me feel left out.``
If the two schools hadn`t formed the co-op team, Pease wouldn`t be playing hockey this winter.
He`s too old for bantams and the midget season, USA Hockey`s next age group, ends when practice for the high school season begins.
Pease would have had to give up a game he began playing when he was 5.
``My father can`t event skate, but my grandfather and uncle played hockey and I went to see them a couple of times, and, I think, that really got me into it,`` he said.
Co-op high school teams are fairly common in Maine.
Last month, however, three students from Deering High School in Portland lost a court battle with the Maine Principals` Association over the formation of a Deering-Portland co-op team.
In September, the sanctioning organization refused to grant a waiver to its rule restricting such mergers to schools with combined enrollments that exceeded the enrollment of the state`s largest schools.
The MPA has never approved the merger of two existing boys` hockey programs, but nearly 25 percent of the 45 high school hockey teams in Maine are co-op squads. Some of the 23 high schools involved wouldn`t have teams if not permitted to merge.
``This gives us the numbers and the depth so we can continue to compete,`` Noble Coach Keith St. Cyr said. ``We`re never going to be a Falmouth or a Biddeford, (but) it gives us the numbers where we can still field a team and not gas out the same four or five players every game.``
Noble`s roster is composed of 18 players, including three freshmen goalies.
``We lost a lot of seniors last year and we`re low on numbers, so having them come (from Wells) is a good thing,`` said Gordon Potter, a senior right wing in his fourth varsity season with the Knights. ``Once we get playing together more, we`ll know where each other is going to go.``
``We need to create some new chemistry, but we should be fine as the season progresses,`` said Shane DeSantis, a Noble senior defenseman in his fourth season.
The team will wear Noble colors. The jerseys include a large W with the Wells Warrior logo on the right shoulder and a large N with the Noble Knights logo on the left shoulder.
``We`re representing Wells and Noble at the same time, and we want to do a good job.`` Pease said. ``Wells has high school hockey for the first time, and I`m kind of proud to be a part of that.``
Portland Press Herald
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:
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