Apr. 16—Keegan McLaughlin never experienced a playoff loss as the starting goalie for the Lewiston boys hockey team, so losing the postseason altogether was a hard pill to swallow this season.
“Approaching this season, I honestly didn’t know if I really wanted to play for nothing. After winning … a state championship (last year), I wanted to make that reality happen again,” McLaughlin said. “When I found out about there being no playoffs (this season), I was confused and upset. After all the hard work I had been putting in, it sucked, but after time I realized, ‘Who cares?’ because I knew I was still gonna go out there and compete and work my butt off.”
It’s the drive to compete that Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said makes his senior goalie special.
“As a coach, you want to have players who are willing to compete day in and day out. And there’s nobody that I’ve coached in the last 14 or 15 years that can top him in terms of his willingness to compete day in and day out,” Belleau said.
In all of the varsity games that McLaughlin started at goalie against Maine Principals’ Association competition, Lewiston never lost, going 29-0-1 over the past two seasons. McLaughlin posted a 1.14 goals-against average in those games, with 13 shutouts — including four this season. (The Blue Devils did suffer three losses to the prep team from North Yarmouth Academy this season.)
“Statistically, and no matter how you look at it, he’s worthy to be a Travis Roy finalist,” Belleau said.
McLaughlin is one of three finalists for the Travis Roy Award, given to the most outstanding Class A senior boys hockey player in Maine. He’s the only goalie of the three, which includes Edward Little defenseman Will Cassidy and Falmouth forward Owen Drummey.
“It’s a huge honor to be competing against these two unbelievably talented individuals,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t know Owen Drummey very well, but he is a great athlete and works his tail off. He had to take a huge role this year as a captain and he did excellent.
“Myself and Will go way back, to probably around age 10. Me and Will have been competing against each other in baseball and in hockey. I won a state championship my second year of Bantams with him. I’ve never met a nicer kid to be around. He is a very good skater and great decision maker and was a great captain for EL.”
McLaughlin, himself, was a leader for a Lewiston team that lost plenty of experience from last year’s state championship team. He said he learned how to be a leader from last year’s Travis Roy Award winner, former teammate Ryan Pomerleau.
Being in the running for a Travis Roy Award of his own wasn’t on McLaughlin’s mind entering the season.
“I didn’t really think about it because my mind was set on winning games and trying to compete with NYA’s hockey team,” he said.
Midway through the season Belleau pulled McLaughlin aside and told him he was Lewiston’s nominee for the award.
“When he told me, I was in complete shock,” McLaughlin said. “I had no idea that goalies could win it, especially after seeing (South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete’s Liam McGibbon) last year come so close. It’s nice to do it for the goalies.”
A goalie hasn’t won the award since 2011, when Lewiston’s Cam Poussard earned the honor.
“Cam was dominant over his four-year career, which is why he ended up getting the Travis Roy Award,” Belleau said. “He was just very even in his approach, good on his angles, didn’t flop around much, very good on rebounds. Keegan is, I think, a little bit different. He seems a little bit more active in the net. He’s big. … Just a different approach to the game than Cam. But certainly in terms of their success — and if you determine success based on winning games — there’s a lot of similarity because both have won a lot of games.”
Poussard was the first Blue Devil to win the award, and defenseman Kyle Lemelin (2014), forward Jeromey Rancourt (2017) and forward Pomerleau have won it since.
“Knowing the talent that has come from Lewiston and knowing what all those names on the banner that I saw for almost three years did for the Blue Devils, and knowing that my name could be on that banner, it really is something special,” McLaughlin said.
That this is the first time the award will be handed out since Roy’s death last October makes the honor of being a finalist and possibly winning even more special, McLaughlin said.