AUBURN — Lauren DeBlois is taking a trip to the most famous place in Olympic hockey history: Lake Placid, New York.
This trip isn’t about sight seeing or learning about the 1980 Men’s Olympic Hockey Team, though those things may happen.
This will be a “business trip” for the Lewiston native, who hopes to don a red, white and blue sweater of her own. She’s one of 31 players trying out for Team USA’s Women’s Under-18 Select Team from Aug. 8-14 for a three-game series against Team Canada from Aug. 17-20, also in Lake Placid.
To get to Lake Placid, she had to go through a couple other tryouts, including USA Hockey’s District Festival, New England Festival and the Girls’ U18 Select 66 Player Development Camp, which was held in Biddeford from June 24-30.
“It definitely feels really good; it’s definitely nerve-racking,” DeBlois said. “You think about it, it’s hard to get there. It’s not easy to get there, but it’s pretty special.”
She’s trying to become the first girl from Lewiston since Kasey Boucher to make USA Hockey’s USA U18 team. Boucher won a gold medal with Team USA in 2008 at the inaugural International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Women’s Under-18 Championships in Calgary, Alberta, before heading to Boston University. Just like Boucher, DeBlois is a defenseman.
The 2018 World Women’s Under-18 Championships are being held in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia in January, and a roster for that tournament is usually announced in early December.
Fellow Lewiston native Katie Lachapelle has been on the coaching staff for Team USA, where she’s been an assistant for the past five World Women’s Under-18 Championships.
“I know of her doing that,” DeBlois said of Boucher. “Not too many people from Maine get to do that. It’s definitely special. I definitely want to do what she has done. (Lachapelle) was at the camp last year and I have learned a lot from her. It’s definitely special learning from her, seeing we are from the same town.”
DeBlois said her experience last year at the National Festival, where she was one of the younger players, helped her this year, where she was one of the older players at the camp. She felt more confident this time around.
She’s also learned a lot from her defensive partner at the New Hampton School over this past season, who played for Team USA at the U18 level against Canada and at the IIHF’s World Women’s Under-18 Championship.
“We had (Cayla Barnes), who was on the U18 National Team this year on our New Hampton team,” DeBlois said. “Learning from her, seeing her habits, definitely helped a lot. Hearing from her, on what to do, the little things (the coaching staff) looks for and stuff. Definitely the coaching and just the experience playing against good girls who are going to this camp from other prep schools around New England, it’s pretty special.”
Barnes was one of the 42 players to try out for the USA Women’s National team this past spring, but didn’t make the team that will head to PyeongChang, South Korea, for the 2018 Olympics.
DeBlois, 17, left Lewiston High School after helping lead the Blue Devils to a state championship in 2015 as a freshman. The following season, she transferred to the New Hampton School in New Hampton, New Hampshire. She will be a junior this upcoming year after repeating her freshman year, which is a common practice when a student transfers from a high school to a prep school.
The move to New Hampton played a part to getting where she is today.
“It definitely helps a lot. It’s a higher level and much faster. It gets you prepared for these camps,” DeBlois said.
This past season, she was a big part of the Huskies’ success, as New Hampton went 30-3-1 on the year. She played the role of hero in the Girls Prep Division 1 New England championship game, where she broke a 1-1 deadlock against the Kent School with under 30 seconds left to play.
“My (defensive) partner Cayla Barnes and I were on the ice together,” DeBlois said. “She took a shot and it got deflected out to my side of the point. I took a slap shot and I didn’t know where it went, but it went in. I just remember celebrating after that.”
The Huskies won 3-1 after an empty-net goal.
The goal was her 13th of the season, as she nearly averaged a point-per-game with the Huskies. She added 20 assists for 33 points in 34 games.
She says winning a New England title and a state championship are both special in their own way. With New Hampton, it was a tough road facing tough teams every step of the way, where with the Blue Devils, everybody got along and it was fun being the top team in Maine. Both are “great memories,” she said.
DeBlois is also following Lachepelle’s footsteps as a player, as she’s verbally committed to play at Providence College starting in the 2019-20 season. Lachappelle, who graduated from Providence in 1999, played for the women’s hockey team. She was selected to the 1997 ECAC All-Star team and named a team captain her senior year.
“It reminded me of New Hampton and why I chose New Hampton,” DeBlois said. “The coaches, the school, the academics, I thought I would do well there. It just reminded me of New Hampton. I love New Hampton. It was an easy choice.”