Varsity Maine Boys' Hockey Player of the Year: Owen McManus, Camden Hills

Apr. 13—When Owen McManus makes a move on the ice, it's a safe bet that he's already tried that move dozens of times in practice. It's also a safe bet that many of those times, it didn't work at all.

"Even if it only works half the time, keep doing it. Keep working on it," said McManus, a senior at Camden Hills Regional High.

Pretty much everything worked for McManus this season. The forward scored 40 goals and 31 assists for a state-leading 71 points. In the playoffs, McManus practically willed Camden Hills to the Class B North title, its second in three years. He capped his season with a hat trick in a 4-3 loss to Cheverus/Yarmouth in the state championship game, keeping the Windjammers in the game after an early three goal-deficit.

Camden Hills scored 25 goals in four playoff games. McManus tallied 11 of them.

"I was just focused on winning. I wanted to make it as far as possible," McManus said.

In 22 games, McManus had 18 multipoint games, including each of Camden Hills' playoff games.

"That kid's a stud. He's got to be one of the best players in the state," Cheverus/Yarmouth defenseman David Swift said minutes after playing against McManus in the state championship game.

No player in the state meant as much to his team's success as McManus meant to the Windjammers. That's why he's our choice as the 2024 Varsity Maine Boys' Hockey Player of the Year.

"You couldn't count (McManus) out. In the state game, we're down 3-0. He's staying positive, and scores two goals to get us back in it," said Camden Hills Coach Harrison Rogers, who also coaches McManus in lacrosse. "Owen really willed us to a really good season."

McManus recorded 26 goals and 15 assists as a junior, and in the offseason worked on improving his entire game. McManus was always a strong north-south skater, Rogers said. Where he improved this season was skating east to west while controlling the puck. That enabled McManus to create space for himself to either shoot or find an open teammate.

"If I can create space for me, I can create space for my teammates," McManus said. "It was really just the offseason. I worked on every aspect of my game."

Added strength made it harder for defenders to drive McManus off the puck, Rogers said. With an accurate shot and quick release, McManus didn't need to create space for long. If he had a small window, he found it.

"He was able to make turns with the puck and be physical," Rogers said. "That really made him that complete player."

That was on display in the second period of the state final, in which McManus scored a pair of goals in just under three minutes to pull the Windjammers within a goal. On his first goal, McManus made a move in front of the net, going quickly to his backhand to find an open shot and score. A few minutes later, he fired a quick shot from the top of the left circle for his second goal.

"Owen just had that knack to take what the defense gave him," Rogers said.

McManus said improving his mental approach was a key to his strong season. By that, he meant embracing the work needed to get better.

"What works most for me is doing it in practice again and again," McManus said.

As a younger player on the Windjammers, McManus learned from the veterans. This season, as a senior on a roster that included four freshmen and 12 sophomores, he wanted to return the favor.

"Over time, I learned a lot from the guys ahead of me. I wanted to let the younger players know how we do things," he said.

McManus is undecided on his college plans.

"I want to play club hockey, wherever I go," he said.