Old Town High School standout goalie Nathan Colannino intends to leave Old Town to attend a prep school next year and further his hockey career.

The sophomore, who was chosen to the All-Eastern Maine Class B second team as a freshman last season as well as securing a spot on the all-rookie team, said he needs more game experience and a higher level of competition if he wants to realize his dream of playing in college.

Maine high school hockey teams are allowed to play 18 regular season games under Maine Principals Association guidelines although they are also allowed to play noncounting exhibition games.

He said the decision wasn’t a difficult one.

“I know I need to do something else,” said 15-year-old Colannino. “The best way to get better is by playing better competition and playing more games. At the same time, I’ll be getting a great education, too.

“There aren’t a lot of guys who played high school hockey in Maine that got to the next level without going away. It’s the best idea for me,” added Colannino.

He has applied to several prep schools and talked to their coaches.

He said his top three choices are Tabor Academy, Governor’s Academy (former Governor Dummer) and St. Paul’s School. Tabor and Governor’s are in Massachusetts and St. Paul’s is in New Hampshire.

“I’ll know in March if I got accepted,” said Colannino, who attended a national hockey camp for players in his age group during the summer of 2010.

He feels he has had an up-and-down year for the Coyotes.

“I’ve played OK. I’ve been a little inconsistent. I think I can perform better,” said Colannino, who made 56 saves in a recent 4-4 overtime against arch-rival Orono.

He said the pressure that went along with his decision to leave and the pressure to perform have been challenging but he is looking for a strong finish.

Old Town was mired in a 0-6-1 drought but is safely in the playoffs with its 7-8-1 record entering Thursday night’s game at Houlton-Hodgdon.

Old Town coach Brett Hale said Colannino’s departure will be a “huge loss for the program” but he feels he’s making the right decision.

“In my 20 years of coaching, I’ve coached maybe two or three Division I players and he’s at the top of the list,” said Hale. “He has single-handedly rejuvenated our program. He’s one of the best goalies in Class B and the better the [opponent], the better he plays. He’s also a great kid who is an excellent student and is mature beyond his years. He’s mentally ready [to move on].”