It has been two years since Portland, Maine has seen Hockey playing in the Cross Insurance Arena. Two since the Portland Pirates abruptly left town. Two years since Hockey fans had a local team to cheer for. But finally after two years, Hockey is back in Portland and the town and fans couldn’t be more excited for new and yet familiar team: The Maine Mariners
Portland has always been a Hockey town, but tragically in May of 2016, after 23 Seasons of AHL Hockey the Portland Pirates, a Florida Panther’s affiliate at the time of their departure, abruptly announced their departure from the town leaving Staff, Players, and Fan’s shocked. The board for the Pirate’s announced that the team would be leaving for Massachusetts; the reason given for the move was financial, as the Pirate’s finished at the bottom of the AHL’s 30 team in 2014-2015 drawing an average of 2,963 fans, while seeing improvement in the 2015-2016 season (3,363).
June 2017, Hockey is coming back to Portland Maine. Parent Company of the Philadelphia Flyers announced that they had recently purchased an East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) franchise in Alaska, and would be moving the team to the vacant Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine. This new Franchise had No Name, No Players and No Staff at the time of this announcement. Danny Brier, a former Flyers player would be overseeing the day-to-day operations, with Paul Hogren (president of the Flyers) serving as the team’s governor. The new team announced that they would be holding a “vote” for the team name, and opened up to the community for suggestions. In August of 2017 the team announced the 5 staff picked finalists for the new name for the franchise:
– Mariners – Watchmen – Lumberjacks – Puffins – Wild Blueberries, with the team officially announcing the name as the Maine Mariners on Sept. 29, 2018.
The Maine Mariners name goes back over 40 years (1977); Danny Briere had this to say:
“Announcing the Maine Mariners name today is an important step in connecting with the community and building our team identity,” said Paul Holmgren, President of the Philadelphia Flyers and Maine Mariners. “The hockey fans of the area have always been passionate and supportive starting back when the Mariners arrived 40 years ago. I am happy to be a part of bringing professional hockey back to Portland, Maine.”
The team had a name but still no staff, that was until February 19th 2018 when they announced Head Coach, Riley Armstrong, 33, former Assistant Coach of the Wheeling Nailers over the past 1.5 seasons. Armstrong signed with the San Jose Sharks in 2004, playing 5 years for the Sharks AHL affiliate teams. Armstrong was called up to play two games for the Sharks in the 2008-09 seasons before signing as a Free Agent with the Calgary Flames in 2009, spending the season with the Flames AHL Team.
More signings would come over the next couple months, with the team announcing Anthony Bohn as the Assistant Coach on June 19th and their first player, Alex Kile on June 22nd. More players and staff would be signed over the next few months, rounding out the team going into training camp. Training Camp started on October 2th with a Roster of 29 Players, needing to narrow that list down to 21 before the season opener on the 13th.
IT’S GAME TIME! Last night the Maine Mariners kicked off their season at home against the Adirondack Thunder (NJD) from Glenn Falls, NY. This is the first game for the new Mariners Franchise and the brand new Roster, only just recently finalized after last weeks training camp. The Mariners’ starting Roster is as Follows:
Terrence Wallin (C)
Scott Savage (C)
Zach Tolkinen (C)
As soon as the Puck dropped the experience and chemistry of the Adirondack Thunder was noticeable. They looked more comfortable with their teammates on the ice, with passes and communication coming more naturally. With the Thunder players dictating the pace and keeping the puck on the Maine Mariners side of the ice for a large portion of the 1st Period. Adirondack’s Brian Ward, put the 1st goal on the board only 1:03 into the game. Four minutes later, 5:06, Desmond Bergin increased the lead to 2-0, followed by Jon Edwarth at 9:14. The Mariners finally managed to answer the onslaught just a minute later on a power play with Jason Salvaggio scoring the first goal in franchise history. Salvaggio’s goal would be the last one of the 1st Period, with the Mariners’ trailing 1-3.
Down by two, the Mariners wasted no time at the start of the 2nd, immediately looking like a better unit on the ice, Mariners’ Ryan Culkin drove home a power play goal, scoring their 2nd goal of the game at 1:31. Shortly after, Adirondack recovered scoring 2 goals in a little over a minute apart, 2:06 from Conor Riley, his 2nd of the game and at 3:30 from John Edwardh. Both teams would have a heated back in forth for the next 9 minutes, neither team able to get the puck to find it’s target, that is until 12:24, when Alex Kile scored his 1st goal for the Mariners on a breakaway. Kile’s goal would be the last of the period, which would be cut into an early intermission due to one of the referee’s needing medical attention for a cut to his chin. Mariners entered the intermission down 2-5
Dictating the pace early in the 3rd Period, Maine had several early chances to catch Adirondack, unfortunately Thunder’s goaltender, Colton Phinney manged to stop everything sent his way. Keeping the crowd in the game, Maine’s Brycen Martin and Conor Riley fighting in front of the Maine bench, causing both teams to go down a man. Maine would catch another penalty, while having two men in the box, Adirondack would capitalize on the power play scoring their 6th and final goal from Shane Conacher at 13:36. The game would end with a final score of 3-6, with Maine falling in their 1st game as a franchise.
Bryce Martin pumping the crowd up while being escorted to the penelty box.
Hockey is back in Portland, The score not reflecting the play of the game, Maine never looked out of it, but the chemistry of the Thunder and their Goal-tending being the major difference in the game. Adirondack out shot Maine 27-20, with Phinney saving 17 of Maine’s shots.
Article and Photos by: Aaron Perry