The Maine Moose junior hockey team is back on the ice, after being shut down for a year by new ownership to restructure the organization.
The Moose were ready to bring their junior team back the previous year. However, the collapse of their home rink, the Kennebec Ice Arena deterred them. The surrounding ice arenas in the area could not support the ice needs of the Moose, which forced them to keep the junior team shut down for another season.
In the meantime, the Moose formed a U16 and a U18 team, hoping to build a stronger foundation, which both owners (Ben Gray and Charlie Davis) say showed immediate results.
In their second season, the Moose U18 won the Maine Amateur Hockey Association championship, which led them to Nationals. In the first two seasons, the Moose have also had a team in the finals for both age groups.
“The midget program was put in place to help identify and develop the players so they would be able to potentially make the transition from midgets to juniors,” said Davis. Now, in Year 3, the duo have not only brought the junior team back on the ice, but also developed peewee and bantam teams to go along with the midget teams.
The new state-of-the-art facility, The Bank of Maine Ice Vault, is a key part to the growth of the Moose program.
Both owners worked closely with the owners and management of the arena to ensure they could help with the process. Gray said teams and players will be amazed when they come to the new arena and believes it’s going to be a huge selling point for their program.
“The facilities can only take you so far,” Gray said.
He and Davis recognized the need for a knowledgeable coach. The Moose signed Jeff Guay to lead the rejuvenated squad. Davis added that signing Guay was going to be the key to getting the Moose Juniors back off the ground.
Guay coached the Lewiston MAINEiacs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2003-10. He helped the MAINEiacs win a league championship during his tenure.
He was heavily involved in developing players and getting them ready for the NHL, as well as other professional levels.
Davis went on to say Guay has coached in the best junior league in North America and that bringing him on board will only help grow the entire Moose program.
The Junior Moose had a late start this season due to the delay in the opening of the new facility. The Moose are running as an independent team, as well as scheduling partner of the Northern States Junior Hockey League this season and will become a full member of the NSJHL for the 2013-2014 season.
“The NSJHL has been great to work with and we look forward to being able to compete as a full fledge member next season,” said Gray.
Before then, there’s a busy November to play through. This includes taking part in the Watervilley Valley Junior/Prep Turkey Shootout, being held the weekend of Nov. 23-25.
They will open the month with a three-game series against the Westchester (N.Y.) Dragons, followed by games against the Eastern Kodiaks and Massachusetts Maple Leafs two weeks later.
A week after the Turkey Shootout, they travel to the New York City area to take on the Dragons and the New York Jr. Aviators.
This year’s Moose roster includes 12 Maine residents, three players from other states, two Russians and one Canadian.