(Photo Credit: UMaine Athletics)

By: Tom LaPlante | Follow me on Twitter @tlaplante7

In an article posted to The Bangor Daily News Monday morning, Larry Mahoney broke the news that former UMaine player and coach Ben Guite would become the head coach of the ECHL Maine Mariners, replacing Riley Armstrong, who is moving into an assistant’s role with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Philadelphia Flyers AHL affiliate. At the time of press for Mahoney’s article, nothing was official, but that’s all changed now.

Guite most recently was the interim Head Coach at UMaine after six seasons as an associate head coach, stepping into the role after Red Gendron unexpectedly passed away. The University opted to go with UMass associate head coach Ben Barr as their choice to run the program over Guite, even though captained the team and scored a goal in UMaine’s 3-2 overtime win over New Hampshire in the 1999 NCAA championship game, and was hired by Gendron in 2013 after concluding a 13-year professional hockey career which saw Guite play one game for the Bruins in ’05-’06 after two seasons in Providence.

He played 175 total NHL games with 19 goals and 26 assists. That choice by the university, though, opened the door for Guite in the ECHL. Mariners’ GM Danny Briere had this to say about Guite and why he will be a good fit in Maine  “He has a wealth of experience in professional hockey from his playing career and an established connection with the state of Maine as both a player and a coach. His ability to recruit talent will translate well to the ECHL, and we look forward to Ben helping us continue to build on the winning culture we’ve established here.”

Former Mariners’ player and alternate captain, Terrance Wallin, will be joining Guite behind the bench in Portland this season. As a fan, this announcement comes as a bit of a surprise as we all assumed he would be on the ice this season, but Wallin has spent the better portion of his time here developing youth players through his Evolution Hockey camps, so it seems the step into coaching is a natural choice at this point. Wallin played a large role in the team’s success in the first couple of seasons. His 34 goals and 73 points in two seasons rank him second all-time in Mariners history in both categories. He will be missed on the ice by at least one former teammate.

This shakeup might be exactly what is needed to energize both the team and the fan base as we move into season three of Mariners hockey. Riley Armstrong laid a foundation for a team that is fun on the ice and even better off the ice in the community. With someone who has spent his entire coaching career in Maine recruiting and developing talent, the club can continue to gain fans and followers by maintaining their commitment off the ice and having more success on the ice. Cross Insurance Arena can get rocking when it’s full, and the city has been starved for playoff hockey for years now. From his first interview with Mariners’ play-by-play announcer, Mike Keeley, it sounds like Guite intends to have the team playing fast, fun, hockey that should translate to success in the standings.

Prior to Covid-19 shutting down the season in 2020, the team was on pace to make the playoffs, and the fans and players were buzzing. That was taken away, but I feel like the team has the right people behind the bench to get the Mariners into the playoffs and fill the building. They are returning a lot of core players, and it will be very interesting to see who Guite brings in to round out the team. Puck drops on the third season of Mariners hockey and the first season with Guite behind the bench on October 22; check out the Mariners website here. Follow me here on the blog and on Twitter for all things Mariners.