By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
The Maine Mariners had a seemingly light weekend on the scheduled when you think of minor-pro hockey. The new ECHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins played in two games over the weekend on Friday night and Sunday afternoon at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine. I had the pleasure of traveling up the seacoast to Portland on Friday night to cover the game as a media member. I had an unbelievable experience for my first time covering an ECHL contest. Many thanks to the Mariners organization, particularly Mike Keeley, for giving our small sports media company a chance. I hope to make many more trips North to do it again.
Friday Night: Trois-Rivieres Lions at Maine Mariners 10/29/21
Before Friday’s game, the Mariners would get some good news concerning the defensive core with the additions of rugged defenseman JD Greenway and Andrew Peski, who joined the Maine club from the AHL Providence Bruins. Peski was fighting for playing time with a pretty set Ryan Mougenel defensive roster, and Greenway was coming off an upper-body injury, so it made sense for ECHL placement and to keep them skating.
South Portland, Maine native Jon Gillies who was signed last week as a free agent, got the start in goal against the Lions and was his very first appearance plating in an ECHL game. The former Calgary Flames draft pick who bounced around from the NHL to the AHL with the Flames organization for quite some time signed as a free agent with the Utica Comets last season but in an AHL abbreviated campaign he only got into five games for the Utica Comets. Jon played very well in his ECHL debut and pretty much carried the Mariners for a better part of 40 minutes into the game.
For the first and second periods, Gillies was focused and tracked the puck very well. He knew when to be aggressive and scale back post-to-post as the action, and the puck gets closer to the goal line. The ice was tilted in the visiting Lions’ favor as the new franchise of the ECHL and minor-pro affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens were seeking their first franchise victory. Most of the games was like a feeling-out process with both sides looking for weakness and exposing them.
Unfortunately, the Mariner’s effort to contain the Lions pressure came to an early end in the third period when Trios-Rivieres broke the ice with the first goal of the game at the 2:19 mark. After that goal, the host Mariners seemed to lose the wind in their sails, and it would take the second Lions goal at 13:58 to wake up this Maine bench, but it was a little too late. Although Maine had several chances to get back into this game in goal for the Lions was Philipe Desrosiers, who absolutely stood on his head preserving the 2-0 shutout.
If there were positives to take away from Friday night’s game, the additions of Greenway and Peski were noticeable, along with the effort from Michael Kim and Brycen Martin on the backend did well. Offensively, I thought Cam Askew, Conor Bleackley, Nick Master, Mathew Santos brought good showings of speed and skill, and big forwards Pascal Laberge and Justin Brazeau bring that power forward style to the roster.
Starter and hometown kid Jon Gillies made 23 saves on 25 shots for the loss, but as the schedule becomes more repetitive to a minor-pro style, I believe Jon will be better in his next start with a little more familiarity with the ECHL level and Maine team. He’ll definitely be that veteran presence for the slightly younger Jeremy Brodeur, who’s also new to the Mariners franchise this season, and I’ll talk about him soon.
Sunday Afternoon: Reading Royals at Maine Mariners
The Maine Mariners certainly brought a different game on the second half of the double home games at the Cross Insurance Arena over the weekend. Newcomer and starting goaltender Jeremey Brodeur got his first start for the Mariners franchise on October 22nd, 2021, when he set a franchise high of 51 saves on 54 shots for a 6-3 victory. Against the Mariners, on Sunday afternoon, he didn’t set any franchise numbers, but he was instrumental in the first game against the Royals in front of 1,600 fans.
The scoring started early for the offense, something they wanted to happen against a stifling Trios-Rivieres Lions team on Friday night. Newcomer and undrafted Boston native Cam Askew scored his first of the season since joining the Mariners club at the 5:21 mark of the first period. Askew played in the QMJHL for Charlottetown, Moncton, and Shawinigan before signing his first pro contract with the ECHL South Carolina Sting Rays, where he spent three seasons. Askew’s first came on a huge mistake from the Royals netminder Nagle who got tangled up having the smart-minded forward to retrieve the puck behind the goal line and wrap it around to the front, receiving a generous deflection for the ice breaker.
The next goal in the first frame came from forward Nick Master at the 11:35 mark scoring his second of the season. Master now has five points in four games and has been playing well, as previously mentioned. Master was set up out front for the redirection and received from a solid passing effort from Pascal Laberge and the patients to wait a second longer for another look from Brycen Martin before feathering a pass to the net for the Masters second of the year.
The third and final of the first period came from the hard-working Justin Brazeau, who was being a nuisance in front of the net doing his job as a big-bodied forward. Brazeau reading the play well on the man advantage and getting his stick on the puck for the redirection and 3-0 lead. The only goal in the game from the visiting Reading Royals came at the 9:10 mark of the second period when Brycen Martin gave up the puck in his defensive zone and unfortunately ruined the shutout that young Jeremy Brodeur had going.
The final goal of the weekend for the Maine Mariners and the dagger in the hearts of the visiting Reading Royals was a goal at the 17:15 mark of the third period when Andrew Romano scored his first of the season. He should be proud, as seen in the video below, as this was his first career professional goal in his second career game. Cam Askew was a huge asset to this game on Sunday afternoon as he seemed to be at the right places at the right time offensively. Askew’s hard work driving the goal created a second chance for the young Roman to notch his first.
Mariner’s starting goaltender Jeremy Brodeur was outstanding again in his second Maine appearance of the early season. In two games for the Portland club, the son of legendary netminder and Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur is 2-0-0 with a 2.01 goals-against-average and very sharp .952 save percentage. In an interview with Mariner’s workhorse Mike Keeley, the 25-year-old goaltender wants to win at any level and build from there.
If Mariners General Manager and former NHL forward Daniel Briere, along with Head Coach Ben Guite who’s bringing in a lot of former Maine collegiate residents, with solid goaltending tandem like Brodeur and Gillies, a Kelly Cup run isn’t exactly out of reach. This might be a season when this ECHL club and several members will honor the late and great Red Gendron, a person who was instrumental in many current Bruins organizational members and their development. It would certainly be a great start to hopefully a long affiliation relationship.
The Mariners get back to work this Friday night as they host the Florida Everblades at the Cross Insurance Arena. Very affordable experience for you and your family. For Ticket Plans & Groups Call 883-Go-Maine (883-466-2463). To Purchase Single Game Tickets Call 207-775-3458. Or Click Here for Online Purchasing Information.
My Time Away From Hockey in the City of Portland, Maine
One of the best things about traveling to see hockey games as a media member is the experience you get when you go to different areas of the world and take in what’s going on at that particular time. It’s been a long time since I visited the popular Maine destination and, I believe, the biggest population in the state, and I have to say I was pretty impressed. You can definitely feel the energy of the fan base, and seeing the Black N’ Gold of the Boston Bruins represented immensely is only going to make this experience so good in the future for everyone.
To start, I have to say the accommodations at the Portland Holiday Inn By The Bay were a little expensive, but I was pleased and actually thought it was worth it once you gather in your surroundings. The staff was very kind and helpful, and the onsite meal availability was helpful when getting work done. The Cross Insurance Arena is a very short walk from this hotel which is a bonus and not far from the inner workings of the waterfront establishments to support the local community.
Two places I got to visit for the first time for pleasure while walking around we two highly recommended places to go if in the area from friends back in the Merrimack Valley area. I took the Amtrak DownEaster and arrived at 11:30 am, so I had plenty of time to walk around before the 7pm puck drop. My friend Ryan said to check out The Thirsty Pig for lunch, so I had to walk the mile or so to check it out.
Not overly busy in the afternoon on a Friday during the week, but I can imagine that place gets hopping around five during hours of operation. Straightforward and respectful menu for that quick bite to eat on the go or time to sit and have a pint or two. The Thirsty Pig has an excellent variety of draught beers available and a fun food menu ranging from homemade sausages and worldwide hot hog favorites. When I first got there, a pretzel and Allagash White were a priority. Later I tried a few different items on the menu, like the ChiliBomb and the Chicago Style. The Lithuanian Kielbasa was out of this world, so I highly recommend it if you go to a game or in the area. I needed a pregame nap, that was for sure.
The After game festivities moved away from the hotel room as the downstairs bar closed at 10 pm, so I went for a walk with the maps app on the phone and found a very cool place to unwind and enjoy the seacoast area. The Sagamore Hill Lounge was the most intriguing place for me as it seemed more relaxed over the packed places in a city on a Friday night. Walked in and immediately got a seat at the bar where two bartenders were killing it, moving drinks out to customers. The Sagamore is a place I’m going to visit often when I visit the area and stay nearby. Shoutout to bartender Dustin for the pours and owners of the establishment great few hours before retiring for the night and my journey home the next day.
I’m going to be making more trips to the Portland, Maine area, so if you have a recommendation for a place to stay or a bar/restaurant to support the local community, please let me know in the comment section below. I’d love to hear where many like to gravitate for a good meal or a good time. Thanks for reading!