2018, A Look Ahead: Hockey, arena football add to Maine's sports buffet

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Maine sports fans have always enjoyed a wide variety of options for their dollars and devotion. In 2018, the sports buffet is adding a couple more entrees for them to sample.

The Twin Cities’ second junior hockey team, the Twin City Thunder, officially takes the ice at Norway Savings Bank Arena in August. The U.S. Premier Hockey League regular season extends from September to February.

In April, Maine will officially welcome its first arena football team when the Portland-based Maine Mammoths open their inaugural season. The National Arena League expansion franchise will play at Cross Insurance Arena through the spring and summer.

Taking center stage for the rest of the winter will be ice hockey and basketball. Once again, the boys’ hockey season will climax at Androscoggin Bank Colisee on March 10 with the Class A and B state championships. Lewiston (Class A) and Waterville (Class B, and now a co-op with Winslow) both hope to have a shot at winning their third state title in a row, a feat no Class A team has accomplished since Lewiston’s 1982-84 run and no Class B team has matched since Winslow in 1996-98.

Lewiston/Monmouth/Oak Hill is one of two remaining unbeaten girls’ hockey teams in the state and, along with two-time defending state champion St. Dom’s, has its sights set on the state championship game on Feb. 17 at Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

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Speaking of three-peats, Portland (Class AA) and George Stevens Academy (Class C) will try to become the first boys’ basketball team to win three consecutive gold balls since the Valley of Bingham dynasty in Class D won six in a row from 1998-2003.  

You can’t win three in a row without going back-to-back first. The Gray-New Gloucester (Class B) and Monmouth (Class C) girls will be among those hoping to defend their titles when the girls’ and boys’ basketball tournaments begin on Feb. 13 and culminate with state championships in Portland (Class A and AA), Bangor (Class B) and Augusta (Class C and D) March 1-3.

No school has dominated a winter sport like Mt. Blue in Nordic skiing. Both the boys and girls continued their programs’ winning tradition with state championships the past two years. The Cougars hope to be there again when the hardware is handed out at Black Mountain on Feb. 22 and 23. The Alpine championships begin Feb. 19 at Big Rock (Class B) and  Feb. 20 at Mt. Abram (Class A).

Those wishing to watch their racing indoors can check out the state swimming championships at the University of Maine (Class A) and Bowdoin College (Class B) Feb. 17-20, or the state indoor track championships at Bates College on Feb. 17 for Class B and the University of Southern Maine on Feb. 19 for Class A.

Competition cheering state championships for all classes will be determined Feb. 10 at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Lewiston will likely be there tumbling and tossing to try to win its fourth state title in a row.

With the recent frigid temperatures, some may be looking forward to spring sports more than usual. Practices for the season start March 26, and the games start counting April 12. The baseball and softball state championships cap the school year in Augusta, Bangor and Standish on June 16.

For more warm thoughts, consider that the Portland Sea Dogs’ home opener is April 13. By then, the Maine Red Claws hope to be in the midst of the NBA G-League playoffs next door.

Area golfers will be spending their spring getting ready for the state’s prestigious championships. Belgrade Lakes Golf Club will host its first Maine Amateur on July 10-12. Dates and sites have not been announced yet, but the Maine Women’s Amateur and Charlie’s Maine Open typically follow two weeks later. 

Oxford Plains Speedway revs up the short track racing season in April. The full schedule still hasn’t been released but the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) has announced it will make its first stop May 20. The green flag drops on the 45th Annual Oxford 250 on Aug. 26.

Also in late August, high school athletes will gear up for another year, with the state football championships completing the cycle with its state championships in Orono and Portland on Nov. 16-17.

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