LEWISTON — The Androscoggin Bank Colisee will have a full-time tenant next season, after all.

Months after the Portland Pirates played their final American Hockey League game at the Lewiston facility, Colisee officials confirmed Tuesday that the building will be home to the Maine Timberwolves of the Northern States Hockey League on a full-time basis for the 2014-15 season.

“The league and the team, we’re familiar with their model,” Colisee owner Jim Cain said. “Another of the league’s teams will be our primary tenant in a new, two-sheet facility in Lockport, N.Y., starting this fall. I’d done a lot of research on the league, and the model, the way they operate, I really think it can work here.”

The NSHL is a Tier III league with a primary objective of placing players into U.S. college hockey. Most of the league’s players who have gone on to play in the NCAA have played for smaller, Division III schools.

“There’s a lot of Tier III hockey being played in the country right now, there are about 16 leagues or so,” Cain said. “A lot of it is pretty good hockey. One of the biggest things we like about the league, and about the Timberwolves’ model, is that it’s community-based. The players will be active in their community.”

Cain was quick to dispel any comparison to the former primary tenant at the Colisee, the Lewiston Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“That was Tier I hockey and then some,” Cain said, “and that kind of level just isn’t going to happen on the East Coast, at least not anytime soon. As time goes along, I think we’ll see the equivalent out here.

“Many people will find this level, the NSHL, attractive, and they’ll get used to it,” Cain continued. “They’ll have a chance to get to know their players. From a rink perspective, we need to provide a venue that has a product that is attractive and fun for people. We’re going to do our best in helping out with player selection, to help grow the team as a real player in this market.”

The Timberwolves were once known as the Maine Moose and were based out of the Bank of Maine Ice Vault in Hallowell. The organization was owned by St. Dominic Academy graduate Ben Gray. Gray sold the team to Jeff Dupere this spring.

The Timberwolves are one of three teams being added to the league this season, which now has 12 franchises throughout New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“One of the great things about the divisional arrangement, one of the team’s furthest road trips will be to Cape Cod,” Cain said. “I’ve seen a lot of different leagues and their models, and the travel is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.”

Lower travel costs and the fact that the league has a pay-for-play model, Cain said, will also allow ticket price flexibility.

“Nothing is obviously final yet, but this lets us do, say, eight dollars and six dollars, and a five-dollar group rate,” Cain said. “This is a market that can handle that.”

While Cain alluded to helping the team in any way possible in hockey operations, he also made it clear his primary concern is with the facility.

“Our responsibilities include the ice time, game-day ops, ticketing and food and beverage,” Cain said.

A couple of teams in the league, including the Lockport Express, which will play out of Cain’s new sheets of ice near Buffalo, have affiliation agreements with other, higher-level junior leagues, such as the North American Hockey League. Cain said with his connections to that league through another facility he manages in Michigan, the possibility exists for the Timberwolves to also enter into a similar arrangement.

As of Tuesday night, the Timberwolves’ website did not have a roster, schedule or tryout information listed, only listing Dupere as the owner, general manager and head coach. Nichole Grassi-Normand is listed as the team’s director of operations and Gabe Senter as an assistant coach.

In all, 24 players are listed among those league players moving on to play college hockey, including four from the Biddeford-based Maine Wild. Most notable among those commitments is Nate DelGiudice, a former standout goaltender at Messalonskee High School, who has committed to play at the University of Southern Maine.


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