This weekend will mark the first time the Maine Nordiques and the Twin City Thunder organizations will face off on the ice.

The Maine Nordiques Development Program 18U team will host the Thunder’s 18U midget team, the Twin City Lightning, for two exhibition games at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, on Saturday at 1:40 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.

“We saw it as a good opportunity to showcase that brand (of midget hockey) again to our fans again, with the (MNDP) moving up here full-time starting next season, which we are excited about,” Nolan Howe, head coach of the Maine Nordiques’ NAHL team, said. “(We are) just building relationships with other programs. I think it will be a good atmosphere and good hockey.”

The MNDP will move from Princeton, New Jersey, to Lewiston next season and will be renamed the Maine Nordiques Prep Academy, with a partnership with St. Dom’s, and will have 18U and 16U teams.

There’s some past connection between the organizations: Ben Gray, co-owner of the Twin City Thunder and the Lightning, and Maine Nordiques NAHL assistant coach Matt Pinchevsky were junior hockey teammates.

“(Nordiques GM and MNDP coach) Eric Soltys and Matt Pinchevsky both reached out to me, asking if we wanted some friendly non-league games with the Lightning and the MNDP,” Gray said. “We had an open weekend and we could make it work. We will have (USPHL) playoffs shortly thereafter, so its good to get a good couple of games in.”

The two organizations can’t play each other at the junior level because the United States Premier Hockey League’s National Collegiate Development Conference and Premier League, in which the Thunder play, aren’t sanction by USA Hockey. USA Hockey-sanctioned teams — such as the Maine Nordiques and L/A Nordiques and other NAHL and NA3HL teams — are are only allowed to face teams that are sanctioned by USA Hockey or Hockey Canada.

At the midget level, the teams both play in USA Hockey-sanctioned leads. The Lightning compete in the USPHL 18U league, and primarily play their home games at the Camden Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell or at Kents Hill. The MNDP is a member of the Beast Series League.

“We are trying to achieve good things in hockey in the state of Maine,” Gray said. “They have Tier II (junior) hockey, we have Tier II hockey. Anytime you can have free (non-tution) hockey to get kids to the higher levels, in my mind it’s a win-win. Hats off to them, what they are doing, and same for us.

“Everyone thinks there’s some big rivalry, but at the end of the day, what they are doing and we are doing are both great for the sport of hockey in the state of Maine.”


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