The Maine Nordiques Prep Academy is coming along.

The Prep Academy will have a U18 and U16 midget hockey teams that will play in the Beast Series. The U16 team will have a familiar face behind the bench as Cam Robichaud, who was the Maine Nordiques associated head coach and director of player advancement and recruitment, will be the U16 head coach.

“It’s something that I am really excited about,” Robichaud said. “Obviously I have been working on having the (North American Hockey League) team here and was a part of the (NAHL) team last season and I will continue to be a part of the (NAHL) team in a capacity of helping recruit and practicing with (Maine Nordiques head coach) Nolan Howe and (assistant head coach and director of player development and wellness) Matt Pinchevsky.”

“It’s a great opportunity with the U16s to get to being a head coach and help build the academy with (Nordiques organization’s general manager) Eric Soltys and Nick Skerlick (the U18 coach),” Robichaud said.

Nordiques coach Cam Robichaud yells instructions to his players during a practice in March 2019. Robichaud was the coach of the Tier III L/A Nordiques in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. He has been named the Maine Nordiques Prep Academy’ U16 head coach for the 2020-21 season after spending the 2019-20 season as the associate head coach for the Maine Nordiques. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dilli Buy this Photo

Robichaud has had experience coaching at the midget hockey level with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs U18 split-season midget team during the 2011-12 season. He also coached at the U14 level with his time with the Monarchs organization before returning to Lewiston to join the L/A Fighting Spirit organization for the 2015-16 season. The Spirit would become the L/A Nordiques for the 2017-18 season.

Robichaud’s role changed because the organization feels he’s one of the best coaches in the business

“It was a move made because of the respect we have for Cam as a coach and wanting those guys to be able to get it done (by getting) taught right from the beginning at the U16 level,” Soltys said. “We thought that was a huge advantage for our kids and for Cam and Nolan. Both are head coaches (and were) in the same spot. To have Cam to have his own show is really going to be good for starters.”

Robichaud will no longer have the official title of director of player recruitment and advancement. He will become the organization’s performance coach.

“I am changing titles besides coaching,” Robichaud said. “I will be the performance coach for the entire organization from the (NAHL team) to the U18 team, to the U16 team and to the youth hockey program. That will (involve being) in the gym with the strength and conditioning (program) and oversee the off-ice developments as well the on-ice developments.”

Robichaud said he will always have a hand in recruiting players to the NAHL team in some fashion.

Soltys said the organization will not fill Robichaud’s position on the NAHL bench, noting that most NAHL benches only have two coaches.

Skerlick comes from the New Jersey Titans organization where he was the head coach of their U18 midget team last year. He’s 26 and from Wayne, New Jersey. He also served as a scout for the Titans NAHL team and the Amarillo Bulls. He had a junior and college hockey playing career.

“He reminds me a lot of myself actually back in his age when I was at Shattack-St. Mary’s where I was around of a bunch of real solid coaches that have a ton of experience,” Soltys said of Skerlick. “I was super excited to be a part of it to learn as much as I could and I see the same thing in Nick. He’s a super strong coach and he wants to get better and he wants to take himself to the highest levels of the game which is admirable.”

Soltys said Skerlick is a great recruiter which is big at the midget hockey to get players to come to a full-season midget program.

Soltys has experience at midget hockey academies as an assistant coach at Shattuck St. Mary’s in Fairbault, Minnesota from 1999-2003 and at Selects Academy at the South Kent School in South Kent, Connecticut as a director of hockey operations from 2009-15.

Soltys said building and moving the Prep Academy from New Jersey started before the coronavirus pandemic even started. This past season, the Prep Academy only had a U18 team which played most of its home games in New Jersey.

“The groundwork has been laid prior to us arriving way back in September when all this initial talk started off,” Soltys said. “(It’s) kind of been laid out for everybody and having experience in this for 20 years now. It made it a lot easier to plan appropriately and deal with this little wrinkle as it came here.”

Soltys said their partner St. Dominic Academy has done a great job


of providing virtual tours of the school to prospective players during the pandemic. The school has also been flexible to the players schedule once the season begins. Nordiques owner Dr. Darryl Antonacci has bought three houses in the Lewiston-Auburn area to house the kids for the upcoming season.

The organization started last week announcing player commitments for both teams on their social media channels. The U18 team will be comprised of players born in 2002 and 2003 for the upcoming season while the U16 team will be comprised of players born in 2004 and 2005.

The players they are bringing in for both teams are looking to play at the Tier I junior hockey level in the United States Hockey League and in the NAHL. The end goal is to play at the Division I college hockey levels.

“Most of the conversations that we have in our recruiting process is about the USHL (Phase I and II) drafts and the (NAHL) draft,” Robichaud said. “These are young players who are very talented but are (a couple years away) from getting to (those) levels. They need to go through the draft process and see who owns their (junior hockey playing) rights and what (those teams) tell them from a junior standpoint if they need more development before junior hockey.”

Another reason why Robichaud is excited to move to the U16 level is because that age group is when players start making their Division I college commitments.

The Prep Academy will take the place of the L/A Nordiques, who played in the North American 3 Hockey League. That team is owned by former Androscoggin Bank Colisee owner Jim Cain and has ceased operations. Cain sold the Colisee to Antonacci last month.

“The NA3HL fan support was outstanding and I think the fans who enjoyed watching that game will enjoy watching the younger kids,” Soltys said. “I think the biggest difference will be the level of skill, speed and pace of the game.”

Both teams will play around 65 games against Beast Series opponents and other midget teams across New England and the country.


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