Maine Moose owner Ben Gray checked off another thing on the Maine Moose to-do list.

This week the organization announced it has received Tier I status from USA Hockey at the 18U, 16U and 14U levels. The Moose will only operate a Tier I team at the 18U level for the upcoming season. It will be a full season team playing out of the Camden Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell.

“We have had big plans for the Moose and you set goals, you set visions,” said Gray, who also co-owns the Twin City Thunder. “Tier I was always on the things to do and it was on the check list, but it was further down on the list. It’s a big day for Maine hockey for a couple of programs to have Tier I teams.”

The other program in the state to have Tier I status is the Maine Nordiques Prep Academy, which will operate a U18 and U16 teams.

Both programs worked together to get the top status of midget hockey under the USA Hockey umbrella.

“Actually, the Nordiques called and came to me when we were going through the process. We actually worked together,” Gray said. “We worked together for about five months to get everything together to get Tier I status to USA Hockey and (the Maine Amateur Hockey Association). Behind the scenes, no one really knew this. We were both working together to make this all happen…We worked really closely with (Nordiques’ organizational general manager) Eric Soltys and (U16 coach) Cam Robichaud of the Nordiques to get everything going.”

The Maine Moose will also absorb the Twin City Lightning 18U team and will compete in the United States Premier Hockey League’s 18U Division. It will be an affiliate of the Thunder program.

Last season, the Lightning went 22-4-2, with 46 points to finish first in the American Division.

“With the Moose being an affiliate of the Thunder and the Lightning pretty much playing out of Camden Bank Ice Vault  and Kents Hill, I think it just made more sense to put it back under the Moose (program) because we still have our Tier II teams and Tier III teams,” Gray said. “To put the Tier I team under the Moose program, the Moose have been around and they have built a strong brand and strong name.”

The Moose will play other non-USPHL midget teams such as the Nordiques U18 team and prep schools in New England and in Canada. The roster will be made up of kids from all over North America. They will play out of the Ice Vault.

“We are going to have some local flavor, but we will have kids coming from the US and Canada as well as all over,” Gray said. “Obviously it will be great to be able to develop kids right at home and have a team made up all Tier I caliber kids from Maine, but we aren’t there yet to put a competitive team in Tier I (a roster of Maine kids), so we have to bring kids from all over.”

Last year the Lightning had local players such as Dom Chasse of Lewiston, Ben Lane-Robichaud of Mechanic Falls, Nate Marcotte of Sabattus and Gage Doucette of Auburn.

THUNDER SIGN MULTI-SPORT ATHLETE

Twin City Thunder co-owner and coach Dan Hodge expects Nate Chickering to have a bounce-back season as the forward transitions from prep hockey to junior hockey as Chickering signed a National Collegiate Development Conference tender.

The 19-year-old had seven goals and 11 assists in 25 games with Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire as Chickering was battling an injury for most of the season. In the 2018-19 he had eight goals and 15 assists in 31 games.

At 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, Chickering is the prototypical size forward.

“He battled a shoulder injury (this past) year,” Hodge said. “He came on at the end of the year for Proctor. He scored a bulk of his points at the end of the year. He’s a guy that’s going to keep getting better. I had a good talk with the coach, Mike Walsh and he gave (Nate) a really good review and he’s a guy that we will count on for sure.”

Chickering shoulder injury happened during the soccer season and he didn’t have not much time to recover between seasons.

“He’s a real good skater,” Hodge said. “He’s a great athlete. People didn’t realize he’s a two-sport athlete at Proctor. Part of the reason why he had an issue with his shoulder, he was playing soccer, basically played every minute of every game for the soccer team. He didn’t have a lot of time to recover from the injuries. His body got a little bit tired. He’s a guy that will come in and be a great leader. He will do a lot of good things for us.”

Hodge said most prep schools require kids to play multiple sports but Hodge likes kids who can play multiple sports.

“Athlete is an athlete, right?,” Hodge said. “You want to find kids that are athletic, that have drive and have the ability to perform at a high-level in whatever sport it is, whether it’s in the classroom or whether it’s on the field.”

BEAST SERIES GOING WITH A FULL SEASON SCHEDULE

The BEAST Tournament Series, the league the Maine Nordiques Prep Academy will be a part of, will also have a full-season tournament series for their 18U, 16U, and 15U levels, competing against top competition throughout the months of December, January, and February.

The new showcase series will include two regular season showcases (one in December and one in January), along with the BEAST Playoffs in February. The full-season teams will continue to compete in the fall split-season showcase series, and will then join back together to close out the regular season throughout the winter.

The fall split-season schedule is for midget teams who primarily use prep school players and play their games prior to the prep school season.

In the coming weeks, the BEAST Series will announce full season and split season divisions.

NEW HAMPSHIRE SIGNS TWO MAINERS TO NCDC TENDERS

So far this offseason the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs have inked two Maine kids for the 2020-21 season.

On Tuesday, the Monarchs signed Falmouth native Alex Ramsay. The 18-year-old goalie has spent the past three seasons with Berick Academy and last season the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Ramsey had a 3.74 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage.

Earlier this offseason, Scarborough native Zander Lizotte signed with the Monarchs. The 5-foot-10, 174-pound defender had six goals and six assists in 35 games with The Gunnery, a prep school in Washington, Connecticut.


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