Lewiston native Sam Frechette signed a tender with the Maine Nordiques this offseason after spending the past three seasons playing for the L/A Nordiques. Frechette will take part in the Nordiques’ main camp this week. Ron Morin photo

Players and coaches are ready to get back on the ice.

Starting Tuesday, the Maine Nordiques will have the first look at most of the players who will make up their 2020-21 roster at their main camp, which runs through Friday. The camp is closed to the public because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“The goal, first and foremost, is to make sure we have a safe environment and a super competitive environment,” Maine Nordiques head coach Nolan Howe said. “Myself, personally, I am excited to see some of the players and get to meet some guys, whether it’s tenders or draft picks, that we might have not met in person yet, and some of our free agents — get a chance to get back to normal a little bit and watch some hockey.

“I think everybody is excited to get to participate in the sport that we love.”

Lewiston native Sam Frechette, who was one of the Nordiques’ 10 tender signees this offseason, is also excited to get back on the ice. The pandemic cut his 2019-20 season short, as he was mostly with the L/A Nordiques of the North American 3 Hockey League and the team was about to start the playoffs before the remainder of the season was canceled.

Frechette didn’t step onto the ice for three months, which he said hasn’t happened before.

“Never, I think,” Frechette said with a chuckle. “I think it was 5 or 6 (years old) when I first started playing hockey.”

Frechette was able to get back on the ice in June and started to work with Nordiques Prep Academy U16 coach Cam Robichaud, who has a hockey training facility called PucDevelopment. The biggest thing, Frechette said, was regaining his physical conditioning.

“I went three full months without putting on my skates, and it was bad, it was like learning how to do everything over again,” Frechette said. “Even putting on my skates, my feet started to hurt because I wasn’t used to it. I was definitely out of hockey shape, for sure.”

Saint Dominic Academy’s Reese Farrell, left, ties up a Lewiston player in the corner during a game in 2016 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Farrell is taking part in the Maine Nordiques main camp this week. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Also joining Frechette in working out with Robichaud was Auburn native and former Saint Dominic Academy standout Reese Farrell, who the Nordiques selected in the North American Hockey League’s supplemental draft in May. Farrell started skating in late June and hadn’t been on the ice since late February when his prep season at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, Massachusetts, came to an end.

The Nordiques’ main camp will feature about 100 players, including returning players, tender signees, drafted players and Maine Nordiques Prep Academy players. The players will be split into five teams.

Howe is looking forward to seeing what kind of depth the organization has during the camp.

“I honestly can’t wait to see these kids compete against each other,” Howe said. “I feel we have tremendous team depth and there’s really some fierce competition at every position within our organization, even with making the team, your roles and responsibilities there (on the team). We are excited to see guys come back and see guys as leaders and the gains they had in their offseason training.”

Frechette attended main camp and played in seven games for the Maine Nordiques last year. This is Farrell’s first camp, but has had experience at similar camps at showcase tournaments. He said watching NAHL games last year has given him an idea of what to expect this week.

“I have been around the Nordiques since they started last year,” Farrell said. “Luckily, when I come home from school on breaks, I get to go and watch them. I liked that, it got me into the league very early. I liked watching it because I noticed the league was fast and there’s a lot of physicality.”

Howe said most of the players on last year’s roster who haven’t aged out or are planning to play college hockey this year and have junior hockey eligibility remaining, such as defenseman Andrius Kulbis-Marino, will be at the camp. Among the exceptions are European players like defenseman Casper Soderling and forward Filip Löfdahl of Sweden and forward Ignat Belov of Belarus, who haven’t flown to North America yet.

Frechette said he knows what is expected him, and he hopes that working this summer on his shot and being a 200-foot player will earn him a spot on the team.

“All the coaches have been seeing me for quite a long time and they know how I play,” Frechette said. “I have to show them I can do it better, and new stuff that I have learned. It shows them I am able to keep on learning and keep growing as a student of the game.”

Farrell has been working on his skating, and after receiving some feedback he’s learning to shoot more and be less of a pass-first player like he was at the prep hockey level. Changing his mentality has been a process.

“It’s hard, you almost have to slow it down and talk to yourself while you are out there to break habits,” Farrell said. “It’s never a bad thing to think pass first but there’s always a time and a place for that. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment to come a shoot-first type of guy.”


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