For the first time since Halloween, the Maine Nordiques took the ice at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee as they defeated the Johnstown Tomahawks 6-2 in a North American Hockey League contest Thursday night.

The last time the Nordiques had been on the ice was on Nov. 12, when they lost 3-2 on the road against the Northeast Generals.

Thursday’s game was also the first home game for the Nordiques since Maine Department Health and Human Services said on Nov. 6 that club sports should shut down until Dec. 7. DHHS considers junior hockey a club sport.

The game was played with just essential personnel (players, coaches, on and off ice officials) in attendance. At previous home games, the team had dine-and-watch options with a limited amount of fans.

“We understand and embrace the rules and we follow them really strictly,” Nordiques head coach Nolan Howe said. “The most important thing is safety for our players, our community, and for the state of Maine. We are doing everything in our power to make sure everyone is safe and healthy. Unfortunately we don’t get to play in front of the great Nordiques Nation. Players don’t get to play in front of their families, their billet families and we don’t get the youth players running around. So they are certainly missed.”

Maine had three home games with the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks and two home games with the Maryland Black Bears in the month of November that were postponed.

Howe is glad to get back on the ice.

“…At the end of the day, we want to compete and we want to provide these guys with opportunities to reach collegiate hockey and quite frankly, if they said we had to play outside and play street hockey, we would do that too,” Howe added.

Defenseman Casper Soderling, who made his 2020-21 season debut, as he had been home in Sweden since the start of the season because he couldn’t get over to the United States due to travel restrictions because of the pandemic, scored twice for the Nordiques. Four other players had a goal each, with Makem Demers, Luke Antonacci and Aidan Connolly also scoring their first goals of the season.

“It was a great night of firsts, right?” Howe said. “You don’t have a lot of those 11 games into the season, but getting Makem Demers back, he scored his first goal in his first game of the season. Casper Soderling Filip Lofdal — our two Swedish players — were back and Casper scoring as well, obviously his first of the season. Antonacci getting his first of the season and (Connolly).”

With just under five minutes remaining in the first period, Demers, who has been out nearly a year with an injury, scored on the power play. Cannon Green had the assist.

Demers just got clearance after practicing the past month.

“It was a long process for him to come back, a lot of rehab and a lot of time in the second half of last season watching,” Howe said. “He has been working his tail off in practice the past couple of months, so to have him back in the lineup was a huge boost for us.”

Maine carried the momentum of the late first-period goal into the second period when Antonacci scored in the opening minute of the middle frame.

The Nordiques lead was stretched to 3-0 late in the second period when Connolly — a Sacred Heart recruit — found the back of the net. The assists went to Connor Wood and Jared Crespo.

Holt Oliphant put the Tomahawks on the board early in the third period to cut the deficit to 3-1. Max Neil had the lone assist.

Tristan Fasig scored a shorthanded goal for the Nordiques midway through the third period. Nearly two minutes after Fasig’s goal, Soderling scored his first goal of the game, with Auburn native Reese Ferrell notching the assist.

John Gelatt added Johnstown’s second goal late in the third period, with Jay Ahern notching the assist.

Soderling added his second goal of the contest with one second remaining in the game on the man advantage. Maine commit Tyler Gaulin and Cooper Swift had the helpers on the power-play tally.

Both Canadians, Isaiah Fox and James Philipott, were not in the lineup. When asked if they had to quarantine because they went home for Thanksgiving break, Howe had no comment.

The teams meet again Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. at the Colisee.


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