Reese Farrell of the Maine Nordiques reverses course during a game against the Johnstown Tomahawks in Lewiston during the 2020-21 season.  Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The Maine Nordiques’ strength coming into the 2021-22 North American Hockey League season is depth at forward.

When training camp opens up at The Colisee on Monday, the team has four forwards with Division I commitments in Tyler Gaulin (University of Maine), Aidan Connolly (Sacred Heart University), Ignat Belov (University of Connecticut) and Auburn native Reese Farrell (Army).

Gaulin is the team’s leading returning scorer with 10 goals and 25 assists in 55 games during the regular season.

Head coach Nolan Howe will be looking to those players, along with three-year veteran Caden Pattison and second-year forward Tristan Fasig, who are both without college commitments heading into their final year of junior hockey.

“They have some great experience from last year in a deep playoff run,” Howe said. “They certainly learned what it took in our locker room with our culture, the way they go about their business in practice with older (players). They really take a lot of pride being Nordiques.”

The team loses Stefan Owens, Isaiah Fox and Cannon Green — the team’s top three scorers from last year.

One thing Farrell is looking forward to Monday is seeing all the returning players.

“I think honestly it’s just being back with the group of guys and kind of being a part of the family again, the Nordiques family,” Farrell said. “There’s just great people all the way around.”

Tyler Gaulin (8) of the Maine Nordiques passes the puck while being defended by Zach Stoner of the Johnstown Tomahawks in Lewiston during the 2020-21 season. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The Nordiques went 35-19-2 (72 points) in the regular season and reached the Robertson Cup semifinals before losing to the eventual champion Shreveport Mudbugs in June.

Coming up just short has kept Gaulin motivated for the upcoming season.

“We still feel like we have something to prove,” Gaulin said in July. “We are satisfied making it to the semifinals, but we aren’t satisfied with the end result. That’s getting us ready to go for the next season.”

It was a short offseason for Farrell, who worked at the Navrat Performance hockey camp in Falmouth this summer.

“Obviously we did very well last year. Basically as I got back (from the Robertson Cup in Blaine, Minnesota) I maybe had a couple of days off and then already back hitting the ice,” Farrell said. “…The whole summer flew by and it almost feels the seasons are back-to-back.”

Gaulin has been skating and working out regularly while hitting the golf links during his down time.

Another third-year player returning for the 2021-22 season is goaltender Avery Sturtz. Maine will use his experience with goalie Connor Androlewicz (who’s now with the University of Maine) in 2019-20 and Tyriq Outen last season, and he will enter training camp as the team’s primary goalie, with Army commit Ansel “Gus” Holt coming in from the Maine Nordiques Academy 18U team.

Howe has seen Sturtz’s confidence grow over the past two years.

“I think he took a big step in the maturation process and I think playing with Ty (helped) a lot,” Howe said. “I think they helped push each other and Avery is the type of kid who holds himself accountable and goes about his business. He took a big jump from year one to year two. I think he will be able to make that jump again and we will have one of the most solid goaltenders in the league in our net.”

Sturtz went 12-9-1 with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. Holt played in the team’s final regular-season game, defeating the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks 3-2 in overtime.

There will be some turnover on the defense, with the team using six different 2000-born players throughout the season and they have all aged out of junior hockey.

Luke Antonacci, an 18-year-old who committed to the Black Bears in July, has made the Sioux City Musketeers of the Tier I United States Hockey League. Tender Easton Zueger will start the season with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL. Andrew Noel signed with the Nanaimo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League, which is a Junior “A” league in Canada.

There will be 40 players at training camp, which runs through the week, and the team has to get down to 25 players by Sept. 1.


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