LEWISTON — The players squeezed every minute out of the Maine Nordiques’ training camp.

And then some.

In the final scrimmage of the camp Friday morning at The Colisee, Team Red defeated Team Blue 5-4 in overtime. Shootout goals by Red’s Zion Green and Tristan Fasig clinched the win.

“We continue to have more competitive camps each year,” Nordiques coach Nolan Howe said. “Every year, (these camps) have gotten deeper (in talent level). It was a good camp, and I think we will be a deep hockey team.”

Zach Whitehead and Liam Walsh each scored to give Team Red a 2-0 lead in the first period. Tristan Thibeault made the lead 3-0 with a goal midway through the second period.

Blue’s Caden Pattison, Tyler Gaulin and Jack Kurrle each scored a goal to tie the score at 3-3 before the end of the second period.

Tristan Rand scored early in the third period to give Team Blue its first lead, 4-3, but Red’s Jonny Meiers later tied the game at 4-4.

“There was a lot of talent on the ice, a lot of guys working really hard trying to make the hockey club,” Howe said. “They put out a tremendous effort (this week).”

The Nordiques had 40 players attend camp. They have to cut their roster to 25 players by Sept. 1.

One position with a lot of holes to fill is defense. Matt Connor is the only defenseman in the camp who had regular playing time with the Nordiques last season.

The team lost Luke Antonacci, an 18-year-old who committed to play for the University of Maine last month, who earned a spot on the Sioux City Musketeers of the Tier I United States Hockey League. Andrew Noel left the Nordiques and has signed with the Nanaimo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League, which is a Junior “A” league in Canada. Two other Nords defensemen, James Philpott and Cooper Swift, aged out of junior hockey.

Also, tender signee Easton Zueger will start the season with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL.

“There are some interesting pieces back there, I think we will be deep,” Howe said. ” We certainly lost a lot on (defense) and finding replacements is going to be a process and an ongoing one. We really like the eight we will keep in town.”

THIBEAULT BACK AT CAMP

Tristan Thibeault took part in his third Maine Nordiques training camp this week. He made the 2019-20 team but was a training camp cut last year.

Tristan Thibeault of the Maine Nordiques skates Friday during a training camp scrimmage in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Thibeault spent the first half of the 2020-21 season training in his hometown of Brentwood, New Hampshire.

“Last training camp, when I got cut from here, I didn’t really know myself as a player,” Thibeault said. “It took me some time to reevaluate and work on my strengths. I am a fast, strong power forward and that’s the type of game I will play here (if I make the team).”

In February, he joined the Twin City Thunder of the USPHL’s National Collegiate Development Conference.

“I was skating one day and I got a call from (Thunder assistant coach) Cam Robichaud and he telling me he had an open spot if I wanted to come down to Florida with them,” Thibeault said. “Playing for Cam previously, I know he’s a great coach and a great guy. It was a no-brainer to play for him in Florida.”

Robichaud was the Nordiques associate head coach in 2019-20 and then the Maine Nordiques Academy 16U coach for part of 2020. He joined the Thunder soon after he was let go by the Nordiques in October.

Thibeault scored a goal in six regular season games for Twin City. He also played in five playoffs games and recorded an assist as the Thunder advanced to the NCDC semifinals before losing to the Jersey Hitmen.

This offseason, Thibeault contacted the Nordiques organization and was invited to participate in another training camp.

“We wanted to provide him with another opportunity, and he contacted us late in the process,” Howe said. “We never cut ties with anybody.”

Howe said he liked Thibeault’s effort during this week’s camp.

WHITEHEAD GLAD TO BE IN LEWISTON

Zach Whitehead is excited to be back in Maine. He is the son of Tim Whitehead, who coached the University of Maine Black Bears from 2001-13.

Zach Whitehead, the son of former University of Maine coach Tim Whitehead, skates Friday during the Maine Nordiques’ training camp at The Colisee in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Zach Whitehead’s former Kimball Union (Meredith, New Hampshire) teammates helped sell him on signing a tender with the Maine Nordiques earlier this year.

“I came here in the spring and I met Coach (Matt) Pinchevsky and Coach Howe, and I really liked the team culture and the energy,” Whitehead said. “I was able to come (to) a practice and watched the boys buzz around the rink. A couple of my former teammates (Andrew Noel and Donte Pierre) were here last year and they said good things to say. It was an easy choice.”

Zach Whitehead played for his dad at Kimball Union from 2017-20. Tim Whitehead has led the program since 2013.

“It was great; he’s a great coach and he has a lot of respect,” Zach Whitehead said. “It was fun, being father and son, to play (for) him and learn from him. There would be some awkward moments at the house and the dinner table, but it was a great time (playing for him).”

Last year, Zach Whitehead played in Sweden for IF Sundsvall Hockey J20, scoring three goals and adding three assists in seven games.

He said enjoyed his time being around the University of Maine hockey program during his dad’s coaching tenure.

“I had a great childhood. I got to spend every day in the rink and being around the (University of) Maine (players), giving them fist-bumps before the games,” Zach Whitehead said. “Just getting to know (the team) was really cool. I loved being in the Alfond, it’s the greatest barn in college hockey”

FORMER NORDS COMMIT

Recently, four players from last year’s Nordiques team announced they will be playing Division III college hockey this season.

Defenseman James Philpott will be suiting up for Hamilton College, which is a member of the NESCAC. He had six goals and 21 assists in 52 regular season games for the Nordiques last year.

Defenseman Cooper Swift (four goals and 20 assists in the regular season) will be playing at Hobart College. Hobart, located in Geneva, New York. belongs to the New England Hockey Conference.

Both Philpott and Swift were cornerstones of the Nordiques’ defense last year.

“We are extremely proud of them and (they) were a part of our success last season,” Howe said. “It was a crazy year with COVID and a lot of different transfers in college hockey; we finally found homes for them. They are Division I-caliber defensemen who found good homes in Division III.”

Forward Ty Matthews, meanwhile, will play for the University of Massachusetts-Boston, also of the New England Hockey Conference. Matthews scored two goals and set up three others in 21 regular season games last season in a utility role for the Nordiques.

“The guys out of the lineup could contribute (when they got in the lineup) and they were great players for us,” Howe said.

Finally, forward Cannon Green (11 goals and 24 assists in 35 regular season games and three playoff goals last year) is heading to the State University of New New York-Geneseo. The Knights play in the State University of New York Athletic Conference.

“He’s such a workhorse, he’s such a great young man, and comes from a great family, with his younger brother Zion now being a part of the process (with us),” Howe said. “I can’t say enough of Cannon, his leadership, his work ethic, and we are going to miss him.”


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