Matt Pinchevsky, who became the Maine Nordiques head coach Monday, runs a Nordiques practice at The Colisee in Lewiston prior to the team going to Blaine, Minnesota, for the NAHL Showcase in September. Pinchevsky previously was the Nordiques’ associate head coach.  Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Sixteen games into the season, the Maine Nordiques have made a coaching change.

Nolan Howe was let go as the team’s head coach Monday, and Matt Pinchevsky, previously the associate head coach, is now the head coach.

“(Nordiques owner) Dr. (Darryl) Antonacci has relieved Nolan of his head coaching duties to spend more time with his family,” Maine general manager Eric Soltys said.

Howe declined to comment Tuesday.

Under Howe, who was named head coach in March 2019, the Nordiques went 41-59-6 in two-plus seasons. The team won the North American East Division title last season and went to the Robertson Cup semifinals, losing to the Shreveport Mudbugs.

Howe coached the ISS Kings — a youth hockey organization in Princeton, New Jersey — from 2012-2019. The Kings, also owned by Antonacci, were rebranded the Maine Nordiques Academy for the 2019-20 season and moved to Lewiston before the 2020-21 season.

This is the first head coaching change in the short history of the Maine Nordiques. The organization did let go Cam Robichaud go as the Maine Nordiques Academy’s 16U coach in October of 2020. Robichaud is now a co-owner and assistant coach with the Twin City Thunder.

The Nordiques started the 2021-22 season with a 5-3 record and then lost the next six games before winning 4-3 Friday night against the Maryland Black Bears. It was Maine’s first win since Oct. 2. The Nordiques have nine NCAA Division I commitments on the roster, which ties for second-most in the NAHL with East Division rival the Northeast Generals.

Nolan Howe was the first head coach of the Maine Nordiques of the NAHL. Submitted photo

Pinchevsky was behind the bench this past weekend for the road games against the Black Bears. The Nordiques also lost 3-2 Saturday night.

Soltys said that the tipping point for the organization was when Howe didn’t join the team for the two games in Maryland.

“(Howe) wasn’t in Maryland for the series; he was with his family, and ultimately that’s when it became to the point where the family situation became more important than the hockey situation, which makes sense,” Soltys said.

Howe, the grandson of Hockey Hall of Famer Gordie Howe and the son of Mark Howe, also missed games last season because of personal matters.

Pinchevsky has been with the Maine Nordiques since their beginning in 2019. He was an assistant coach in 2019 and was promoted to associate head coach last season.

He started his coaching career with the Florida Alliance youth organization from 2009-11 before moving to the Selects Academy in South Kent, Connecticut, from 2011-2014. He spent one season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pennsylvania) Knights’ Metropolitan Junior Hockey League team in (2014-15). He also coached the Portland Jr. Pirates 18U team in 2015-16 and with the Seacoast Performance Academy (Exeter, New Hampshire) organization from 2016-19.

Soltys coached Pinchevsky at Shattuck-St. Mary’s — the prep school in Fairbault, Minnesota, that has produced many NHL players, including Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Nathan MacKinnon and Yarmouth’s Oliver Wahlstrom — and they also worked together at the Selects Academy.

Pinchevsky graduated from Shattuck-St. Mary’s in 2000, played junior hockey with former St. Dom’s standout and former Thunder owner Ben Gray in 2002-2003 with the Bridgewater Bandits. Pinchevsky played at Curry College from 2003-06.

“Matt’s work ethic is second to none,” Soltys said. “The time he puts in with the boys on the ice, off the ice is hard to compare with many. He’s a players’ coach; he gives all to the players, and in return they will want to give all to him.

Pinchevsky said that despite his new title, not much has changed for him since he received the new title. He said he has been preparing for this weekend’s games like any other week. The Nordiques host the Black Bears on Friday and Saturday.

“We have a very intelligent and highly motivated owner who has a high standard for the organization,” Pinchevsky said. “He notified everybody through the proper channels of the switch. It was received by all, loud and clear. We just went back to work because the team matters the most. These (players) are playing junior hockey for the Nordiques (to play) at the collegiate level. We want to make sure that stays at the forefront. The players and community, that’s what junior hockey is.”

Pinchevsky said he wants to be a mentor for the players and be there for them after their junior hockey careers come to an end.

He said that he has enjoyed coaching the younger players this season — Maine has one 2004-birth year player and six born in 2003.

“Our young (players) got younger (this year), and it’s really exciting for the organization,” Pinchevsky said. “It’s really exciting for the community to watch a player grow and not necessarily be a player that’s one-and-done. We are really excited about the time frame we have with some of our players to achieve their goals. They are very talented.”

Pinchevsky said the team is learning, but the younger players are finding out what worked for them at a lower level may not have the same rate of success in the NAHL.

Soltys said that one important thing about the coaching change is now the players will be lead by a singular voice.

“I think the buy-in will be stronger from the one voice (the players) will be hearing,” Soltys said.


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