LEWISTON — Forwards Ignat Belov and Caden Pattison and goalie Avery Sturtz are grateful for the time they’ve spent playing for the Maine Nordiques.

The trio are the only players on the 2021-22 roster who have played for the Nordiques in all three seasons of the franchise’s existence. Their junior hockey careers come to an end Sunday, as they will be aging out as 2001-born players.

“The three years have been an eye-opening experience for me, moving away from parents to across the country,” said Pattison, who is from Lake Stevens, Washington. “I am glad I was put in a great organization, great spot, made some unreal memories, great friendships, great coaches, an owner (Darry Antonacci) doing great (stuff for us). I can’t be thankful enough.”

Belov will remember most the road trips, hanging out with teammates and, especially, the relationships he has made during his three seasons in Lewiston.

“A couple of trips to Minnesota — showcases at the beginning of the season and our trip last year for (the Robertson Cup) — and definitely fun times at Mr. Antonacci’s house (in Maine),” Belov, who is from Minsk, Belarus, said. “Honestly, the relationships and the friends that I have made here, the friends I have made here over the years, I am going to miss that a lot.”

Nordiques coach Matt Pinchevsky said Belov, Pattison and Sturtz will be hard to replace because of what they’ve brought to the team on and off the ice.


“I think everybody understands it’s going to be a different environment and culture without those guys,” Pinchevsky said. “It’s our job that they continue to live in our culture through certain things they said, things that they did, and making examples of the impact that they had here.”

Each player took a different route to the Nordiques and the North American Hockey League.

Pattison was one of the first players to sign with the organization in 2019. He plays a physical brand of hockey and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves and fight.

He made his presence known the first time he wore a Nordiques jersey.

“I got in a fight at the pre-draft camp, and in the first game, I got into one,” Pattison said. “That helped me stick (with the team), and after (making the team), I got a little more confident in myself, putting up a little more points each year. It has been a wild ride.”

Heading into Wednesday’s road game against the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks, Pattison has 362 career penalty minutes, which, unsurprisingly, ranks first in team history. He also has scored 10 goals and dished out 26 assists in 131 career games.


Pinchevsky said the fans love the way Pattison plays.

“It’s funny, as the game evolves and is trying to eliminate certain aspects of itself, as Caden works hard to evolve with it, he has some old-school in him,” Pinchevsky said. “I am very happy he was able to preserve that aspect of the game. I know our fans are happy he preserves that aspect of the game. He’s just able and willing to do whatever it takes.”

Sturtz, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, came to the Nordiques after playing well at the camp of his hometown team, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League, in the summer of 2019.

Pinchevesky’s college teammate Kevin Brooks, who lives in Cedar Rapids and used to coach with the RoughRiders, helped connect Sturtz with Pinchevsky, then a Nordiques assistant. Sturtz came to Maine and made the Nordiques out of training camp.

Sturtz said he’s glad he spent all three seasons in Lewiston with the Nordiques.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Sturtz said. “I was hoping to have a good year that first year and maybe get a (shot) at the USHL next year (in 2020-21), but the way things worked out, playing all three years in the same place is pretty special, not everybody gets to do that. I am very fortunate on how it worked out.”


Sturtz has the distinction of recording the first shutout in team history, making 38 saves in a 4-0 win over the Wilkes/Barre Scranton Knights on Nov. 27, 2019. He said that game will always stand out for him when he thinks back on his time with the Nordiques.

With two games remaining, Sturtz’s career record is 32-40-6, and he has a 3.58 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.

Belov’s path to the Nordiques also went through Iowa. He joined the team as an in-season addition in late December 2019 after playing for the Sioux City Muskateers of the USHL.

Belov doesn’t view his move from the USHL — the United States’ only Tier I junior league — to the Tier II North American Hockey League as a demotion. He said playing for the Nordiques made him a more complete hockey player.

“After three years in Maine, I am finally a 200-foot hockey player that everybody is wanting me to become,” Belov said. “A huge shoutout and a huge thank you to coach Pinch and coach Kyle (Warren) for working with me individually and (with) the team.”

Belov has 27 goals and 31 assists in 108 career games with Maine.


All three players said they will miss the passion the Nordiques fans brought to The Colisee.

“The fans have been great all three years,” Pattison said. “Even last year, when there were a lot of games, we weren’t able to have people in the building, there would be fans that I would be texting and wishing us the best of luck on the weekends, saying, ‘Good job.’ Without them, it wouldn’t be the same atmosphere. I couldn’t be more thankful, as well. They are always rooting for us, win or lose.”

The trio said this past weekend was emotional as the Nordiques hosted the Johnstown Tomahawks for the final two home games of the season, and of their careers, at The Colisee. Maine won 8-3 on Friday and lost 6-4 on Saturday.

“Friday night, especially for me, I kind of knew going in, it was my last (start at home), and going down 3-1, that wasn’t the ideal start,” Sturtz said. “I knew I wanted to get off the ice Friday night feeling good and feeling OK how I left (everything on the ice). Obviously, Saturday, we would have loved to win that as well.

“All my brothers that I have been with for a year, two years or three years — that are also (2001-born players) — felt it on Saturday leaving the ice. I felt it more Friday because I knew I wasn’t going to play Saturday. I didn’t how it would feel, but stepping off the ice was really tough.”

Sturtz, Belov and Pattison don’t yet have concrete plans for where they will play college hockey next season, but they hope to finalize those decisions in the next few weeks.

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