Tyler Healey of the Twin City Thunder backhands the puck while being defended by Tyler Ray of the Boston Advantage during a game at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn on March 9. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Twin City Thunder owner and National Collegiate Development team coach Dan Hodge said the team found a recipe for success for future seasons.

With a roster built around 18-to 19-year-olds, Twin City finished third in the NCDC North Division with a 24-18-6 record (wins, regulation losses, overtime/shootout losses) in the regular season. In the postseason, the third-seeded Thunder lost their best-of-three series first-round series to the Junior Bruins in three games.

Only five 20-year-old players were regularly in the Thunder’s lineup throughout season.

“You see that team, how they started in late August, early September; and how they finished up in late February and early March,” Hodge said. “You watch that process grow, and you saw guys like Trace Norwell and Tyler Healey, those younger guys that stepped up and players that we depended on, night-in, night out.”

Healey, a 19-year-old forward from Arther, Ontario, had 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists in 41 games), which tied for first on the team with 18-year-old forward Sam Stitz (15 goals and 21 assists in 47 games) of Perry Mall, Maryland.

“Once (Healey) hit his stride, he took a lot of hits, but he got back up, and he was a guy I was very impressed with, and a lot of schools noticed him,” Hodge said.

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Norwell tallied 32 points (13 goals and 19 assists in 48 games).

Twin City Thunder players celebrate a goal during game in Auburn on March 9. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Hodge said that Twin City befitted from its depth at forward. When one player or line had an off night, another player or line stepped up, including Nathan Chickering (17 goals and 17 assists in 47 games), who will play at the University of New England next year.

For the third straight season, the Thunder have at least one goalie moving on to college hockey, as two of their three primary goalies will play Division III next season.

“We have had pretty good luck in the first year with (Alexander) Kozic going to Bowdoin and last year, with Connor Leslie going to Amherst,” Hodge said.

Brody Haynes (9-6-1, 2.65 goals-against average, and a .925 save percentage) is off to Elmira College. Haynes started the season third on the depth chart but became the No. 1 goalie in the playoffs, starting two of the three games. Nick Bernstein (6-2-1, 3.04 GAA, and .906 save percentage) will be playing at Chatham University next year.

Dane Couture (9-9-1), 2.56 GAA, and a .917 save percentage) can return to the Thunder next season as a 20-year-old.

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LOOKING TOWARD NEXT SEASON

The Thunder are evaluating players who have signed tenders for the 2022-23 season. They’ll get a better look at those players at the upcoming United States Premier Hockey League pre-draft showcase in Foxboro, Massachusetts, from May 6-8.

The organization will have two teams playing in the event.

Hodge said the goal is to again have 18-and 19-year-olds as the team’s nucleus next year. Most players from last year’s NCDC team eligible to return won’t be taking part in the showcase. They will instead take time to rest and evaluate their options for next season.

“We are building a foundation and building around the pieces we have,” Hodge said. “Now (is the time of the year) you find out who believed in that and who was here for the year (last season). We are about 50-50 on (which) kids who want to come back. Some kids indicated they would like to go to school. Like defenseman Trenton Skaggs, he going to Fitchburg (State) (to play), he’s a 2002-born who wants to go to school, and other guys with (junior) eligibility are going to do other things. It’s one of those wait-and-see things.”

A pair or returning Thunder players who might participate in the showcase are Norwell and Lewiston native Dom Chasse, who had 14 goals and 20 assists in 43 regular-season games with the Thunder last season.

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Defenseman Ryan Hintz is a potential one-year-and-done Thunder player who still has junior hockey eligibility remaining. He joined the Thunder after being a late training camp cut of the Sioux City Muskateers of the United States Hockey League, the top junior hockey league in the country. Hintz had seven goals and 13 assists in 35 regular-season games for the Thunder.

The USHL is a Tier I junior hockey league under the USA Hockey umbrella. The North American Hockey League — home of the Maine Nordiques — is the lone Tier II junior league under USA Hockey. The USPHL governs itself and is not a part of USA Hockey at the junior hockey level. USPHL considers the NCDC a Tier II junior hockey league.

Hodge understands if a player, like Hintz, takes advantage of a USHL opportunity for the upcoming season.

“If you are looking at the USHL, you get moved on,” Hodge said. “Anything we think is considered an upward movement is great. Anything we consider a lateral move, it’s just a lateral move. If you go from Tier II to Tier II, you are making a lateral move. When it comes to upward movement, you want that. You want to promote kids to the USHL or move kids to college.”

The Thunder’s showcase teams will have some of the players who have signed tender contracts for the upcoming season. Some of those players taking part in the showcase include forwards Nolan Leonard of Braintree, Massachusetts; Pierce Blaeser of St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts; and defenseman Anthony Marra, who had two goals and 22 assists in 59 games for the Maine Nordiques Academy 18U team.

Twin City also signed defensemen Nik Fomradas of the Nipawin Hawks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, and Ryan Walsh of Carshield to tenders.

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Hodge sought out Marra and Formradas because of their offensive skills.

“This year, I want to be a little more offensive on the blue line and a little more point production on the back in,” Hodge said. “I think (Marra and Fotmards) will fit right in.”

Hodge said the Thunder have a few more tenders to offer after the showcase, which wraps up three days before the NCDC Entry Draft on May 11.

“We will talk to the players not committed yet (for next year), and we will talk to them to see where they are at,” Hodge said. “If a player (on our showcase teams) doesn’t necessarily fit in our plans that might fit another team’s plan, they are free to talk to them. If there’s a player that may not fit with another team, that I might think works with us, we will make sure to snatch him before the draft.”

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