AUBURN — With no goalies currently on the 2022-23 NCDC team roster, the Twin City Thunder are taking a long look at the position this weekend.

The organization is hosting a goalie-specific three-day camp involving 16 goalies ages 16 to 20 at Norway Savings Bank Arena. For the past couple of years, they hosted a one-day camp before the start of main camp in August.

“It gives the goalies more of an opportunity to show what they got, instead of jamming it into a couple of days before camp and you bring in 40 goalies, then you got to cut (a lot of goalies) — it doesn’t seem fair,” Twin City Thunder co-owner and coach Dan Hodge said. “This camp here is goalies only and (we have) some shooters. We get to see what (the goalies) can do.”

The Thunder coaching staff will invite six goalies to NCDC main camp, which runs August 18-21. In each of the first three seasons of the NCDC team, the Thunder have found a free agent invitee goaltender at main camp that made the roster. All the goalies attending this weekend are free agents at the Tier II junior hockey level.

Ben Walsh, an 18-year-old from Auburn, Massachusetts, who participated in the first day of the goalie camp Friday, has been to a similar goalie camp with a junior hockey team.

“They are a good way to get a look at the goalies, apart from the (skaters),” Walsh said. “You can get a good feel for the goalie’s skills before main camp, where there are more games played and tougher to differentiate each guy.”


Walsh played last season with the Fredericton (New Brunswick) Red Wings of the Maritime Hockey League. The Red Wings’ general manager is former Lewiston Maineiacs general manager Roger Shannon.

Main camps and summer showcases — the Thunder organization took part in the USPHL Summer Showcase last weekend in Marlborough, Massachusetts — aren’t normally conducive for goalies.

Jeff Dreger, the only goalie at this weekend’s camp who competed last weekend for the Thunder at the USPHL Summer Showcase, said you have to go with the flow in that environment.

“You have to take whatever punches you get,” Dreger said. “You can luck out and have a really good group of guys like I did, or not. It really depends, and you have to roll with whatever happens. It’s not really a situation where the eyes are on you, but you have to be solid in the moments you have to be solid.”

The Manhattan Beach, California, native, who played for the Maine Moose 18U team in Hallowell last season, participated in a goalie-specific junior hockey camp a few years back with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League.

Dreger said he finds these camps to be good learning experiences.


“There were 20 guys out there (at the Omaha camp), but we got four, five days of straight goalie work,” Dreger said. “It was fantastic for my game, and I learned a ton just watching the guys. Just like here, I watched the other goaltenders, and they are all very capable themselves on what they do well.”


For those that follow high school hockey in Maine, one of the two goalies from the Pine Tree State might sound familiar; the other is a name some fans might not have heard before, but he is giving junior hockey a shot.

The first name is Gage Tarbox-Belanger, who helped lead Thornton Academy to the Class A state championship game before losing to Scarborough. The other is Cole Freeman, the backup for Class B North champion Camden Hills.

Freeman, a senior in 2021-22, only got in three games all last season, since starter Jackson Bernier got most of the starts for the Windjammers. Freeman only started one of those games, a 5-2 win over the Capital Region Hawks on February 19, making nine saves.

“I heard about (the camp) from my boss at the Samoset (Resort in Rockland) and I figured I’d try out if I saved up the money,” Freeman said. “It’s been really fun.”


Before last season, Freeman was farther down on the Windjammers’ goalie depth chart; he was anywhere between the third to fifth option, he stated.

Freeman, a valet at the Samoset, said his family doesn’t have much money, so he saved up the $250 to attend the camp.

“I’d been nervous the past couple of days, thinking about how good these guys are going to be. NHL-caliber shots, every single one is going to go in,” Freeman said. “I think I did well today; I hope I can do better tomorrow because I haven’t had much ice time the past six months.”

Freeman is unsure what his hockey future will hold after this weekend.

Tarbox-Belanger is using this camp to prepare for the upcoming season with the Maine Moose 18U team.

He said his senior season, in which he compiled a 14-6 record, 1.59 goals-against average and .942 save percentage, helped him pursue hockey after high school.

“It helped a lot because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue,” Tarbox-Belanger said. “After a good high school season, I decided I still wanted to play.”

Tarbox-Belanger said he’s looking to play junior hockey in 2023-24.

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