The Maine Gladiators 18U team pose for a photo prior to a practice last week at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. The Gladiators are competing in USA Hockey’s Tier II 18U 2A national tournament, which begins later this week in Minnesota. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Unfinished business.

That’s the mantra for the Maine Gladiators 18U team is taking into this week’s USA Hockey’s Tier II 18U 2A national tournament in Maple Grove, Minnesota, beginning Thursday.

A number of this season’s players were a part of last year’s Gladiators 16U team, which lost 6-3 to the Ashburn Xtreme of Virginia in the USA Hockey 16U Tier II 2A national championship game.

“I want more this year,” forward Tanner Anctil said. “I think the whole team is driven more this year to go in and get it done this time.”

Coach Marc Frenette said winning nationals is something the coaching staff has had in mind since this group of players were playing at the bantam level.

“The vast majority of the kids have played club hockey for their whole life,” Frenette said. “We’ve always had this as the goal, to win nationals. We felt like we had the team to do it in 2020 — COVID cut that short. We didn’t make it in 2021, and we made it last year. We made it in 2019 as well — we made it to the semis. I think then, and Dennis (St. Hilaire) was the coach of that team, we always thought we can win this. We just need a few things to break our way.”


Some of the Gladiators have played this winter for top-ranked high school teams — such as Edward Little, Falmouth and Brunswick — whose state championship aspirations come up short this winter.

“We have another shot; we have a good team here,” defenseman Gavin Levesque of Edward Little said.

Maine Gladiators 18U coach Marc Frenette laces up his skates before a practice earlier this month at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. The Gladiators are competing in USA Hockey’s Tier II 18U 2A national tournament, which begins later this week in Minnesota. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Frenette and the players said they have realized that referees call the game differently at the national level, and it is something they need to adapt to. The Gladiators were called for 16 penalties in one game in last year’s tournament.

“From a perspective of a coach in New England, it’s one of those games where they are calling everything,” Frenette said. “I think that was a wake-up call for the kids here, and realizing, ‘OK, if we actually want to win nationals, we have to change our game, we have to play a puck-first game. We got to not be in the box.'”

The Gladiators, who play regular-season and state playoff games before the high school practices begin in late November, earned the national tournament berth by winning the Maine Amateur Hockey Association’s Tier II 18U state championship, defeating the Maine Jr. Black Bears, in early November. They went 17-1 in MEAHA games.

The Gladiators have Sun Journal’s All-Region Player of the Year and Travis Roy Award finalist Cassidy Campbell of Edward Little. Travis Roy Award semifinalists Miles Frenette of St. Dominic Academy and Owen Galligan of Lake Region/Fryeburg/Oxford Hills.


Other Lewiston-Auburn area high school players on the team are Gage Ducharme (Edward Little), Will Keach (Poland/Leavitt/Oak Hill/Gray-New Gloucester), Wesley Clements (2022 Edward Little graduate), Cody Dionne (Lewiston) and Luke Pomerleau (Lewiston).

The Maine Gladiators logo on the locker room door at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

There also are a handful of area players who played this season for North Yarmouth Academy, including Anctil, Nick Pelletier, Connor Wolverton, Cooper St. Hilaire and Daxton St. Hilaire.

The Gladiators also feature players from other parts of Maine, including Zachary Mitton (Falmouth), Zachary Stern-Hayes (Brunswick), Grey Perham (NYA), Alex Holmgren (NYA), Brian Connolly (Cheverus/Yarmouth) and Aidan Farion (NYA).

Farion, who is from Quebec, is the starting goalie and, according to Marc Frenette, has the ability to steal games.

Frenette said the depth of talent from the area high schools and prep schools makes the Gladiators a contender for the Tier II national tournament.

“We are so deep that it’s going to take all of us, but we have an outstanding first line with Brian Connolly, Daxton St. Hilaire and Nick Pelletier,” Frenette said. “They will be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, line at the national tournament. We expect goals from them.”


Connolly played tallied 11 goals and eight assists in 18 games this past season for Cheverus/Yarmouth. Daxton St. Hilaire led NYA with 13 goals and 26 assists, while Pelletier had 11 goals and 13 assists.

Daxton St. Hilaire wasn’t a part of the 16U team in 2022, but he played for the Hallowell-based Maine Moose 18U team that played in the USA Hockey 18U Tier II 2A national tournament, which lost in the quarterfinals.

Based on his experience in last year’s 18U tournament, Daxton St. Hilaire said the Gladiators’ depth may give other teams issues.

“Once we get there, we will understand quickly how we can use four lines to hurt other teams,” Daxton St. Hilaire said.

The Gladiators open up play Thursday against the Anchorage North Stars of Alaska. Maine also will face teams from Maryland (Montgomery Ice Devils) and Florida (Clearwater Ice Storm) in pool play, which concludes on Saturday. If the Gladiators finish in the top four in pool play (there are six teams per pool), they advance to Sunday’s quarterfinals. The semifinals are also on Sunday, and the championship game is Monday.

This is the final tournament many of the Gladiators players will play together.

“It’s something we are going to cherish going into this tournament,” Daxton St. Hilaire said.

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