Maine Nordiques coach Nick Skerlick wants to find the winning formula for the 2024-25 season after losing the North American East Hockey East Division Final to the Maryland Black Bears for the second straight season.

Even after going 37-17-6 and scoring an NAHL-leading 236 goals during the regular season to lead the 32-team league, just lighting the lamp won’t cut it.

“We need to get more physical to compete with Maryland,” Skerlick said. “I think we broke a Nordiques record for 16 fights, but that’s not the physicality that’s going to win you championships. It’s going to be like how the Vegas (Golden) Knights play and how the Maryland Black Bears play. … We want to win a championship, and you have to sacrifice some offense and implement defense.”

Maine Nordiques defenseman John Paul Steele, middle, is surrounded by Rochester players as he tries to carry the puck up the ice during the first period of an April 19 playoff game at The Colisee in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Skerlick said the goal next season is for the players to have the same buy-in from the beginning of the season in September to April and May in the playoffs.

“It’s something (assistant) coach (Ryan) Shelley and I are going to be all over early in the season, is when some of these kids commit, is going to make sure that buy-in is going to still (be there),” Skerlick said. “It’s going to be like, ‘Hey, you met your individual goal, but let’s meet the team goal, too, and that’s bringing a Robertson Cup back to Lewiston, Maine.'”

Skerlick pointed out that for players, junior hockey is about getting into college hockey, similar to how the American Hockey League is about getting players into the NHL, and winning a championship is a bonus.


Maine has 14 players who have aged out, with Jake Bernadet (St. Lawrence), Nick Bernardo (Long Island University), Nils Forselius (Army), Thomas Heaney (University of Connecticut), David Helledy (Bentley University), Cole Hipkin (St. Lawrence), Matt Lewis (Connecticut College), Evan Orloff (St. Lawrence), Ryan Panico (Trinity College), Nick Ramm (Wentworth), John Paul Steele (University of Alaska-Anchorage) and Charles Tardif (Sacred Heart) playing college hockey next year. Alexander Park and Liam Gilmartin no longer have junior hockey eligibility.

Skerlick said the team will return eight or nine players next season, which is the league average, including Shane Kozlina, the sixth-leading scorer with 13 goals and 26 assists. Zion Green, a Northern Michigan commit who rejoined the team in February after spending time in the USHL and BCHL during the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons following playing for the Nordiques in 2021-22, is returning after having five goals and 10 assists in 15 games. Forwards Laurent Trepanier and Tomek Haula and defenseman Luke Chappelle will be back.

Maine Nordiques forward Laurent Trepanier and Rochester’s Tyler Procious battle for position in front of the net as the puck sails over the shoulder of Rochester goalie Wade Florian during the first period of an April 19 playoff game at The Colisee in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Goaltender Carter Richardson, who started all 10 playoff games, was one of two Maine Nordiques drafted in last week’s USHL Phase II draft when he went in the 12th round to the Waterloo Blackhawks.

Skerlick expects Richardson to be in Waterloo next season, but Richardson committed to the Nordiques if he doesn’t make the Blackhawks roster.

“We want Carter to make the USHL, so we can continue to recruit younger players and to tell them, ‘Hey, you come here and do your job, you will head to the USHL after,'” Skerlick said.

With Heaney heading to UConn and Richardson likely playing in the USHL, the Nordiques have no goalies on the roster heading into the season.


Forward Hugo Daniel of Yarmouth, who played a handful of games with the Nordiques after his season with North Yarmouth Academy ended, got drafted by the Omaha Lancers in the sixth round of the Phase II draft.

Skerlick said Daniel wants to play for the Nordiques if he doesn’t make the USHL.

Another Mainer native Skerlick is excited about is tender signee defenseman Wade Weil, who lives in Hampden. Weil played a handful of games at the end of the season. He participated this weekend at the Pre Draft Showcase in Foxborough, Massachusetts, with other Nordiques tenders including Jake Stevens and Louie Marcellino.

Skerlick said after the success of the 2023-24 season, the 2024-25 campaign won’t be a rebuilding year as the plan is to return to the Robertson Cup tournament as East Division champions.

“We don’t want to treat our fanbase with a special team and not follow it up with an equal or better team,” Skerlick said. “Three times in five years we’ve made the (East) finals, and we loved to represent the East Division two out of six years.”

Comments are no longer available on this story