HALLOWELL — Jeff Guay is eager for that chill in the air to arrive. In fact, the Maine Moose junior coach says, it can’t come soon enough.
“Summer’s over,” he says. “It’s time to put the beach chairs and the flip-flops away. It’s time for some hockey.”
The Maine Moose opened training camp Monday night at the Bank of Maine Ice Vault with a full roster and high expectations. The Moose will compete in the Northern States Junior Hockey League for a second straight season.
“We’re ready,” said Guay, the former Lewiston Maineiacs assistant coach who enters his second season with the Moose. “We’ve done a lot of scouting and recruiting since last season ended. We’re already at 20 players but I’d like to be at 24, 25 because of injuries. But we have a full team and they are coming from all over the world.”
Indeed, they are.
The Moose have five European players and others from as far away as Colorado and Texas.
Jordy Knoren, 18, of Wijlre, Netherlands, said it’s been quite an adjustment coming to America.
“I’ve never been to America before,” the 5-foot-7 forward said. “It’s different. I knew I wanted to go to the States to play junior hockey. An old coach of mine knew the coaches here so it worked out. I like Maine. It’s a quiet place. It’s so much different than what I’m used to in my country.”
Josh Burger, 19, of Rowlett, Texas, arrived in Maine on Saturday. He, like so many other junior players, is looking to elevate his game and advance his career.
“This is my last year in juniors,” he said. “This is my best shot. I haven’t been this far from home at all. I just want to get better.”
Joey Fowler, 19, of Brewer, is one of 10 Maine players listed on the roster. Fowler played junior hockey in Massachusetts last season but wanted to be closer to home this year.
“It’s pretty serious,” he said. “Hockey can be like a full-time job. We’re pretty ready to go.”
Ben Gray purchased the Maine Moose in March 2010, four years after Steve Levesque founded the organization.
After the sale, the Moose dropped the junior team and fielded under-18 and under-16 Midget teams. Gray said at the time that low numbers forced him to drop the junior team.
Two years later, the Moose re-joined the International Junior Hockey League and hired Guay to lead the team. The organization then joined the NSJHL, which plays under the Amateur Athletic Union umbrella.
The league features teams from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Moose join the Biddeford-based Maine Wild as the league’s Maine affiliates.
“It’s a good league,” Guay said. “There are a lot of good teams in it. We should be very competitive.”
The Moose open the season Sept. 14 at the Ice Vault against the Wild. The preparation and player evaluation process begins this week.
“We’ve seen 90 percent of the guys, either on video or on the ice,” Guay said. “The video is usually short and sweet so we’re going to do some evaluations this week. We won’t do any line combinations until at least three days. We are going to do a lot of conditioning. This is our second year and last year we really just wanted to get our feet wet. We did that. This year, we expect to win more games and win in the playoffs.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640