Ben Gray had a vision when he purchased the Maine Moose junior hockey organization three years ago, one he acknowledged wouldn’t be realized over night.

Slowly, that vision is starting to materialize.

“We have eight teams now,” said Gray, a 2001 St. Dominic graduate and Farmingdale native. “We had one going when I got here. We’re headed down the right path. We actually want to grow the program more.”

The Junior Moose will compete in the rapidly expanding Northern States Junior Hockey League, which features 10 teams based in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. The league is under the Amateur Athletic Union umbrella.

The Maine Moose organization also will feature Under 18, Under 16, Bantam, Pee Wee and Squirt teams.

Gray and co-owner Charlie Davis are in the process of finalizing the Junior Moose roster, a process that began in April.

“The offseason is busier than the regular season,” Davis said. “We haven’t stopped. We’ve been traveling to different showcase tournaments and we’ve gone out across the country.”

One of the tournaments, the International Pre-Draft Showcase held annually in Boston, resulted in the Moose signing a pair of Russian players, goalie Egor Belyaev (Moscow) and forward Isakov Rashid (Kazan).

Belyaev and Rashid are two of four international players who’ve signed contracts for the upcoming season. Goalie Jarrett Ross, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Jordy Knoren, of Wijlre, Netherlands, are the others. Knoren played for the Dutch U-18 national team last year.

The team also will feature players from Texas and Colorado.

Josh Burger, 19, of Rowlett, Texas, caught the attention of the Moose at a showcase tournament in Colorado. The interest was mutual and Burger, who’s never stepped foot in Maine, signed with the Moose with hopes of gaining exposure.

“Hockey in the East is way better,” Burger said. “I liked what the coach had to offer me. I expect the experience to be good. I want to get to college hockey and they told me they can get me in front of college scouts.”

The Moose will also have at least six Maine natives on the roster, including Cony students Zach Gagne and Austin Davis. The team also hopes to sign Travis Roy Award winner Parker Sanderson from Bangor.

“It’s pretty cool,” Austin Davis said. “You get to meet a lot of people from all these different areas.

Junior coach Jeff Guay, who was an assistant coach for the Lewiston Maineiacs prior to joining the Moose, said he’s pleased with the progression of the program.

“We’ve made some real good strides,” he said. “We’re at 14 players signed already still a lot of work to be done. We have a lot in the works. Where we’re sitting, we’re a lot better now then where we were a year ago. We’re not the Lewiston Maineiacs and we’re not the greatest junior league, but things are good. We have some good players coming in.”

“We hope things will be even better in Year 2. We want to keep the program growing.”

Training camp opens at the end of August.

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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