AUBURN — Doug Friedman knows the challenges that are ahead, but he’s ready to make the Twin City Thunder a top tier organization in the United States Premier Hockey League.

The 46-year old coach, who grew up in Cape Elizabeth, was introduced as the Thunder’s inaugural head coach at a news conference Monday morning.

“There’s always going to be challenge in recruiting,” Friedman said. “There are so many choices for families these days, especially at the junior hockey level. I think one of the things we are going to do is we are going to be honest what we are offering and we are going to be honest about the league, our approach.”

The USPHL has three different junior leagues — the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC), which is a tuition free league and is the top league under the USPHL’s umbrella; and the Premier and Elite leagues, which are pay-to-play leagues. They also have three midget leagues — 18U and two 16U leagues.

In addition to the USPHL, other junior options in the Northeast for high-end players also exist, like the NA3HL, in which the L/A Nordiques play. The NAHL — right now USA Hockey’s lone Tier II junior league and the NA3HL’s parent organization — has grown their footprint to New England, as well. Yet another option is the Eastern Hockey League, a USA Hockey Tier III league like the NA3HL.

The USPHL boasts some of the top junior organizations on the East coast, such as the Boston Junior Bruins, the Islanders Hockey Club and the South Shore Kings, which have all sent multiple players to the Division I and III collegiate levels.


While he was officially introduced as the team’s head coach Monday, Friedman has been helping with some recruiting while finishing up his duties at Kents Hill, where he has been the boys hockey coach and athletic director since the 2014-15 season.

Friedman has experience going up against those organizations from when he was the head coach of the now-defunct Portland Junior Pirates, where he was the head coach of the Premier Division team during the 2013-14 season. At the time, the Premier Division was the USPHL’s top junior league. The Pirates went 14-30-4 in the inaugural season of the USPHL.

Friedman coached goaltender Shane Starrett, who helped Air Force to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2017 and who’s now in the Edmonton Oilers organization; York native James Winkler who just finished his sophomore season with UMass-Lowell; and Biddeford’s Brady Fleurent, who helped the University of New England to a Division III tournament appearance this past season.

He has seen all levels of the USPHL since he last coached, especially in the past month, to see how the leagues have developed since he last coached in junior hockey.

“I’ve been working double duty right now, so a lot of the recruiting has been taking place with (Owner and GM) Ben (Gray) and (Owner and Director of Hockey Operations) Dan (Hodge),” Friedman said. “I will be jumping in this now as well, working with my network and addition to theirs. It’s pretty expansive throughout North America as well as Europe. It’s going to take time, but that’s what I am going to do from this day forward.”

The team will host their invitation-only tryout session May 4-6 at the Norway Savings Bank Arena, where the team expects up to 50 players to attend. Gray expects there will be player signings before the tryout camp.


Since announcing the team in early December, the organization has heard a lot of positive support around the community.

“The reception has been great,” Hodge said. “The community has been fantastic and we are just exciting to get going and we are excited to make the Thunder something everybody can be proud in this area.”

And while Friedman wants to put the best time on the ice as possible, he also wants to make sure they make an impact off the ice, as well.

“One of my goals, and in talking with ownership, we want to be involved with the community,” Friedman said. “We are going to be present with youth programs, schools, something I have done in the past in my Junior Pirates days and at Kents Hill is taking our guys to various organizations like the Special Olympics. This year we did a fundraiser for the Travis Mills Foundation. My goal is to continue that here.”

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