After the final buzzer signaled the end of the first game for the Maine Mariners – a 6-3 loss Saturday night to Adirondack – the home team gathered in a circle at center ice, tapped their sticks on the ice and raised them above their heads to acknowledge the crowd of 5,291 at Cross Insurance Arena.

It was the first professional hockey game in Portland since April 2016.

“We want to acknowledge them the best we can,” said Brycen Martin, a Maine defenseman under contract to the Buffalo Sabres who dropped his gloves in the third period for a brief fight with Adirondack’s Conor Riley that brought the crowd to its feet. “It’s early in the season and there’s a lot of stuff we can learn from, but the fan atmosphere was great. We’re very hopeful for continued support throughout the season.”

The Mariners return to ECHL action this weekend with three games in three days. They host the Reading (Pennsylvania) Royals Friday night, travel to Worcester, Massachusetts, Saturday and return to Cross Arena for a Sunday afternoon game against the Newfoundland Growlers.

Reading and Worcester have played twice already this season, and Newfoundland four times.

Mariners team captain Zach Tolkinen, a 28-year-old defenseman in his fifth ECHL season, said having a five-day stretch after the opener allows for plenty of learning, for watching video, making adjustments and cleaning up some areas of concern.

“But I also wouldn’t have minded getting out there the next night and hopefully righting it,” Tolkinen said after practice Wednesday morning, a session twice interrupted by the lights at Cross Arena going out.

“It made it a little more fun, added a little adversity on a Wednesday,” Tolkinen said. “It’s a little thing, but nice to see the boys were able to bounce back and have a good practice.”

The Mariners will play three games in three days five more times this season. It’s part of the grind of professional hockey, something new for young players just out of college or juniors.

“You try to eat well and stretch as much as possible, because that third game is going to be tough,” said forward Riley Bourbonnais, who is working toward his MBA after earning a dual undergraduate degree in 2017 from RPI in industrial engineering and business and management.

“I learned from the veterans (last year with Wheeling, West Virginia) to take good care of your body. After every game you want to make sure you stretch and take an ice bath, because that really helps down the line. Towards the end of the season when guys are hurt, you’re feeling good.”

The Mariners made plenty of mistakes Saturday night. They allowed a goal in the game’s second minute. They fell behind 3-0 in the first 10 minutes.

“No one really paid the price to block shots,” said Coach Riley Armstrong.

“We swung away from hits. We swung away from our own net. We had no support for our D on any breakout coming out of our zone, and we had no support for our D in the neutral zone.”

Armstrong and assistant coach Anthony Bohn have been working this week on corrective measures and continue to install a system that is new to most of the 23 players on the roster.

“It’s going to take some time for everyone to get on the same page,” Armstrong said.

“But as a young team, once we turn the corner, we’re going to be turning it quick.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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