Mariners Weekly: a Memorable First Season
The inaugural season of Maine Mariners hockey ended fittingly with a shootout victory on Sunday afternoon as the Mariners defeated the Newfoundland Growlers in front of a crowd of over 3400 at the Cross Insurance Arena. The first season of ECHL Mariners hockey saw the team finish with a 37-32-2-1 record, placing 6th in an ultra-competitive North Division. The Mariners were the only non-playoff team in the ECHL with more wins than losses. They had a remarkable 13-2-1 extra time (overtime or shootout) record, including 7-1 in shootouts, providing more than their fair share of dramatics over a memorable inaugural campaign. The final 2018-19 edition of Mariners Weekly will take a comprehensive look back at the season that was.
While many fans will rightfully point to the season opener, and the return of pro hockey to Portland as their favorite moment of the season, a 6-3 loss to the Adirondack Thunder kicked off an 0-3-0-0 start to 2018-19. After struggles in net by both Brandon Halverson and Chris Nell, it was rookie Connor LaCouvee who rose to the surface, earning Maine's first franchise win on Oct. 21st, when he made 32 saves to beat Newfoundland, 4-2. LaCouvee defeated Manchester three days later to pull the Mariners back to a 2-3-0-0 record, but they dropped road games to Manchester and Adirondack, finishing October just 2-5-0-0.
The Mariners got their first road win on November 7th at Reading, the first of what would be a four game win streak to get them on track. Shawn St-Amant scored a memorable overtime goal on Nov. 9th at Worcester, skating straight off the ice after putting in the game-winner. The following night, in front of over 5,000 fans for Marvel Super Hero and Military Appreciation Night, Michael McNicholas' first professional goal was the game winner, sparking what would be a terrific rookie season for the former UNH forward. Up through and past Thanksgiving, the only hiccup was a 3-0 loss in Brampton on Nov. 16th. From Nov. 2nd through Nov. 28th, the Mariners had points in 8 of 9 games, bringing their record to 9-6-0-1 heading into the final game of the month, a 4-2 loss to Worcester, which snapped a 7 game home point streak. Perhaps the biggest highlight of the month was Ty Ronning's five point third period on Nov. 24th against Manchester, helping the Mariners rally back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period to a 6-4 win. That same night was the Teddy Bear Toss, Riley Bourbonnais scoring the fur-flying goal.
Although they lost two of the first three games in December, the Mariners had another strong month, winning 8 of 10 between Dec. 7th and 29th. Along the way were three shootout wins (12/7 vs. ADK, 12/15 @ WOR, 12/28 vs. WOR), paving the way for the team's knack for finding a way to win in the clutch. Brandon Halverson continued his emergence as the true #1 in between the pipes and the goal-scoring combination of Alex Kile and Morgan Adams-Moisan paced the offense. On December 14th, the Mariners acquired Greg Chase from Allen in exchange for Bourbonnais, the headliner of many transactions that would change the look of the team over the proceeding months. The Mariners entered New Year's Eve on a six game win streak, with an 18-11-0-1 record, and in third place in the North Division.
When the Mariners look back on their missing of the playoffs, it is their month of January that they'll see did them in. Manchester ended their win streak on New Year's Eve and sent them into a spiral in which they'd drop 13 of 17 games overall. They did get a win over Brampton on "Throwback Night," while wearing original Mariners uniforms in front of over 4700 in attendance on January 5th, but wins were hard to come by for the rest of the month. Leading scorer Alex Kile was loaned to AHL Laval where he'd stay for the rest of the season. Terrence Wallin, Morgan Adams-Moisan, Ryan Culkin, Zach Tolkinen, and others were all shuttling back and forth throughout the month. Dillan Fox, an SPHL pickup from Roanoke, would eventually fill a lot of the holes left behind on offense, but he didn't begin to produce until the end of the month. The slump carried into early February, when the Mariners were embarrassed on home ice during the weekend of February 8th and 9th, losing non-divisional games by 8-1 and 8-2 scores to Cincinnati and Greenville, respectively. While it felt like rock-bottom, those losses would wake the Mariners up, for one last potential push for the playoffs.
The Mariners embarked on a road swing that would take them away from the Cross Insurance Arena for eight of nine games from late February into early March. Before leaving, they managed to get two key home wins on February 10th and 13th to rebound from the Cincinnati and Greenville debacles. The game on Feb. 13th featured yet another improbable third period comeback - the Mariners once again rallying from 4-1 down to cap the comeback on Brycen Martin's overtime winner. The road trip began with four consecutive wins: a sweep at Norfolk and victories in Reading and Adirondack. Two more OT heroic moments included: Michael McNicholas and Terrence Wallin (against his former team). Manchester once again played streak stopper on Feb. 23rd, but another seven game point streak followed, including taking 5 of 6 possible points on the road in Utah. A shootout win over the Grizzlies on March 1st marked the team's 10th consecutive win in OT or shootout games. After home wins over Norfolk and South Carolina marked their return to Portland, Maine was solidly back in third place, with 12 games to go. Connor LaCouvee had taken back the #1 spot on the goaltending depth chart with Halverson in AHL Hartford to stay. LaCouvee had signed a two-way AHL/ECHL deal with the Laval Rocket, who'd later call on him again.
FIGHTING TO THE FINISH
There was no doubting this team's magic when Wade Murphy ended an 18-round shootout against Newfoundland on March 17th with his 2nd goal of the marathon mini-game. Another OT triumph followed on Mar. 22nd in Worcester thanks to Greg Chase. That would turn out to be the team's high point, both statistically, and emotionally. The Mariners were a season high nine games above .500, but still only three points up on a playoff spot thanks to the success of Brampton and Manchester around them. The Monarchs got a 6-2 statement win at the Cross Insurance Arena on Mar. 24th, the first of five consecutive Mariners losses at an unfortunate time. Between a goal scoring slump and some struggling defense and goaltending, the Mariners lost a pair to Adirondack and Reading each, finding themselves on the outside of the playoff picture and without control of their own destiny heading into the final weekend of the season. They managed to win two of the last three, but it was Brampton that joined Newfoundland, Adirondack, and Manchester in the North Division postseason.
Oct. 13th, 2018 vs. Adirondack - The season opener. A 6-3 loss to Adirondack but an exciting and energetic game in front of 5,291 fans. Jason Salvaggio scored the first goal in franchise history, on the power play.
Oct. 21st, 2018 vs. Newfoundland - The Mariners got their first win in franchise history, coming from behind in the 3rd, which would turn out to be a common theme for the team. Alex Kile had a pair of goals while Connor LaCouvee, making his first pro start, stopped 34 shots for a 4-2 win.
Nov. 10th, 2018 vs. Worcester - The Mariners wore Captain America jerseys for Marvel Super Hero Night. In what would be the 2nd largest crowd of the season at 5003, Michael McNicholas' tie breaking goal in the 3rd was the eventual game-winner in a 3-1 final.
Nov. 24th, 2018 vs. Manchester - Teddy Bear Toss Night, and also eventually "the Ty Ronning game." Ronning had three goals and two assists in the third, to lead the Mariners back from a 4-1 deficit to a 6-4 win.
Dec. 28th, 2018 vs. Worcester - Another specialty jersey night featuring Michael McNicholas as hero. Wearing Nickelodeon Double Dare sweaters, McNicholas tied the game in the third and scored the shootout winner, as the Mariners prevailed over Worcester, 3-2. A crowd of 4305 witnessed.
Jan. 5th, 2019 vs. Brampton - Over 4700 people, including Mariners alumni turned out for "Throwback Night." Brandon Halverson played one of his strongest games, making 37 saves to lead the Mariners to a 3-1 victory in what was an otherwise rough month of January. Halverson would pick up the team's first and only shutout victory 13 days later.
Feb. 13th, 2019 vs. Worcester - The Mariners pull off their second three goal third period comeback of the season, erasing Worcester's 4-1 lead on goals by debuting defenseman Josh Couturier, third line winger Wade Murphy, and one-goal D-man Derek Pratt. Brycen Martin scored the lone 3-on-3 home winner of the season to send the Mariners onto a long road stretch with a massive victory.
Feb. 15th, 2019 @ Norfolk - Michael McNicholas scores the OT winner as the Mariners rally back from a 3-1 deficit on the road to start a five game road trip with a win. The Mariners would win the first four games of the trip.
Feb. 22nd, 2019 @ Adirondack - Yet another come from behind road victory, with Greg Chase tying the game in the third and former Thunder Terrence Wallin netting the overtime winner. The first and only win in Glens Falls of the season.
Feb. 24th, 2019 vs. Worcester - Johnny McInnis ties the game in the third and then scores the go-ahead goal in the sixth round of a shootout. Josh Couturier wins it in the 7th round, assisted by a solid goaltending performance by Hannu Toivonen, who picked up several big wins in his time as a Mariner.
Mar. 17th, 2019 vs. Newfoundland - With Newfoundland leading 4-2 heading to the third, Drew Melanson and Dillan Fox each score their second goals of the game to force OT. A marathon shootout ensues, with the Mariners scoring three times in "must score" situations to keep the game alive. Finally, in the 18th round, Wade Murphy, who had already scored in the shootout, buries his 2nd attempt to win the game.
Mar. 22nd, 2019 @ Worcester - In his first game back from an AHL call-up, Greg Chase scores both goals in a 2-1 OT win, giving the Mariners six extra time wins against the Railers over the course of the season.
Apr. 7th, 2019 vs. Newfoundland - The Mariners give their fans one more thrill, topping Newfoundland in a shootout again. Wade Murphy reprises his role as shootout hero, ending the season on a high note.
Brandon Halverson, G - 30 GP, 15-13-0-1, 2.67 GAA, .924 SV%. After a rocky start, Halverson put up his best numbers as a professional as a Mariner, earning him a call up to Hartford in early February, where he'd spend the remainder of the season. When Halverson was in between the pipes, the Mariners were at their best.
Greg Chase, F - 64 GP, 23 G, 28 A, 51 PTS. Chase played for three teams in 2018-19, but was by far most effective in a Mariners uniform. With 42 points in 41 games, Chase earned two separate loans to Hartford. He also was named an Alternate Captain. Chase's previous career high in points was 37 in 43 games with Norfolk in 2015-16.
Alex Kile, F - While Kile technically didn't hit his career high in points due to AHL loans, he was on pace to shatter his totals from 2017-18. With 20 points (13 G, 7 A) in 22 games, Kile was only eight shy of his career high totals set the previous season in Cincinnati. Kile's time in Maine was marked by his dominance in the first three months, before stints in Hartford, Utica, and Laval - where he stuck, kept him up at the AHL level for all of the 2019 portion of the season.
Brycen Martin, D - 54 GP, 7 G, 21 A, 28 PTS. One of a handful of players who spend the entire season in Maine, Martin rapidly improved his production as the season went along, finding a knack for collecting assists on tip-in goals by getting shots to the net from the blue line. He led all Mariners defenseman in points and scored the only 3-on-3 OT winner on home ice. (Feb. 13th vs. WOR)
Michael McNicholas, F - 65 GP, 13 G, 40 A, 43 PTS. McNicholas was the team's leading scorer for much of the season, and finished as the leader in assists, ranking fourth among all ECHL rookies. He was a durable player, appearing in every game after his arrival in early November, and playing in all situations.
Morgan Adams-Moisan, F - 42 GP, 15 G, 6 A, 21 PTS. Starting the season as the token tough guy, Adams-Moisan quickly emerged as one of the top goal scoring options on the Mariners roster. Between November 28th and January 27th, he scored all 15 of his ECHL goals. He'd earn three separate call ups to AHL Laval, where he finished the season - playing a total of 16 AHL games.
INAUGURAL SEASON BY THE NUMBERS
13 - The number of overtime and shootout wins the Mariners achieved this season. They went 6-2 in overtime and 7-1 in shootouts. They won 10 straight games that went past regulation between November 7th and March 1st.
22 - The total number of Mariners who also played at least one game in the AHL this season. Derek Pratt will make it 23 if he suits up for Utica before season's end.
40 - The number of assists for Michael McNicholas in his rookie season. McNicholas led the team in helpers and finished 4th among all ECHL rookies in the category.
58 - The number of players who suited up in a Mariners uniform this season. 33 forwards, 18 defenseman, and 7 goaltenders - including Domenic Graham, who skated only as backup and never appeared in a game.
73 - The amount of games played this season by Taylor Cammarata, between Norfolk, Wichita, and Maine. Only defenseman Josh Elmes (Rapid City & Fort Wayne) played as many games as Cammarata this regular season.
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