Player signings for the 2020-21 Maine Mariners started on Monday June 22nd with the team’s first press release. This year, the Mariners organization also had some young fans announce player signings via Twitter.
The first player signing for the coming season was American forward Dillan Fox. Fox will be returning to the Maine Mariners for his third pro season. During the 2019-20 season, Fox was tied with forward Terrence Wallin for the team lead in goal and points respectively. Fox also reached the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL for the first time in his career.
In a press release from the Maine Mariners, the forward said upon signing his contract, “It’s rare in hockey at this level to be able to be in the same place for a while so to be coming back to Portland is very exciting. The fans, the city, and the staff have been nothing but great to me as a person and a player. I want to thank Danny [Briere] and Riley [Armstrong] for giving me the opportunity to come back and be a Mariner. I can’t wait to be back in Portland and play some hockey again.”
In a statement from Riley Armstrong, assistant GM and Mariners head coach, he said that Fox has established himself as a core player and fan favourite in Portland.
On Monday June 29th, the Mariners re-signed American centreman and Cumberland county native, Ted Hart. Hart didn’t make his rookie debut with the Maine Mariners until November, 2019. He did, however, play in 48 games out of the scheduled 62.
Hart signed in August, 2019, however, did not make the opening night roster. After that, he signed with the Peoria Rivermen of the SPHL and started his season there. On November 9th, he made his ECHL debut and became the first Maine-born Mariner in franchise history. In front of the largest crowd that season, they beat the Adirondack Thunder by a 5-1 final.
Following his recall to the Mariners, Hart stayed with the team for the remainder of the 2019-20 season. Ted is the youngest of three brothers and his older brother, Brian, also appeared and played with the Mariners last season.
Mariners fans were excited to see on Monday July 6th that the Mariners had agreed to terms with American forward Michael McNicholas. Through the first two seasons the Mariners have existed, McNicholas, a native of Nevada, leads the organization in points, assists and games played. McNicholas first signed with the Mariners in 2018 and began the season in Norway.
He also had a short stint with the Indy Fuel at the end of the 2017-18 season. McNicholas had already played hockey in New England, having spent four seasons playing with the University of New Hampshire. Head Coach Riley Armstrong says that McNicholas had a slow start last season, but they both feel this upcoming season is going to really show the hockey world what type of player he is. Mariners fans and staff believe that McNicholas is definitely a core player on the team.
Rookie forward Andrew Romano was signed to the Maine Mariners on the 20th of July. Romano is joining the team from SUNY-Geneseo in Geneseo, New York.. He led all of NCAA Division III hockey in scoring as a junior and senior and was also a two-time All-American. In a press release from the organization, Romano said that he was thrilled to start his pro hockey career with the Maine Mariners.
Romano is from Drexel Hill, PA and spent six seasons playing with the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers program. He also played at La Salle College High. Additionally, Romano played with the Johnstown Tomahawks of the NAHL for two seasons. In his final season with the Tomahawks, the forward racked up 56 points in a total of 60 games played.
He also led the team with 39 assists. After that, Romano was off to SUNY-Geneseo. In his freshman year, Romano averaged almost a point per game played. Each year with the Ice Knights, he increased his productivity and scored 171 points over four seasons spanned in 112 college games. Romano has racked up other accolades, including when he made the AHCA second team as a junior and first team as a senior.
Armstrong says that he will fit in perfectly, bringing his speed and skill to the Mariners hockey club. Armstrong also said of the right-handed shooter in a Mariners press release, “I feel that it will separate him from other smaller players in the league. He is not afraid of the middle of the rink where the goals and chances come from.”
The Mariners added another forward to their 2020-21 roster with the re-signing of Nick Master. Master first became a Mariner at the end of the 2018-19 season, but missed most of the 2019-20 season while he was sidelined due to a wrist injury. Master joined the Mariners hockey club from Umass-Lowell in March of 2019.
He did so after he wrapped up his collegiate career with the UMass-Lowell River Hawks. He scored three goals and four assists in eight games played once he joined the Mariners. He re-signed in the summer of 2019, but suffered a wrist injury while playing in his sixth game. This would be the injury that cut his rookie season short with the hockey club.
Speaking of opportunities surrounding his game that he looked at while injured, Master said in a Mariners press release, “Being injured last season gave me the opportunity to see what it takes at the pro level and what things I need to be prepared for this upcoming season. I can’t stress enough how excited I am to play again and put on that Maine sweater.”
Armstrong said that Master’s attitude and dedication during his injury holds a lot of value to the organization. “It may take Nick some time to get going and get confidence back in his game but once that comes he will be a very big part of the Mariners and their future.”
On Wednesday August 3rd, Ben Freeman became the next Maine native to sign his contract for next season with the Mariners. Freeman grew up watching the Portland Pirates play and he said that it’s going to be really special to skate in the Cross Insurance Arena. Freeman just finished up his college career where he spent four years with the Connecticut Huskies.
During the 2019-20 season, Freeman was the team captain and led them with 28 points in 33 games. given his responsibilities, he also received the Hockey East Len Ceglarski Award. While acknowledged for his leadership, Freeman was also named as the alternate captain in his junior season.
Freeman also said that he and Ted Hart are actually good friends and played together in the Casco Bay Youth Hockey Association for over 10 years. With a sense of chemistry in mind, Freeman says that he “thinks that Mariners fans will have something special when we hop on the ice together and hopefully the chemistry will come back instantly.”
The Mariners announced their most recent signing on August 10th with their first defensemen. Kallen joined the Maine Mariners from Ferris State University this past spring and signed with the team in early March, playing in the final three games of the regular season. Kallen said he was excited to making his return for the upcoming season. “The city is unbelievable and the guys on the team are super accepting. The short time I was there at the end of the year last season was a great experience and I learned a lot. The little experience I had will definitely help me have more confidence next year.”
The 22-year-old defensemen is from San Diego, CA and was the Ferris State captain in 2019-20 and was a staple on their roster for his whole collegiate career. Kallen, 22-years-old, was named to the Ferris State “All-Decade team” last December, the only active member of the Bulldogs hockey program to earn the honour. With 20 goals, he led all Bulldog defensemen between 2010 and 2020 in goals.
He made his debut on March 6th against the Reading Royals at Cross Insurance Arena. After that, he played two more games against Worcester and Norfolk on March 8th and 10th respectively. Following that, the season was cut short due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The anticipated start for the league to return to play is now December 4th. This of course follows an announcement from the board of governors on August 5th. In a release from Commissioner Ryan Crelin, he said of the league’s plan to return to play, “The ECHL and our Board of Governors are focused on the 2020-21 Season and remain optimistic for the safe reopening of our venues across the continent. We appreciate our partners and fans continued support and patience, as we work together with our venues, local health officials and the members of the PHPA’s Executive Committee towards the safe return of ECHL hockey.”