Maine Hockey Journal

Maine Wild strive for homegrown team

Maine Wild's Mick Mansir (#24) handles the puck into the corner as L/A's Thomas Kuntz (#20) dives to the ice during Saturday's contest. (PHOTO: Meghan Girouard)

Maine Wild’s Mick Mansir (#24) handles the puck into the corner as L/A’s Thomas Kuntz (#20) dives to the ice during Saturday’s contest. (PHOTO: Meghan Girouard)

BIDDEFORD – The Maine Wild have endured its fair share of growing pains over the past three seasons since the program’s formation.

Despite those growing pains – including Saturday’s home opening loss, 6-0, to in-state foe Lewiston/Auburn Fighting Spirit at Biddeford Ice Arena and Sunday’s 7-4 loss to the Northeast Generals – the goal has remained the same.

Build a homegrown team.

With 15 of the 24 players on the active roster coming from central and southern Maine, Tenney’s goal of having a roster completely filled with Maine talent is not a far-fetched plan.

A good portion of these players are still attending area high schools and could maintain eligibility to play for the Wild for years to come.

“I would like to become an all-Maine team because of the fact that the billeting situation is a hurdle,” said Tenney after Saturday’s loss.

The Wild began three seasons ago when The Hockey Academy, located in Hudson, NH, began the program in Biddeford to play in the former Northern States Hockey League. The team is now a member of the NA3EHL after the NSHL merged with the North American Hockey League last season.

“The other thing is what I’ve heard since I moved here three years ago to start the Wild. The word on the street was that you don’t recruit the Maine players because they’re not good enough to play at higher levels. I came in with the mindset that I’m going to prove everybody wrong.”

Gorham natives Mick(#25) and Travis Mansir (#24) are two of 15 Maine-born players of the Maine Wild's roster (PHOTO: Meghan Girouard)

Gorham natives Mick(#25) and Travis Mansir (#24) are two of 15 Maine-born players of the Maine Wild’s roster (PHOTO: Meghan Girouard)

There is a great tradition of high school hockey in the state of Maine, but players don’t typically stay to play junior hockey. According to Tenney, most players go to college, go to work, or play in junior leagues around the country. His hope is that he can help grow hockey in the state that can eventually feed strong talent to both the college and professional game.

“There’s a lot of talent in the state of Maine that’s untapped and unrealized,” Tenney said. “Changing the mindset of not only everybody else but the people within Maine is hard, but eventually I want to be 100% Maine players. I want to show them that the path of development can get them to higher levels of hockey and college.”

Tenney recruits many of his players from local Maine high schools. This past season he was able to add standout goalie Brandon Daigle, a graduate of Biddeford High School.

“This year, in particular, we ended up with a lot of Maine guys,” said Tenney, “but we were recruiting maybe triple to quadruple the amount of Maine players to get them to stay and play hockey in Maine.”

Playing in their second season for the Wild are the Mansir brothers, Travis, and Mick, out of Gorham. Mick took a year off from hockey when deciding not to play his senior year at Gorham, but Tenney is giving him an opportunity to use his homegrown skills to play defense for the Wild squad.

“We have pride in being from Maine,” said Mick, the older brother to Travis. “Everyone gets to go home at night and have a home cooked meal instead of living in a house with a bunch of people. That’s all fun and games, but when you get to go home and sleep in your own bed and hang out with your family, you can’t beat it.”

The Saturday night game frustrated the Wild because of the constant pressure that the L/A Fighting Spirit put on the Wild goaltenders. The Fighting Spirit mustered a total of 59 shots, 52 of those were on Will Dunham, who left the game late in the third period due to an apparent lower-body injury. Most of the scoring came in the second period for the Spirit while scoring three goals in the stanza. The Wild was only able to put 14 shots on the winning goaltender, Zachary Barry, who earned the shutout in his first game this season.

The Wild have started their season 1-4-0 with their only win coming against the Cape Cod Islanders. Tenney, a man determined to prove people wrong, is hoping to make the Maine Wild a destination for Maine players to hone their skills and become the player they have always wanted to be.

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