After driving over an hour from Boothbay, Chris Percival settled into Section Q of a well-populated Cross Insurance Arena on Friday night with his wife and 13-year-old son.
He looked over the ice at a Maine Mariners team decked out in white jerseys with gold and black trim, the same colors as their new parent club in the National Hockey League, the Boston Bruins.
“It’s great,” Percival said of an atmosphere that has been absent for more than 19 months since professional hockey stopped in Portland in March 2020. “It’s like putting on an old pair of comfy shoes. . “
The Mariners restarted their young ECHL franchise in style, beating the visiting Worcester Railers 6-3 on Friday night. University of Maine alumnus Eduards Tralmaks scored three goals in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 4,541 and righted a ship that had started registering early in the last period.
“I love this building,” said Tralmaks, a Latvian native whose previous Portland games with the Black Bears ended with a two-goal performance against Omaha and an overtime winner against Yale.
“Apparently,” Mariners coach Ben Guite, another former Black Bear, said, “he loves Portland.”
The feeling seems mutual for Portland fans, a few dozen of whom have thrown their caps on the plexiglass in homage to Tralmaks’ hat trick. As for Tralmaks himself, he would have awarded First Star honors to Mariners goaltender Jeremy Brodeur, who made 51 saves and guided Maine to a 2-1 lead after a first period in which Worcester held a huge advantage of 26-10 in shots. goal.
“About 60 shots and only three goals scored?” Said Tralmaks. “These hats should fly for him, not for me.”
Despite being outscored 54-34, the Mariners never hung out on Friday night. Tralmaks gave a 1-0 lead at the end of the first by scoring a rebound, then scored twice in the third after two quick goals from Worcester tied the score at 3.
Pascal Laberge, Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Mathew Santos also scored for the Mariners, who travel to Worcester for the Railers’ home opener on Saturday night. Nick Master and Justin Brazeau each had two assists for Maine.
Nick Albano, Jacob Hayhurst and former UMaine captain Mike Cornell scored for Worcester.
The Mariners led 3-1 after the second period, which ended in a skirmish resulting in rude and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties early in the third. Worcester gained momentum when Hayhurst and Cornell scored 25 seconds apart.
Six minutes later, Zerter-Gossage held the puck long enough to set up Tralmaks, who broke his stick on the winning shot. Tralmaks then completed a power play with his third goal, deflecting a Brazeau shot past Worcester goalkeeper Justin Kapelmaster.
Fans endured longer-than-usual queues to enter the arena on Friday, thanks to Cumberland County protocols requiring proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for COVID-19 for customers of 12 years and older. For the youngest, masks are compulsory.
“There were long lines, but they went well,” said Angela Percival. “They did a really good job making us work all the way through.”
Originally affiliated with the New York Rangers, the Mariners signed a three-year contract with the Bruins in late June, completing the Portland minor league trifecta of Boston-based parent clubs in hockey, baseball and basketball.
On Friday night, the opera voice of Bruins mainstay Todd Angilly echoed throughout the arena for a touching national anthem. Then came the Worcester barrage against Brodeur.
“It was a bit hectic, I’m not going to lie,” Guite said. “I don’t think we had our best start, but Jeremy did a great job keeping us up and the guys stayed together and found a way to win. Sometimes that’s what you need to get started.
Maine Mariners look to restart for third season in Portland