Head coach Ben Guite is looking forward to his debut as the season opener of the ECHL’s Maine Mariners this Friday night.
The team will open its regular season against the Worcester Railers on Friday at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland at 7:15 p.m. and Saturday in Worcester at 7:35 p.m.
Guite, who was a key player on the University of Maine’s second and last NCAA title team in 1998-99, is making his debut as head coach of the Mariners after eight seasons as an assistant and then associate head coach for the Black Bears.
Guite just got a trial run with two exhibition games against Worcester this past weekend. The Mariners and Railers split the contests with Worcester winning on Friday night 5-3 at The Colisee in Lewiston and Maine rebounding for a 3-1 win in Worcester, Massachusetts, on Saturday.
The Mariners are affiliated with the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins while the Railers are the affiliate of the New York Islanders.
Two of his former UMaine players, Brendan Robbins and Eduards Tralmaks, scored for him as speedster Robbins scored a goal in each game and Tralmaks lit the goal lamp in the second game.
The 43-year-old Guite said he was a little nervous on Friday night “because even though nothing is at stake, you want your team to play well and you want to win.”
It wasn’t a major transition from being an associate head coach to a head coach because he said the late UMaine head coach Red Gendron “used to give me a lot of responsibility. I used to call out the lines.”
Guite was named UMaine’s interim head coach shortly after Gendron collapsed and died on the golf course at the Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono on April 9.
Guite applied for the job but former University of Massachusetts associate head coach Ben Barr landed it.
Guite was disappointed but things worked out nicely when he was named the head coach of the Mariners.
He is enjoying his first venture into head coaching.
“The biggest challenge is you have to wear a lot of hats. Once you get going, you have to manage your roster,” said Guite, who pointed out that he also has to recruit players like he did in college coaching.
“It can become a 24-7 job,” he said.
Guite will constantly lose players to injuries and call-ups to the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins, who are a step above the Mariners in the minor league chain.
It’s the first year the Mariners are affiliated with the Bruins at the ECHL level.
The Mariners are allowed to have 21 eligible players and two reserves for each game but Guite can only dress 16 skaters and two goalies.
They will often play three games in three days and six games in nine days, so he said energy conservation will be important.
He played in the ECHL in the 2000-01 season with the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks en route to an extensive pro career that included 582 AHL regular season games and 174 NHL games.
“Back then, teams used to carry a lot of heavyweight fighters. But they don’t fit in the game any more. Everybody can play, everybody can skate. There is a good amount of skill in the league. Over 700 guys who played in the ECHL went on to play in the NHL,” he said. “When I played, the goalies were just about the only ones who made it.”
That serves as motivation to the players with NHL aspirations.
Guite said he has been very impressed with the Bruins organization.
“They have been great. They have been an open book. They have invited me and my assistant, Terrence Wallin, to all of their camps. They have included us in their decision-making process and have showed us how the Bruins are going to play and the systems they use,” Guite said.
He likes his team, although the roster can change on a regular basis.
“I really like their competitiveness and how hard they work. If you have that and you have smart players, you can win a lot of games at this level,” he said.