The Maine Northmen celebrate their New England title after a clinching 20-8 victory Aug. 4 over defending national champion Cambridge Nor’Easters at Biddeford Ice Arena. Photo courtesy Maine Northmen

A first-year team from Maine will compete in the Interstate Box Lacrosse Association national championship tournament this weekend in Huntington Beach, California.

The Maine Northmen, a semipro team based out of Biddeford Ice Arena, went 6-0 during the regular season. They captured the New England championship with a pair of home-and-away playoff victories over the Cambridge Nor’easters in early August by scores of 16-10 and 20-8.

Box lacrosse is an indoor version of the sport, played between two teams of five players and one goalie each, with nets four feet high and four feet wide. Cross-checking is allowed, even on players without the ball. There’s also a 30-second shot clock.

“There’s a lot of chaos going on around you,” said Ben Herman of Brunswick, a defender for the Northmen. “I’ve only played the box game about five years, but I definitely love it, more than the field game. It’s just a faster pace and a higher energy.”

Herman, 29, played on Brunswick High’s 2007 state championship team and continued his career at the University of New England in Biddeford. He is one of nine players on the Northmen’s active roster who played high school lacrosse in Maine.

He also is one of four Northmen who won a national title last year as members of the Cambridge Nor’easters. Herman, Brandon Dube, Dan O’Gorman, Garrett Naimie and goalie Joe Evans all came via trade from Cambridge to the Northmen this year.

Naimie is from Cape Neddick and played for Cheverus and York high schools. O’Gorman played at UNE and settled in Old Orchard Beach. Dube and Evans grew up in Massachusetts.

“Those are all guys I’ve played with in the past,” said Kyle Baker, the Kennebunk native who serves as coach and general manager while also leading the team in scoring. “I traded away draft picks to get the guys I knew I wanted before the season started.”

Baker played at Merrimack College and the University of Southern Maine as well as with the Belgium National Team. Other players with Maine connections who are heading to California are Sam Fortin (Brunswick High, USM), Sam Hornblower (Deering, USM), Mitch Mullin (Greely, UNE), Mark White (USM) and Dan Thomas (USM).

The three-year-old IBLA invites its nine regional champions to the national tournament, where teams are placed in three pools for games Friday and Saturday to establish seeding for a single-elimination tournament that concludes Sunday afternoon.

Baker, 31, played last season with the Mill City Hitmen out of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. When that team folded, he established the Northmen, who played six regular-season games in June and July against the other two New England entries, Cambridge and the Auburn (Massachusetts) Aviators.

The Northmen averaged about 120 fans per game at Biddeford Ice Arena, Baker said, with top ticket prices of $9. U.S. Sen. Angus King took part in a ceremonial faceoff at the opener, which drew more than 200 fans. Ben Herman is his son.

“I purposely picked a smaller rink because I know at the semipro and even at the professional level, if you have a large capacity arena and the numbers aren’t great, it kills the atmosphere,” Baker said. “With the number of spectators we had, it got loud. It was fun.”

A total of 38 players suited up for Maine this season, either for practice or during games. Baker said 20 of those 38 are from the state. The roster for this weekend is 17, with 14 flying from New England and three players Baker knows from the West filling in the rest.

The team raised enough money to pay for a house, rental vans and groceries while in Huntington Beach, but players will pay their travel expenses. They also paid for their jerseys.

“I did what I could to keep costs as minimal as possible,” said Baker, a plumber by trade. “Whatever revenue came in went right back into the program.”

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