Ben Guite, shown at Alfond Arena in Orono in 2015 while serving as an assistant coach at the University of Maine, has been named the new head coach of the Maine Mariners. Michael C. York photo

The Maine Mariners didn’t have to look far to find a new head coach.

Ben Guite, a former captain and assistant coach at the University of Maine, will take over from Riley Armstrong, who is moving from the ECHL to the American Hockey League as an assistant with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the top minor league affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Mariners made the announcement Tuesday morning.

Guite, 43, was a member of the UMaine coaching staff from 2013-21 and served briefly as the interim head coach after the death of longtime coach Red Gendron in April.

Armstrong, who also served as an assistant general manager with the Mariners, guided the franchise through its first two seasons in Portland. The team missed the playoffs in 2019 after a 37-32-3 record and was 32-26-4 and poised for a postseason run in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic forced a league-wide shutdown.

After sitting out last winter, the Mariners are preparing to return in October. They will do so under the direction of the Guite, a member of the Black Bears’ 1999 national championship team who went on to play 13 seasons of professional hockey and made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins in 2006.

The Mariners recently signed a three-year affiliation agreement with the Bruins.

“I felt like I was ready to be a head coach,” said Guite. “That was a challenge I was really looking for. And the opportunity to be able to do that in Maine, where my family calls home, that was exciting for us.”

Guite spoke by phone Tuesday afternoon from Brighton, Massachusetts, during a break in the Bruins’ five-day development camp following last week’s NHL draft. The camp includes 28 players, most of them unsigned, including former Black Bears defenseman JD Greenway, who played in Orono last winter.

Danny Briere, president and governor of the Mariners, said he began looking for a new head coach in early July after learning of Armstrong’s imminent departure and Guite’s playing and coaching experience stood out. Briere said he also spoke with the Bruins about Guite, who played two full seasons with Providence, their top affiliate.

“The Bruins were really eager to have him be part of their system,” Briere said by phone from Philadelphia Tuesday. “I wanted them to have an input and have someone (in Portland) they felt comfortable with.”

A native of LaSalle, Quebec, Guite played four years for the Black Bears before turning professional. His first pro experience came with the ECHL Tallahassee Tiger Sharks in 2000 and he went on to play for seven AHL teams as well as with the NHL’s Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators.

“At this level,” Briere said, “I like someone who’s played in the minors, someone who understands what it’s like to be sent down, called up, sent down again. Someone who only played in the NHL probably would not understand. And Ben is known as one of the nicest persons in the sport of hockey.”

Including playoffs, Guite played 693 games in the minors and 185 in the NHL. He also played 27 games in Italy at the end of his career. A seventh-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens, he coached eight years in Orono, first as an assistant and then as associate head coach for the Black Bears until former UMass assistant Ben Barr was hired in May to replace Gendron.

Guite, Armstrong and Briere all knew each other before the coaching search began. In fact, the staff in Orono had been recruiting Briere’s son, Cameron, to play for the Black Bears (he eventually chose to join his brother, Carson, at Mercyhurst).

In addition to Guite, the Mariners announced the hiring of Terrence Wallin as an assistant coach. Wallin, 29, played for the Mariners, lives in Kennebunk and tied for the team lead in goals in their most recent season, with 23. Wallin replaces Anthony Bohn, currently head coach of the El Paso Rhinos of the North American Hockey League.

Guite and Wallin are attending Boston’s development camp through Friday.

“I thought this was a really good week for Terrence Wallin and I to come down, get to know everybody, get to know the prospect pool, and just to see how things are done here,” Guite said, “so our messaging is similar to our prospects. If they’re being sent to Portland they’ve got to know we’re on the same page, and what we’re teaching them will be the same they’re teaching in Providence and the same they’re teaching in Boston.”

Guite said it was fun to see Bruins star Brad Marchand drop by development camp on Monday. After seeing that a fitness test was underway, Marchand hopped on a stationary bike to see if he could beat the youngsters.

“His competitive drive never stops,” Guite said of Marchand.

It remains to be seen which players and how many the Bruins will send to Portland, but Guite said he believes “there will be a good handful. They want to make this partnership a really good one, much like the Sea Dogs would be to the Red Sox.”

Ben and Kristen Guite (a Deering High grad and UMaine classmate of his) live in Bangor with their two sons, 10-year-old Patrick and 8-year-old Max. She teaches junior high math. Ben Guite said he plans to rent an apartment in Portland from a friend during the season while his family remains in Bangor.

“The whole state of Maine is really our home,” he said. “We’re really fortunate to be able to stay here and get an opportunity like this.”


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