April is proving to be a busy month for Terrence Wallin.

On Friday came the announcement that the rookie head coach of the Maine Mariners is receiving a two-year contract extension, as is assistant coach Johnny McInnis. Wallin and McInnis, who were teammates on the 2018-19 Mariners, have guided Portland’s minor-league hockey club to its most successful season.

“I’m ecstatic to be staying here,” said Wallin, an assistant coach last season before succeeding Ben Guite, now the head coach at Bowdoin College. “I’ve been in Maine now eight or nine years. It feels like home.”

The Mariners (40-27-2-1) wrap up their fourth ECHL regular season this weekend at Cross Insurance Arena with games Saturday night and Sunday afternoon against the Norfolk Admirals.

Maine already has clinched a playoff berth and will be either the second or third seed in the first round of the North Division playoffs, against Reading. The Royals enter the weekend with a one-point lead on Maine but play their final two games Friday and Saturday night against division-leading Newfoundland, while the Mariners host last-place Norfolk.

Wallin’s wife, Erin, is due to deliver the couple’s first child any day now. Should the Mariners finish ahead of Reading, their best-of-seven series would open Tuesday night in Portland and continue Wednesday night before heading to Pennsylvania for up to three games.


Should Reading remain in second place – the Royals hold a tiebreaker advantage based on a 4-2 record against Maine – the series would begin next Friday at Santander Arena in Pennsylvania. Home games in Portland would be April 24-25, and if necessary, April 26.

Both teams are working around scheduling conflicts at their home arenas. In Portland, that involves shows by comedian Kevin Hart next Friday and the Maine Comic & Toy Con April 28-30. Playoff tickets went on sale Friday, despite the uncertainty of dates.

Connor Doherty, center, waits for the puck at Maine Mariners practice Friday at Cross Insurance Arena. I wouldn’t necessarily say we’ve played bad at home,” Doherty says of the team’s 17-16-0-1 in Portland. “I just think we need to translate our road game to our home game.” Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Of course, playing at home hasn’t been much of an advantage for the Mariners. After Wednesday night’s 5-2 loss to already-eliminated Trois-Rivières, Maine is barely above .500 in Portland, at 17-16-0-1.

Away from Maine, the Mariners are 23-11-2-0.

“Some things don’t add up,” Wallin said after practice Friday morning. “Last year was the complete opposite. We were really good at home and we were average on the road.”

Last year, the Mariners reached postseason play for the first time and lost a six-game series to Reading. Wallin said Maine fans deserve home-ice advantage in the opening round.


“They showed up like crazy this year,” he said. “They put their hard-earned money into coming to watch us, so to give them a chance at an extra game would be big.”

Defenseman Connor Doherty, the team captain, said road trips can help with team bonding, although he would be happy to avoid an extra eight-hour bus ride to Pennsylvania.

“When we’re on the road, we really simplify our game, kind of get down to the bare bones of it,” he said. “Then you get home and everybody relaxes a little bit more. Usually guys have families that come up. I wouldn’t necessarily say we’ve played bad at home. I just think we need to translate our road game to our home game.”

Mitch Fossier skates during Maine Mariners practice on Friday at Cross Insurance Arena. Fossier is one of two former University of Maine teammates on the Mariners, along with Tim Doherty. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Attendance at Cross arena is up by 32% over last year, with an average crowd of 3,758. Last year, the Mariners averaged 2,851.

“You hear a loud reaction after a goal or a hit and it makes it more fun to play,” said Mariners forward Pat Shea. “No one likes silence out there.”

Shea, sidelined for the past two weeks after losing a tooth, is hoping to return by next weekend. When healthy, he leads the team with 25 goals and has played on a line with fellow University of Maine alumni Mitch Fossier and Tim Doherty (no relation to Connor) that has notched nine goals this season.


That matches the team high for any line. Fossier, Nick Master and Mathew Santos (currently with AHL Milwaukee, but could return to Maine, where he accumulated 44 points in 38 games) also have scored nine times when skating together.

“Our senior year at Maine, we played together,” said Doherty, who has a team-leading 48 assists. “So the chemistry’s there. It’s just cool how it comes full circle, in the same state, just a couple hours south.”

Alex Kile fires a shot during Maine Mariners practice Friday at Cross Insurance Arena. Kile was the first player signed by the Mariners, nearly five years ago.  Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Forward Alex Kile, 28, has played 46 games over the past two seasons with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, which, like Reading, is an affiliate of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. So he has plenty of friends on the Royals, including his roommate from earlier this season, Charlie Gerard.

“He’s one of my best buddies, so I’m excited to play against him,” Kile said. “We both have a lot of good forwards, so I feel like it’s going to be a good series, for sure.”

Kile was the first player signed by the Mariners, nearly five years ago. He’s seen a lot of progress.

“I feel like this is probably the best roster we’ve had since I’ve been here, the best goaltending we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “I honestly think we can win some rounds in the playoffs, and that would be a first for the Mariners.”

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