PORTLAND, ME – August 28, 2019 – Mariners Vice President of Operations Danny Briere announced today that Head Coach Riley Armstrong has received a two-year contract extension through the 2021-22 season and has also been promoted to the title of Head Coach/Assistant General Manager. Armstrong, in his first season as an ECHL head coach, led the Mariners to a 37-32-2-1 record in 2018-19.
“We are excited to extend Riley for two more years as he’s shown a lot of promise leading an expansion team to within two points of a playoff spot last season,” said Briere. “He has also gone above and beyond his role as a head coach and we feel he has earned the title of Assistant General Manager for his work off the ice as well.”
Armstrong, 34, was announced as the franchise’s first head coach in February of 2018, departing from the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers where he served as an assistant coach. He joined Wheeling in 2016, immediately following retirement from his playing career and spent almost two full seasons on the Nailers staff before accepting the head coaching job in Maine. His initial contract took him through the end of the 2019-20 season, and now he has welcomed stability for himself and his family.
“As a player and then early on my coaching career, we had a couple of moves that we made as a family so now it kind of takes a load off the shoulders a little bit,” said Armstrong. “My kids don’t mind the moving part of what I do for a living, but at the same time for myself it’s nice that they’re going to be in a school for a long period of time. And also just being in Portland, we’ve made some friends around town now, I feel really comfortable here.”
A native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Armstrong’s playing career spanned 12 seasons and took him all over the globe. He spent the majority of his career with the San Jose Sharks top affiliate – first in Cleveland, Ohio and then in Worcester, Massachusetts. In the 2008-09 season, Armstrong made his NHL debut with San Jose. He left the Sharks organization the following season, but stayed in the AHL, playing for the Abbotsford Heat and Grand Rapids Griffins. He then played overseas in Germany, Finland, Sweden, and Kazakhstan. Before his career was over, Armstrong had ECHL stints with the Utah Grizzlies, Elmira Jackals, and Reading Royals – the team with which he finished.
Armstrong says the addition of Assistant General Manager to his title is a key step in a journey toward NHL coaching dreams.
“It’s something that is good for my resume that I can add to it to keep climbing the ladder in this hockey world,” he said. “Everybody wants to move up to the American League and hopefully to the National League one day, and that’s the path I want to take too.”
After a 0-3 start to their inaugural season, Armstrong’s Mariners went 16-7-0-1 through the months of November and December of 2018, putting them in a playoff position at the holiday break. Despite a downturn in January, they rebounded with a 14-9-2-0 mark through February and March. Only a poorly timed five game losing streak in the season’s final weeks kept them from qualifying for the postseason, missing out by just two points. Armstrong’s Mariners were the only team in the ECHL in 2018-19 to miss the playoffs with an above .500 win percentage. Heading into season two, Armstrong’s outlook is optimistic. The current roster contains 16 names of players under contract, not including re-enforcements from the New York Rangers and Hartford Wolf Pack.
“To build the team wasn’t the hardest part,” said Armstrong. “There were a lot of guys that wanted to come back, so for us it was picking the guys that we wanted back. Hartford has helped out a ton, it’s been great building that relationship. I think we’re going to have a really strong team this year. I think we’re going to have chemistry right off the bat that we lacked last year off the start.”
Armstrong and recently signed forward Ted Hart, of Cumberland, will appear on an off-season edition of the Mariners Coach’s Show next Thursday, September 5th from 6-7 PM. The show will broadcast live from Three Dollar Deweys (241 Commercial St. in Portland) and will stream on the Mariners Radio Network via Mixlr as well as Facebook Live. Fans who attend the show at Three Dollar Deweys and ask a question on air will be entered to win a “Benchwarmers” experience during a 2019-20 regular season game – watching warmups from the player’s bench.
The second season of Maine Mariners ECHL hockey kicks off October 11th at home when the Adirondack Thunder visit the Cross Insurance Arena for a 7:15 PM faceoff. Full and half season plans along with 12-game mini plans, flex packs, and group tickets are on sale now by calling 833-GO-MAINE or visiting the Mariners front office at 94 Free St. in Portland. Single game tickets will go on sale September 16th, with a special “Opening Night Pack” available now through September 13th. More ticket information is available here.