The high school hockey season is upon us, and there are no shortage of storylines in central Maine.

Here’s a look at a few of them …

Look for a more competitive season in Eastern B after the laugher that was last season.

Messalonskee and Brewer were heads and shoulders (trunks and feet, too) better than the rest of what the division had to offer.

It wasn’t close in the beginning, and it wasn’t close at the end.

The two powers routinely blasted their brethren in games that were routinely over sometime in the first period.

Don’t expect the same this season.

“I think last year it was us and Brewer and then everybody else,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said recently. “I don’t think that’s going to be the case this year.”

The Eagles and Witches return strong teams yet again, but both lose several key contributors. Couple that with a few vastly improved teams — Orono, for starters — and the race for the title should be more compelling this winter.

“Brewer and Messalonskee lost a few players, but that makes them just great and not unbeatable,” said Orono coach Greg Hirsch, whose team returns 12 seniors and is seen as a possible frontrunner. “Last year it was Messalonskee, Brewer and then everybody else. I don’t think it will be like that this year. People are saying we are the team to beat, but I don’t know if I want that bull’s eye on my back.”

* Just how bad was it for the Winslow boys last season?

The Raiders finished a dismal 1-14-1 and a whopping 13 players.

Thirteen!

The program more than doubled in size this season, giving coach Corey Lessard reason to be optimistic.

While plenty of the players have little to no varsity experience, the numbers are certainly a good sign.

* Waterville coach Dennis Martin used to call his team’s schedule one of the toughest — if not the toughest — in the state each year.

Aside from the two meetings with Eastern A heavyweights Bangor, Lewiston and St. Dominic, the Purple Panthers routinely scheduled the best of the West each season as well.

Biddeford. Thornton Academy. Falmouth.

Waterville wanted them all.

This year?

Not so much.

As the program sees its numbers steadily decline in recent seasons, Martin made considerable changes to the schedule.

Waterville — which has just 15 players on its roster — will play Lewiston, St. Dominic and Bangor just once this season.

Biddeford, Thornton and Falmouth are gone from the schedule.

Instead, the Panthers will face Gorham, Gray-New Gloucester/Poland, Mt. Ararat/Lisbon, and others.

* Speaking of Eastern A, the consensus among many coaches is that Lewiston, St. Dom’s and Bangor should occupy the top three spots, with only the order unsettled.

From there, the Maranacook/Winthrop/Hall-Dale co-operative team, Cony, Brunswick and Waterville could challenge for that coveted fourth spot.

The top four teams will host a quarterfinal game, and the race for that spot should be intriguing to follow.

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

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