Gardiner hockey coach Jeff Ross was quick to tweak his lines, and the move paid off at the end of a grueling first week to the season.
The Tigers (1-2-1) edged Yarmouth 4-1 on Saturday night in their fourth game in seven days.
“It was an up and down week,” Ross said. “The schedule, sometimes this happens. Month to month, it’s usually balanced. But it was a tough week.”
Gardiner lost a few blowouts, 6-0 to Greely and 8-2 to Messalonskee. It tied MHW 3-3 before beating Yarmouth.
Ross decided to pair Alex Nadeau, Josh Moore and Hunter Belanger together, and the trio responded.
Nadeau scored two goals and as many assists. Moore had three assists while Belanger scored his first goal of the season.
Seth Wing also scored his first goal of the season.
“We got some good, all-around play,” Ross said. “We made some changes with our lines, and from the first shift Hunter, Josh and Nadeau skated well together. They controlled the game. It was nice to see Seth step up, too. We’ve been waiting for him to break out of his shell.”
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Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop is receiving excellent production from its top line — Dan Condon, Matt Plourde and Jared Hanson.
The problem for the Hawks?
“We have to find offense from some other people,” MHW coach Andy Dube said. “We need other people to start scoring goals.”
The Hawks routed Gray-New Gloucester/Poland 8-1 on Saturday.
The top line did the most damage: Hanson scored four goals and Condon added a pair. Plourde also had four assists.
The Hawks rolled three lines Saturday, and Dube said there is competition for ice time between them
“We rolled three lines for the first time in quite awhile,” he said. “We have two lines fighting to be the second line. We wanted to give people an incentive, so if one line goes out and plays well, it will go back out quickly. If it doesn’t, it will sit a shift.”
Bailey Clark, Connor Lacasse and Peter Prescott comprise one line. Tyler Stockford, Tom Pietroski and Chris Stanley form the other.
“They are competing with each other to score goals and get more ice time,” Dube said. “We have the manpower to skate three lines so I think we’ll stick with it for awhile.”
MHW hosts Cony on Wednesday at 4 p.m. The teams last met in the Eastern A quarterfinals last season, with the Rams winning 3-2 in overtime.
“They’ll be ready,” Dube said.
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Cony dropped its second straight game, a 5-0 whitewash to Brunswick on Saturday, after opening with a 5-1 win over Leavitt.
After being shut out by the Dragons, Cony coach Chad Foye said he’d like to see his team play tougher.
“I want to see us be more gritty,” Foye said. “I don’t think we’re gritty enough. We’re not playing tough enough.”
The Rams entered the season with expectations of a top-four finish in Eastern A.
It’s early yet, of course, but Cony has been out-scored 9-0 in its last two games.
“We’re still trying to establish our identity,” Foye added. “Last year we had a lot of seniors and they did that. We’re just not where we want to be. Talent-wise, we are. We have the talent. It’s just an attitude thing and work ethic right now.”
Cony next plays at Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop (1-1-1) on Wednesday at Kents Hill. The Rams will then play rival Gardiner on Saturday at the Bank of Maine Ice Vault.
“Hopefully, we can get it going a little bit,” Foye said.
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Messalonskee is off to a fast 3-0-0 start, its latest victory coming in Presque Isle on Saturday by a convincing 12-2 decision.
The Eagles have scored 20 goals in their last two games since edging John Bapst 1-0 in the season opener.
Not bad considering two of their top four scorers from last season — Sam Dexter (graduated) and James Varney (juniors) — didn’t return.
“I’m pleased with our improvement,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “Our top line is really producing. All three of them are putting up some points.”
Chase Cunningham, who scored 65 points last season, skates with his freshman brother, Jared, and J.T. Towle on the top line.
The trio combined for 17 points against the Wildcats (1-3-0).
Latendresse said pairing the Cunninghams together was one of the easiest decisions he’s made.
“There’s a real connection between the two,” he said. “They just connect really well. J.T. fits really well with them, too. And, really, it’s been there since the first few days of training camp.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640