The Winslow boys hockey team still has nine regular-season games remaining but has already doubled its win total from a year ago.
The Raiders sank Houlton/Hodgdon 5-2 on Saturday to improve to 2-7-0. They finished 1-14-1 last season.
“We needed it,” Winslow coach Corey Lessard said. “It was a nice win. It gives us some confidence. The effort is there, which is nice. I think we’ll only get better as the season goes on.”
Winslow is in the mix for an Eastern B playoff berth. It sits eighth in Heal points entering play Monday night; the top seven qualify for the postseason.
Not bad considering the team skates seven freshmen and three sophomores.
“I expect us to be in it,” Lessard said.
After losing 6-3 to Lawrence on Dec. 29, Lessard decided to change his lines. He moved defenseman Tyler Foley-Kerr to forward and shifted freshman Jacob Trask to the top line with Alex Berard and Jacob Cain. The moves are starting to pay off.
Trask already has six goals.
Lessard is also splitting the goaltending duties with freshman Andrew Beals and senior Cam Tibbetts.
Furthermore, three of the four starting defensemen are freshmen.
“We made some changes and we’ll see how they go,” Lessard said. “We shifted a lot of guys around. For us to get into the playoffs, we’ll have to come up with a big win. We have a lot of new players but we’ll get better as the year goes on.”
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Messalonskee received what coach Mike Latendresse called a “wake-up call” with a 5-4 overtime loss to John Bapst on Saturday night.
“They really beat us up,” Latendresse said. “John Bapst, in that game, was by far the best team on the ice. Hopefully, it makes us realize that we have a lot of work left to do. It’s a reality check. You never want to lose, but maybe this is a wake-up call.”
The Eagles (8-1-0) still sit atop Eastern B in Heal points. The defending regional champs, Messalonskee will next play Winslow (2-7-0) on Saturday at Sukee Arena.
“We have to get better,” Latendresse said. “There’s still a lot of hockey left to be played.”
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Waterville received a nice boost with the return of freshman forward Michael Oliveira, who missed the first seven games with a hamstring injury suffered during soccer season.
Oliveira made his season debut Thursday in a 5-1 loss to Cony.
“He’s feeling OK,” Waterville coach Dennis Martin said. “He’s a little sore. He’s still not 100 percent and he might not be for the season, but he wants to tough it out.”
Oliveira had an assist against the Rams. He skated on the top line with Dalton Denis and Chris Lee.
“He does some good things with the puck,” Martin said. “He sees the ice well and he doesn’t panic. He did a nice job in the defensive zone.”
The Purple Panthers hosted St. Dominic on Monday to begin a grueling four-game stretch. Waterville will next play at Lewiston (4-2-1), Bangor (6-1-0) and Messalonskee (8-1-0).
“We’re not a bad hockey team,” Martin said. “Eventually we will get over the hump. We just have to keep going. Eventually the bounces will go our way. They have to. We’ve lost a couple tough ones.”
Waterville has three losses in games it led going into the third period.
“We still have a lot of games to go,” Martin added. “Can we get into the playoffs? Who knows. But we have a lot of hockey left.”
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Lawrence (4-5-0) has been dressing as few as 11 players in recent games, but several players are expected back soon to provide a much-needed boost.
Cody Martin, a top forward who had a strong preseason, is recovering from a broken collarbone and could return soon, coach Ted Fabian said. Forward Tyler Tompkins, who’s been out with a knee injury, could also return to action soon.
“It will be nice to get a few guys back,” Fabian said, “because it will step up competition in practice. Guys will be fighting for spots.”
The Bulldogs were ranked fifth in Eastern B Heal points entering play Monday night. They’ll next play Friday at Houlton/Hodgdon (1-8-0) and then Saturday at Presque Isle (3-6-0).
“We have two big games coming up,” Fabian said. “We’ll find out more about ourselves this weekend.”
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Skowhegan reached the midway point of its regular season perfect at 9-0-0. The combined record of their opponents is 20-45-6. The combined record of their second-half foes is 42-27-3.
“We just play the schedule in front of us,” Skowhegan coach Jeff Fowler said. “We know things are going to get tougher for us. In our last nine games we have a lot of really tough games. We’ll do our best and see what we can do.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640