It’s been a season of “what if” for Gardiner, which is still in the hunt for a Western B playoff berth. The Tigers (4-9-1) are chasing Cape Elizabeth (5-10-1), a team they will play in Hallowell on Feb. 18, for the fifth and final spot. Gardiner defeated Cape Elizabeth 2-1 in overtime on Jan. 31.
“We still have opportunities left but we have to start winning games,” Gardiner coach Jeff Ross said. “Being close enough isn’t good enough right now.”
Gardiner has been close in an abundance of its games this season. Eight of Tigers 14 games have been decided by two or fewer goals. Gardiner is 2-5-1 in those games.
“We have to finish out games,” Ross said. “We’ve played a lot of really close games but we need to start winning some of them.”
• • •
A large contingent of former Gardiner players and coaches turned out last Thursday at the Bank of Maine Ice Vault to watch a ceremony that honored Teddy Robbins, a captain defenseman who played for the Tigers in the mid- to late-1970s.
Robbins, who graduated in 1978, died Feb. 4, 1981 of complications to colon cancer.
His No. 18 jersey was retired Thursday before the Tigers played the Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop co-operative team.
One former player — Bobby Smith — made the trip from his New York home.
“I dropped everything to get here,” said Smith, 52, who often paired with Robbins behind the blue line. “When I heard about this tribute, I was here.”
Smith graduated from Gardiner in 1979, a year after Robbins.
“Ted was the ultimate leader,” Smith said. “I knew I had to get here for this.”
• • •
MHW’s power-play unit received a boost when coach Andy Dube moved leading scorer Dan Condon to the point. Condon, a forward, ranks near the top of Class A scoring leaders.
While coaches often prefer defensemen to run the point on the power play, Dube needed spark after his units failed to score in three consecutive games.
“It’s been a big lift,” Dube said.
The Hawks (8-4-2), who are headed to the Eastern A playoffs for the fourth straight year, scored two power-play goals in a 4-3 win over Gardiner last Thursday. Condon was in on both.
“It’s nice to capitalize on the power play,” he said. “It feels good being out there (on the point).”
• • •
Messalonskee learned quite a bit about itself when it faced Class B powers Greely and Brewer in consecutive games last week.
The Eagles (12-2-0) split the much-anticipated showdowns, losing to Greely 8-4 before beating Brewer 5-1.
“We still have a lot of work to do but we are in a good position now,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “We need to improve in some areas, particularly the neutral zone, but we are in a good position.”
Indeed, they are.
The Eagles hold a comfortable Heal point in Eastern B over the Witches (10-4-0) and are in prime position to earn the top seed for the playoffs. Messalonskee has four games remaining, beginning tonight when it plays Lawrence (6-9-0) at Sukee Arena.
The Eagles also play Old Town (0-13-0), Houlton/Hodgdon (4-11-0) and Hampden(6-6-0) to close out the regular season.
“We still have a lot of hockey left but we really want that top seed,” Latendresse said. “It’s important to finish first to get that bye.”
The No. 1 seed in Eastern B receives a bye to the semifinals.
Of course, it also comes with the bulls-eye tattooed across their jerseys.
“Everyone would be gunning for us,” Latendresse said. “We know that, and we’ll have to be ready.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640