The Eastern A playoff race is starting to take shape, and as expected Lewiston, Bangor and St. Dominic sit at the top of the standings with a third of the regular season completed.
Also as expected, there is a logjam of teams jockeying for a top-four finish that would earn them a home playoff game.
Cony (5-2-0) is one of them.
“We knew it would be tight,” Cony coach Chad Foye said. “We knew Lewiston, Bangor and St. Dom’s would be tough at the top but there are a lot of teams fighting for spots.”
Seven teams will qualify for the Eastern A playoffs, with only the top seed earning a bye in the quarterfinal round.
Edward Little (3-3-0), Brunswick (3-2-0) and Mt. Ararat/Lisbon (3-4-0) are in the hunt as well.
“We’re all going to be battling it out as the season goes on,” Foye said.
The Rams have won four of their last five games, although the blemish came in an 8-2 loss to Bangor (5-1-0).
“We’ve been doing OK,” Foye added, “but we’re still trying to get over that hump of Christmas, where we miss some practices and things like that. We’re not completely clicking but we’re moving toward that.”
Foye said he’s switched up his lines to help create a little more balance up front.
Anthony Brunelle moved up to the top line with Austin Davis and Aaron Manter. Cam Wilson, Drew Keithley and Connor Perry skate on a line as well.
“Anthony has been scoring some goals,” Foye said. “He gets to the net and is a good fit on that line. We liked Cam on the line with Keithley and Perry because he gets the puck a little bit more. He’s got some good skills as well.”
Cony/Monmouth will play at Lawrence/Skowhegan at 6:10 p.m. Wednesday.
â€¢ â€¢ â€¢
It’s been a tough season so far for Gardiner, which still seeks its first win.
The Tigers (0-6-0) are coming off a tough 10-7 loss to Hampden last weekend. They scored more goals than in their previous five games combined, but it still wasn’t enough.
Alex Nadeau led the way with a pair of goals for Gardiner.
“The offensive production was there but the defense was weak,” Gardiner coach Jeff Ross said. “We just fell apart against Hampden. It was a letdown. It was nice to score some goals but our transition defense was weak.”
The Tigers return to action Wednesday when they’ll play Maranacook/Winthrop (1-3-0) at Kents Hill.
“It will be a good test for them to see how we can bounce back,” Ross said. “We’ll see how we’ll respond.”
â€¢ â€¢ â€¢
Messalonskee is off to a strong 6-0-0 start and holds a comfortable cushion at the top of Eastern B.
The two-time defending regional champs have outscored their opponents 46-12 and already have wins over Class A contenders Bangor and Falmouth.
“We’ve been playing some pretty good hockey,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “We still have a lot to improve upon but I like where we’re at.”
Senior forward Chase Cunningham is off to flying start as well. He scored five goals in a 7-2 win over Waterville last Saturday to give him 77 is his career. He has 189 career points and is just three shy of tying Nate Ponitz for the all-time scoring leader in program history.
Cunningham is skating with younger brother Jared Cunningham and senior Dan Condon.
The trio are working well together, but Latendresse will have some decisions to make later this month when injured forward Josh Towle could return from a broken arm.
Towle skated with the Cunningham brothers last season.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Latendresse said. “J.T. (Towle) is basically four weeks out from the injury. If everything goes right he will be out of the cast soon. Our goal right now is for him to come back Jan. 29.”
Messalonskee hosts Brewer (4-1-1) that night.
Towle, who scored more than 40 points last season, is working out with the team. Latendresse said Towle will ramp up the rehab this week.
“This week we’re going to have him do some special skill drills just to see where he’s at,” he said. “We need to get him back in hockey shape but we also need to be very careful that we don’t rush him. We’re going to need him in the second half.”
Around the state: Messalonskee and Camden Hills (5-0-1) are the lone unbeaten teams in the state. The two will play Feb. 5. … Western A frontrunner Scarborough (6-1-1) has already played three overtime games, going 1-1-1. Defending Class B state champ Greely is 1-3-1, although its losses have come to Lewiston, Falmouth and Kennebunk.