The Lawrence/Skowhegan hockey team lost four of its six games to open the season as the new co-operative program struggled to gel.
The playoffs seemed a bit of a stretch at the time for the Bandits, who were out-scored 25-14 in the slide.
Oh, how things changed for them in a hurry.
Lawrence/Skowhegan (9-5-0) has won seven of its last eight games entering its game Monday with Lewiston. The streak pulled the Bandits smack dab in the middle of the Eastern A playoff hunt.
They entered play Monday sitting fifth in Eastern A.
“Things have started to come together,” Bandits coach Ted Fabian said. “There’s just no quit in these guys. We have four games left and they are all big points on the line. We’re just trying to get as high a seed as possible. Anything can happen. It’s a fun position to be in, looking at Heal points as soon as the games get over.”
Lawrence/Skowhegan scored one of its biggest victories of the season Saturday, when it edged Cony/Monmouth 6-5 in overtime at the Bank of Maine Ice Vault.
The Bandits trailed 5-4 late in regulation when Chase Nelson tied it with a short-handed goal. Trey Michonski then won it for the Bandits with a minute, 34 seconds left in overtime.
“It’s a huge win for us,” Fabian said. “It was basically a playoff win for us. There were a lot of Heal points on the line. This is a pretty special group of kids.”
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Messalonskee (15-0-0) will likely head into the postseason as the No. 1 seed in Eastern B for the second straight season.
The Eagles, the two-time defending Eastern B champs, have scored at least six goals in their last eight games. They hold a more-than-comfortable cushion over No. 2 Presque Isle (10-5-1) heading into play Monday.
Messalonskee will receive another strong test Saturday, when it travels to Falmouth Ice Center to face two-time defending Class B state champ Greely (7-5-3).
“We’re very curious to see them,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “They are playing some really good hockey at the right time of the year. This will let us know where we stand.”
The Rangers started slow but have climbed into first place after earning big wins over Camden, Kennebunk and Gorham. Greely has won all four meetings with Messalonskee the last two seasons, including in consecutive state finals.
Latendresse said he’s scouted Greely a few times this season already.
“We’ll see them again Thursday,” he added. “We’ll go down and watch them play (Yarmouth) so we can help better prepare our players.”
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The Winslow boys are closing in on their first playoff berth with three games left in the regular season.
The Black Raiders (8-7-0), who’ve won more games this season then in their previous two combined, finish the season with big games against Hampden (6-7-2) and Brewer (6-7-1) this week.
“We’re right in the middle of it somewhere,” Winslow first-year coach Andy Dube said. “We have a good shot at the playoffs and maybe even a home ice berth.”
The top two teams in Eastern B will receive byes to the semifinals.
Winslow entered play Monday sitting fourth behind Waterville (10-5-1) and Presque Isle (10-5-1).
“If we win out we may have a chance,” Dube said.
Winslow could also receive a boost this week with the return of steady defenseman Dalton Thompson, who’s been out with a shoulder injury.
Nick Gurney and Chris Kelley have helped fill the void. Dameron Rodrigue, David Selwood and Jacob Houghton have also provided strong play behind the blue line this season.
“They’ve done a really nice job back there,” Dube said. “They don’t get enough credit. They’ve just been solid all year.”