The top two lines are producing and an improved defense is coming together. The starting goalie, Tyler Plante, has elevated his play as well.

These are some of the reasons why the Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop co-operative hockey team is riding a three-game winning streak after losing consecutive games to start the season.

Want another?

The emergence of what every coach longs for: A steady third line.

“We didn’t really have one last year,” MHW coach Andy Dube said. “We were a two-line team that maybe used a third line once a period. Now they are getting two or three shifts a period. It’s great. Championship teams will run three lines consistently.”

Rob Clark, Cam MacMillan and Mitch Guerette comprise the third line for MHW (3-2-0).

“They are holding their own,” Dube added. “It’s nice to have a third line you can rely on to bide some time for the first and second lines. They are putting pressure on teams and they keep it out of our end. They are playing a lot more.”

MHW hosts Brunswick (2-2-1) at 8:30 tonight at Kents Hill.

* * *

Gardiner (2-3-0) has dropped three straight after opening the season with consecutive victories.

The Tigers are averaging just one goal a game during the slide, prompting coach Jeff Ross to shift the focus at practice.

“We’re struggling to find the back of the net,” he said. “Our focus is on finishing. We’re doing a lot of shooting in practice and working on shooting positions. We’re a little slow getting it off our sticks right now so we are working on that.”

Ross added he usually forms two teams during practice. They compete against each other, and teams are rewarded for burying their chances.

“The team that loses most of the drills is on puck duty and net duty after practice,” Ross said with a laugh. “They have to take care of the pucks and get the nets ready for the Zamboni while the others get to leave the ice.”

* * *

Cony (3-1-0) is off to a strong start and sits third in Eastern A Heal points.

The Rams, who play at Gray-New Gloucester/Poland on Wednesday, have won two straight.

“We’re in pretty good shape entering the second half,” first-year coach Chad Foye said. “Our defense has done well. We’re not forcing pucks or making blind passes. One thing we have to work on is staying out of the box. We’re taking way too many penalties. But we have a good confidence level right now.”

The Rams hope to return to the Eastern A playoffs for the first time in two years.

“There is a different tone in practice now,” Foye said. “We want to get better. We have a long ways to go, but we’re improving.”

* * *

It’s been two seasons since 2001 Gardiner Area High School graduate Ray Jean last played competitive hockey.

Jean, 29, who lives in Sidney, last played for the Mississippi RiverKings of the Central Hockey League in the 2009-10 season.

He retired after that season and became a father in February after the birth of his daughter, Emma Lolly Jean.

“I’m being dad now,” said Jean, “but I still do a lot of coaching.”

Jean runs the goalie school Own The Crease. The clinics keep him busy, as do the number of youth hockey practices he attends. Jean works with goalies from several youth hockey organizations, including Casco Bay and Midcoast.

“I miss not playing,” Jean said. “But I love coaching. I like to watch the kids develop. It makes the not playing much easier. If I wasn’t playing and not coaching, I’d be miserable.

* * *

It’s common for teams to play and practice sporadically during the holidays.

But factor in a postponement and it can make this stretch all the more difficult for a team to absorb.

Messalonskee, for example, will play just its second game in more than two weeks when it faces off against rival Skowhegan at 6:05 tonight at Sukee Arena.

“It’s been a slow couple of weeks,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “It’s been slow times during the holidays. It always happens this time of the year, but the (postponement) really slowed us down.”

The Indians (3-1-1) and Eagles (3-1-0) were originally scheduled to play Dec. 21 but the game was postponed thanks to inclement weather.

Messalonskee sank Lawrence 12-0 on Dec. 28, its first game since Dec. 16.

“We’re ready to get back into the swing of things,” Latendresse said. “We’re pleased with where we’re at, but we’re not satisfied and nor should we be. We have a long ways to go.”

* * *

Games of the week: Skowhegan (3-1-1) and Messalonskee (3-1-0) play at 6:05 tonight at Sukee Arena. Cony (3-1-0) plays at Gray-New Gloucester/Poland (2-2-0) at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Also Wednesday, Gardiner (3-1-0) will play Winslow (0-6-0) at 5:10 p.m., also at Sukee.

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]


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