The Gardiner Area High School hockey team is holding onto the fifth and final playoff berth in Western B with just a third of the regular season remaining.

“We’re clinging to the last spot,” Gardiner coach Jeff Ross said. “Our league is deep. Any seven of the teams in the league can make it. We’ve given a few games away, but we’re right there.”

Indeed, Western B is tight. The last-place team, Leavitt, is 4-8-0 and still in the hunt.

Greely (7-3-1), which played Eastern A contenders Lewiston and St. Dominic tough, sits atop Western B. York (6-4-2), Cape Elizabeth (6-3-2) and Camden Hills (7-4-0) follow.

Gardiner (6-6-0) leads Yarmouth (6-3-1) by about three Heal points for the last playoff berth.

“The good thing is, we control our destiny,” Ross said. “We don’t have to pray for somebody else to lose. We’re playing well and just have to keep it going.”

Gardiner next plays at Greely at 7 p.m. Saturday.

• • •

Lewiston and St. Dominic shook off slow starts and are quickly climbing up the Eastern A standings. Bangor, the frontrunner for much of the season, is holding strong.

And then there’s the Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop co-operative team that finds itself in a fight for a coveted quarterfinal home game.

The Hawks are 8-4-0 after defeating Gray-New Gloucester/Poland 4-3 on Monday. They are third in Eastern A, trailing Lewiston (8-3-1) and Bangor (10-1-0) but staying ahead of St. Dom’s (7-3-0).

“That’s what we want,” MHW coach Andy Dube said. “We want a home game. It’s what we’re fighting for. We knew (Lewiston and St. Dom’s) would move up. We have to let things sort each other out.”

• • •

Messalonskee did what no other Eastern B team has this season: Skate with two-time defending regional champ Brewer.

And not just once, but twice.

The Eagles (9-2-0) fell to the Witches 6-4 on Saturday night at Sukee. They lost a 7-5 decision to Brewer earlier in December. Messalonskee led by as many as two goals in each of those contests.

“Close, but not close enough,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “We played well on Saturday, but the end result was not what we were looking for. Until we beat them, I don’t think you can say we are right there with them. They are the better team than us at this point.

“We’ll learn from it, though. If we get another opportunity, hopefully we can succeed.”

Of course, should teams meet again it will come in the Eastern B playoffs. Brewer (12-1-0) and Messalonskee are ranked first and second, respectively, in the region.

• • •

The Kents Hill boys should receive a boost with the return of several injured players.

One of the team’s top forwards, sophomore forward Jared Cockrell, has been out since the middle of December with a leg injury.

However, Kents Hill coach Larry Cockrell says Jared, his son, could return this week.

“We’re still doing pretty well,” Larry Cockrell said. “We’ve had some injury problems but we’re starting to get some guys back.”

The Huskies, who are 12-8-1, host Berwick Academy at 5:30 p.m. Friday and Pingree School at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

• • •

Waterville (2-11-0) still has an outside shot at the Eastern A playoffs, but it will likely need at least two victories, and possibly three, in its final five games.

The Purple Panthers play Wednesday at Biddeford (4-5-2) before what coach Dennis Martin says are must-win games against a pair of co-operative teams: Gray-New Gloucester/Poland (2-9-0) and MHW (8-4-0).

“We still have a chance but we’ll need those games,” Martin said. “If we win those games, it may get us enough Heal points.”

Waterville closes the season with Lewiston (8-3-1) and Bangor (10-1-0).

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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