The Eastern B playoff race is becoming clearer, with the frontrunners starting to gain a little separation.

Brewer (13-1-0) and Messalonskee (12-2-0) are ranked first and second, respectively, in Heal points.

No. 3 Presque Isle (9-6-0) is well behind both teams, but it opened some eyes when it took Brewer to overtime last week.

“Brewer is still the team to beat,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “There’s no doubt about that. It looks like (Presque Isle) is on the way up. They are a hard-working team. They are battle-tested, too. We need to pick our game up. It’s going to get interesting.”

Messalonskee beat Presque Isle 8-3 earlier this season but lost a pair of two-goal deficits to Brewer, the two-time defending Eastern B champ.

“PI has turned it up,” Brewer coach Dave Shedd said. “Old Town has a nice push going on. But the Heal points have settled the top three teams.”

Shedd added that he would welcome another showdown with Messalonskee should the two meet again in the playoffs.

“It’s always good hockey,” he said. “Our games have been back and forth. Each team can prey upon the other on the power play. They have a couple of good lines. We have a couple good lines. They have a good goalie in (Nate) DelGiudice. But he is not invincible by any means. We’ve proven that. It’s a good matchup.”

* * *

Lawrence coach Dave Richard says the team is improving, although it’s not translating into victories.

The Bulldogs (2-9-1) are riding a seven-game winless streak that’s knocked them to ninth in Eastern B.

The top seven qualify for the playoffs.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Richard said. “We’re just not winning the games.”

Richard tried to revive the offense by moving defenseman Jordan Nutting up front.

The switch has paid off.

Nutting scored a goal and two assists in a 6-4 loss to Houlton/Hodgdon on Saturday.

“Half-way through the season and we’re still juggling our lines,” Richard said. “But he’s played really well.”

Nutting said he’s enjoyed the transition to forward.

“It’s been a good experience,” he said. “It’s different.”

* * *

Waterville (3-12-0) will play a must-win game Saturday at Kents Hill against the Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop co-operative team.

The Purple Panthers, fresh off a 5-0 victory over Gray/New Gloucester-Poland, still have an outside shot of an Eastern A playoff berth.

They are 12th in Eastern A with the top eight or nine — depending on if Skowhegan qualifies — earning playoff berths.

A win over MHW (8-5-0) would give the Panthers a significant boost.

“This is the big one,” Waterville coach Dennis Martin said. “We’re coming around. It’s going to be close. We have to do what we can. We’ll give it our best shot.”

The Panthers were about seven points out of a playoff spot entering games Monday night.

They’ll close the season with games against Bangor (10-3-0) and Lewiston (10-3-1).

“We have to keep it going,” Martin said.

* * *

Cony has rediscovered its offense, and it’s come at an opportune time as it makes a push toward the Eastern A playoffs.

The Rams (10-3-0) have scored as many goals in their last four games (27) as they did in their first nine.

“We’re scoring a lot better,” Cony coach Chad Foye said. “A lot of it has to do with making good decisions with the puck. We’re getting to the net a lot harder. We’re creating. It’s good to see.”

The Rams have won six straight games to clinch their first winning season since 2008-09, when they finished 10-9-0.

Cony is fifth in Eastern A Heal points and is all but assured to earn its first playoff berth in three seasons.

“It has been awhile,” said Foye. “We’re gaining some confidence. I’m happy with the progress. We’re in pretty good shape right now. We still have to fine tune some things, but we’re starting to click.”

* * *

MHW has lost three of its last five games. The Hawks averaged three goals a game in the stretch, and coach Andy Dube said he may shake things up a bit to jump-start the offense.

“We had three decent lines going but we’re struggling right now,” he said. “We’re not getting enough production. We have to find something that works for us.”

Dube said he is contemplating moving defensemen Zach Bessette and Jason LaPorte up front.

“We have to try to find the right chemistry going into the playoffs,” Dube said.

With Ian Palmer and Nate Tozier — who recently returned after missing most of the season with concussion-like symptoms — anchoring the blue line, Dube has the flexibility to move others up front.

“We want to stay in the top four group,” Dube said. “We want to get home ice advantage in the first round.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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