WATERVILLE — It is still very early in the season, but there is a good chance that the road to the Eastern Class B boys hockey title could go through central Maine.

“You never know on any given day, you’ve got to come to play but it could be the teams around here are the ones to beat,” Waterville coach Dennis Martin said. “Who knows?”

Waterville, Winslow and Messalonskee — three schools separated by less than seven miles — have each gotten off to strong starts, with the latter two engaging in an early season classic last Wednesday in a 6-5 Eagles victory.

As the defending champs, Messalonskee (1-0) will be the team everyone is gunning for but the Black Raiders (2-1) have already been battled tested.

All three of the Raiders’ games have been decided by a single goal, with the most recent coming Saturday in a 2-1 win over Yarmouth.

“It was a big night for us to get another win and to continue to play well,” Winslow coach Andy Dube said. “We’ve played three really big games.”

Waterville (1-0), meanwhile, only has a 5-0 win over Greely on its resume thus far but nonetheless has been impressive.

“We’ve only had one game but we came out and skated really well for our first game,” Martin said. “We jumped out to a good start and just played consistent throughout the whole game.”

Martin has praised his team’s balance in the early going, stating he has gotten solid production out of his eight forwards, two defensive pairings and first-year goaltender Nathan Pinnette.

“It’s just a basic, good, all-around team game that we play,” Martin said. “Everybody played their job and worked hard as a group.”

• • •

At 0-2, the Lawrence/Skowhegan co-op has gotten off to another slow start with losses to Bangor (5-1) and Scarborough (3-1) but coach Ted Fabian believes his team is ahead of that pace set by last season’s 12-6 club.

“We’re starting slow like last year but overall we’re way ahead of where we were last year,” Fabian said. “We have some chemistry.”

The defense has been a bright spot for the Bandits despite letting in eight goals this season. Sam Haver and Nolan Despres have led the way as the top pairing, while Adam Littlefield and Brady Martin have played well also.

“Every time they hit the ice, they give you everything they have inside of them,” Fabian said of Haver and Despres.

First-year goalie Curtis Martin, a sophomore, has also played well despite logging zero varsity minutes last season.

“He didn’t get any time and he’s stepped up so far beyond our expectations,” Fabian said. “He’s into the game, he’s very vocal on the ice and he’s stepped it up as a leader.

“Honestly, I thought it would take him a few games. He hasn’t missed a beat.”

Penalties, however, have hurt the Bandits as they gave up three power-play goals to Scarborough last time out. The team will also need to get going at the offensive end, yet they do have talent up front to get it done with players like Trey Michonski, Andrew Carpenter and Cody Martin.

“We’re really struggling offensively right now,” Fabian said. “We’re trying to make the pretty goal instead of the hard-working, grind-it-out goal.”

• • •

The Winslow girls (0-7) have given up 55 goals this season while scoring just nine, but the most important number for the Black Raiders this winter has been 20.

That is the number of players the team started with at the beginning of the season and still currently has on its roster. After the program was nearly cut earlier this year, it’s a number coach Chris Downing is certainly happy to have.

“It’s a transitional year,” Downing said. “We’re getting a lot of new players, getting them to understand the speed of the game. The only way to get better at hockey is by playing.”

According to Downing, the team has done just that this season even though it may not necessarily be reflected in the Black Raiders’ record.

“We are improving every practice and every game a little bit at a time,” Downing said. “They’re starting to learn the positions and it’s just a matter of time. A lot of first-year skaters and we’re developing as we go. They never quit and that’s the big thing. They never give up.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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