The end of the regular season is just a few weeks away and for a number of area boys hockey teams the time to make a push towards the playoffs is running short.

If the playoffs began today, four local teams — Lawrence/Skowhegan in Eastern A and Messalonskee, Waterville and Winslow in Eastern B — would qualify for the postseason, while Cony/Monmouth, Poland/Gray-New Gloucester/Oak Hill, Gardiner and Maranacook/Winthrop would each miss out.

Here is a regional look at just where each team stands heading into the home stretch of the regular season:

CLASS A

History seems to be repeating itself for the Bandits, as they have turned around their season by winning six straight after a 1-5-1 start.

The team followed a similar arc last season, yet once Lawrence/Skowhegan gets to the postseason that is where it hopes to branch off in a different direction. The Bandits hosted Brunswick in the opening round of the playoffs last season but suffered a 1-0 defeat in overtime at Sukee Arena for an early exit.

“(This season) started off similar to last season and as it’s moved on we developed and gained chemistry throughout,” Bandits senior defenseman Adam Littlefield said. “We ended off on a high note last year and hopefully we’ll be able to make playoffs this year and maybe more.”

Currently the Bandits are in fourth place in Eastern A, and there is a good chance that is where they end up. With a Tournament Index of 45.5257, Lawrence/Skowhegan is about six points clear of Edward Little and Brunswick for fifth and sixth, respectively, while well back of leaders St. Dominic (82.0988), Lewiston (74.1512) and Bangor (73.9969).

The Bandits also have a fairly favorable schedule with five games remaining against teams with a combined record of 22-37-0.

“Fourth spot or higher is our goal,” Bandits coach Ted Fabian said. “Host another playoff game like last year and maybe it will be a different story. I still think we’re ahead of where we were at this time last year, and if we continue to improve then I think we’ll be where we want to be come playoff time.”

The Rams and 26ers, meanwhile, still have plenty of work to do if they want to just get into the postseason.

“It’s getting to the point where we have to decide what we’re going to do here. As a team we have to decide which way we are going to go,” Cony/Monmouth coach Chad Foye said. “Are we going to cash it in or are we going to start hustling and doing what we do that can make us successful?”

At 3-8-0 and almost seven points behind Windham for the last playoff spot, the Rams will have an uphill battle to get into the postseason with games remaining against Bangor, St. Dom’s and the Bandits. The 26ers are 5-6-0 but have a Tournament Index of 12.1914 as a result of their schedule.

In Western A, Falmouth, Cheverus, Biddeford and Scarborough have put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division, with the Yachtsmen holding a 73.8426-62.1142 advantage over the Stags in the Tournament Index.

EASTERN B

After 12 games, it’s pretty clear the road to the Eastern B championship goes through the defending champs.

“It’s Messalonskee and then everybody else is fighting for positions two through six,” Waterville coach Dennis Martin said. “On any given day it looks like someone can show up and beat anybody. Everybody is beating everybody. It’s whoever comes in on that night, shows up and gets good goaltending.”

The Eagles (11-1-0) are almost 40 points clear of second place Waterville in the Tournament Index, and at this point it is highly unlikely anyone catches them for the top seed.

From there, however, every seed in the playoffs is still up for grabs as only eight points separate second-place Waterville from seventh-place John Bapst in the standings.

Winslow and Waterville each have identical 8-4-0 records, yet the Purple Panthers own a slight edge in points thanks to quality wins over Brewer and Hampden. Waterville and Winslow are scheduled to meet on Wednesday, Feb. 11 at Sukee Arena in a game that will likely have a distinct effect on the final standings.

WESTERN B

At 5-8-0 Gardiner is one spot out of the playoffs behind Greely (2-9-1) mainly due to strength of schedule. The Tigers trail the Rangers by a little over four points in the Tournament Index and still have time to get into the playoffs, but would likely have a hard time rising any higher than seventh in the standings.

“It depends really on what we do. The Heal Points are there,” Gardiner coach Jeff Ross said. “If we can keep winning games we can jump with the points available.”

The road will not be an easy one for the Tigers, as their final three games come against the division’s top three teams in Kennebunk (9-2-2), York (8-3-1) and Camden Hills (9-2-0). They also play crossovers against winless Houlton/Hodgdon (0-13-0 Eastern B) and Marshwood/Traip (3-9-0 Western A).

Despite the difficult road, Ross said he feels good about his team’s chances as Gardiner has now won two straight after suffering through a five-game losing streak.

“We’re on a good track right now. I think they’re starting to play quite well together,” Ross said. “We have a lot of points left out there, it’s just a matter of doing something with them.”

Maranacook/Winthrop is still in the hunt for a playoff spot at 1-11-0 mainly because of a difficult schedule. The combined record of the Hawks’ opponents this season is 81-65-3, with only four games coming against teams with losing records (Gardiner twice, Hampden (6-8-0) and Leavitt (1-11-0).

PREP/GIRLS

The Kents Hill boys snapped a five-game losing streak with a 6-3 win over North Yarmouth Academy Wednesday, and at 8-10-0 still have time to make a push for the New England Prep School Athletic Council playoffs.

“We are right about somewhere around the middle (in the standings),” Kents Hill coach Doug Friedman said. “We need to have a strong finish here in order to make the playoffs.

“If we have a good push here in the last month I think we have a good chance to make it.”

As for the Kents Hill girls team, the season has not gone quite as the Huskies had hoped but they have showed consistent improvement throughout the season with a young team according to coach Meghan Toomey.

“It’s been a tough year but we only graduate two,” Toomey said. “This was kind of a rebuilding year. Our two seniors are really great leaders and our kids are learning a lot from our losses, which is important.

“…It’s definitely showing that we’re making the right strides and heading in the right direction, we just haven’t had it click yet. We’re competing in a lot of games.”

The Winslow girls team (1-15-2) wrapped up its season Thursday with a 5-3 loss on the road against Portland/Deering. The Black Raiders missed the playoffs, but did show significant improvement over the course of the season — particularly given that there very nearly was no season for them to begin with.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley


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