Although a step up to Class B doesn’t affect Maranacook’s regular-season blueprint in Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B, it does change the route the Black Bears will have to take if they want to win a third consecutive state title after going back-to-back in their two years in Class C.

“Class B South is loaded,” Maranacook coach Don Beckwith said. “Every game in the playoffs is hard as hell. You could lose in the first round of the playoffs quicker than in C. We’ve got to be ready to play Day 1 of the playoffs.”

Southern (formerly Western) B dominates the class, having won the gold ball every year since 1994 with powerhouses such as Falmouth (now in Class A), Greely and defending champion Yarmouth.

Maranacook thrived as a Class C team in the KVAC B and expects to do so again this year with most of its nucleus, led by seniors Chris Beckwith, Kent Mohlar, Zack Godbout and Jason Brooks, back from a squad that compiled a 34-0-2 record over the last two years. Added to that mix this year is junior transfer Sam Wilkinson, who scored 20 goals for Erskine last year.

Perennial power Camden Hills stepped up to Class A this year, but the list of Northern B teams hoping to challenge Maranacook in the KVAC and possibly meet them again for the state title is still long.

Erskine lost Wilkinson and graduated four seniors, but it also has a lot of seniors back, including midfielders Trevor Hubbard, Luke Peabody and goalie Denver Cullivan.

“The key is staying together as a unit and playing as a team,” Erskine coach Phil Hubbard said. “We’ve got enough depth. We’ve got to stay as a unit and hold our shape and we’ll be fine.”

Waterville coach Kerry Serdjenian likes the way his team’s demographics panned out. Now he’s hoping it translates into a deeper playoff run.

“We only graduated two starting field players, and next spring we only graduate two. So we basically have the same team for three years,” he said.

Senior midfielder Michael Oliveira is one of Serdjenian’s mainstays. A new addition, Peter Mayhorn, who moved from Ohio, will add scoring punch to the front line.

Winslow has the makings of a dynamic offense with 20-goal scorer Jimmy Fowler and junior Ben Smith back on the attack. But the Black Raiders also have a number of holes to fill, starting in net, where sophomore Jake Lapierre replaces all-KVAC graduate Alex Berard.

“We graduated not only a lot of talented starters but a lot of very, very talented players and a lot of senior leadership,” Winslow coach Aaron Wolfe said. “We’re definitely going to be a younger team but I think we’ve got a lot of sophomores and juniors eager for their opportunity.”

Mount View will look to seniors Seth Davis (goalie) and Mike Hustus (sweeper) to lead what will be a young but deeper team back to playoff contention. “We definitely didn’t have the depth last year and got gassed a lot in the second half,” Mustangs coach Tom Ballard said. “We have more depth and speed this year.”

Nokomis graduated seven starters among a dozen seniors and is looking for a talented junior class, led by keeper Nick Bollinger and playmakers Alex Baird and Colby Fredette, to strengthen its playoff prospects.

Defense should be Gardiner’s strength as it tries to force its way into the playoff hunt. Kenneth Moore, a three-year starter in goal. The Tigers will try to create more scoring opportunities with forwards Larson Lunt and Jake Folsom.

Oak Hill graduated seven starters, yet coach Pete Letourneau thinks the program is trending in the right direction with leading scorer Kyle Beauparlant back at forward, Andrew Davis leading the defense and Kaleb Morrissette taking over in goal.

CLASS A

Camden Hills joins what was already a strong KVAC A, adding to a minefield schedule that also includes Lewiston, Bangor, Brunswick, Hampden Academy, Mt. Ararat and Edward Little.

Mt. Blue will have to take that test without Morning Sentinel Player of the Year Drew Parsons, who graduated. Coach Joel Smith, who also has to find someone to replace Colton Lawrence in net, will start with seniors Evan Backus, Liam Welch and Devon Hoyt, but that trio will need help.

“I don’t think you can replace one player,” Smith said. “You have to have everyone step up and fill that void. It’s going to be a collection of people.”

Messalonskee has a fresh group of sophomores ready to step in and help its battle-tested juniors and seniors overcome its graduation losses. Junior Jack Moore will lead the offense while Dylan Jones moves from center-mid to take over netminding duties full-time.

“We have a lot of kids who are very versatile out there and can play multiple positions,” Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan said. “That gives us a lot of options.”

Cony coach Jon Millett said his team has something to prove after missing the playoffs last year with a young nucleus.

“We’re not good enough to take anybody lightly,” he said. “Everyone is better than us and we should be playing with a chip on our shoulder.”

Connor Perry returns to lead a much-improved attack. Nathan Foye anchors a veteran defense in front of Nate Robinson, who was the frontrunner in the preseason goalie battle. The midfield is solid and there are several other players poised to lend Perry assistance in the goal-scoring department to make the Rams a team on the rise.

Lawrence graduated eight seniors and has six starters back. Max Marin returns to the net after spending about half of last season there and has some experienced upperclassmen in front of him.

“Overall, we’re still pretty young and inexperienced,” Lawrence coach Bob Towne said. “The KVAC is a tough conference. We hope we can settle somewhere in the middle.”

Skowhegan will build around a pair of four-year starters in the midfield, Kyle Davis and Kyle Dugas. Coach Dillon Clark wants his team to play a disciplined, more possession-oriented game to generate more scoring opportunities and help out a defense he expects to keep games close.

“A key is the strength of our defense,” Clark said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys with a lot of varsity experience who know the system.”