For some in the Augusta and Gardiner area, the holidays are about friends, family and hockey.

On Saturday the Cony/Monmouth/Hall-Dale and Gardiner hockey teams will celebrate the day after Christmas by getting together at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault for a 5:20 p.m. start in the latest installment of their annual rivalry.

“In my days you grew up playing against guys you played with right up through. It was a lot of fun but at the same time it was really intense,” said Gardiner head coach Sam Moore, a 1983 graduate of the school. “It was always one that you wanted to get under your belt.

“It’s just that river rivalry thing I guess. There’s bragging rights with your buddies when you see them at the rink after practice, before games.”

While Moore is in his first year as head coach of the Tigers, he is more than familiar with his opposing coach for Saturday’s game. He and Cony coach Chad Foye grew up playing together in youth leagues and high school, and each were captains as seniors in the 1982-83 season.

“Sam was a great scorer. He led our league and the state in scoring a couple years in his junior and senior year I believe,” Foye said. “My best offensive move was to pass him the puck. I played defense, he was a center and he could really snipe the puck. He could shoot the puck really well, hit corners and had a real quick release with the puck and he understands the game really well. He used that to his advantage really well.”

While Foye, Moore and Cony assistant coach Chris Buck — who was a goalkeeper and 1986 graduate of Gardiner — are all familiar with the rivalry, Foye says that will have little impact on Saturday’s game. Rather, it will come down to whichever team better handles the moment.

“He understands what I do and I have a pretty good idea of what he’s going to do, but when it boils down to it, he and I aren’t going to determine a whole lot of what happens with this game,” Foye said. “It’s going to be people going out and executing and just playing well. It’s a fun rivalry to have and it’s good to go against your friends, but that’s about where it stops.”

While the Rams (3-2-0 Class A North) can spend the week getting ready for Gardiner, the Tigers will have one more game to focus on prior to turning their attention to Cony. Gardiner (2-2-0 Class B South) will travel to take on Brunswick (3-2-0 Class B South) Tuesday for a 2:30 p.m. start in its next contest.

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Preseason predictions seem to be holding true thus far in Class A North. Lewiston (4-0-0) was the preseason favorite amongst many in the league and are one of two unbeaten teams remaining along with Windham/Westbrook (3-0-0), although the Eagles have played a less challenging schedule with their three opponents boasting a combined 3-13-1 record.

“I still haven’t seen Lewiston play yet but I’ve heard they’re really strong,” Foye said. “Everyone suspected that to begin with so that’s kind of the way things are going, but you never know what’s going to happen. Teams are going to get better.”

The Rams’ two losses this season have come by just a single goal to Edward Little (3-2-0) and St. Dominic (2-2-0), respectively. Along with Bangor (3-1-1), Cony has proven thus far it has what it takes to at least be in the mix for a top playoff spot if it continues to improve throughout the season.

The Rams particularly showed that last time out in their 3-2 loss to the Saints.

“For us, it showed us that we can compete. We should use that as a confidence booster because that game came down to probably like two plays,” Foye said. “…It shows us that if we work hard and work together that we can compete, and we just have to keep building off that and getting better.”

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Messalonskee’s Jared Cunningham is rapidly closing in on the school’s all-time scoring record held by his older brother, Chase. Through five games, the senior has 22 points, including a nine-point outburst after scoring five goals and assisting on four others in an 11-3 win over Hampden last Wednesday.

“He’s a good player. He’s got good skills. He tries to go out and put out the best game he can every day,” Messalonskee head coach Joe Hague said. “He plays with the skills that he has. He’s definitely the type of guy that can get the team going when you need a quick boost.”

Cunningham is now up to 232 career points and is just 12 away from tying the all-time scoring mark set by his brother in the 2013-14 season.

“It’s definitely something special. It doesn’t just happen every day,” Cunningham said. “It’s something that I’ve worked for.”

While he would not be close to the all-time scoring mark without his particular skills, Cunningham also noted players like his brother, Jake Dexter and Brandon Nale, among others, have played a key role as well.

“I definitely wouldn’t have as many points without playing with those guys and being on those teams,” Cunningham said. “I’ve played with some great players over the years and been fortunate to play with them.”

As for when Cunningham could potentially break the record he may have to wait a bit. The Eagles do not play again until Tuesday, Dec. 29, and are in a stretch where they play just two games in three weeks.

“It’s a good break,” Hague said. “It’s good for us to have a little time and a chance to see other teams. Also it helps get us ready for a long stretch we have in January.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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