After holding on for the final playoff spot last winter — then abruptly bounced out of the tournament in the Class A North quarterfinals — the Cony/Hall-Dale/Monmouth hockey team hopes a different formula for success adds up this season.

With one of the better defensive groups the Rams have welcomed back in a few years, Cony coach Chad Foye says his squad’s ability to keep pucks out of their own net will be a strength.

“I think we’re going to be pretty competitive again this year,” Foye said. “We’ve got a good core on defense back, but our forwards are going to have to work at scoring goals.”

Junior goalie Dalton Bowie is back for another crack between the pipes. However, Bowie has been slowly working his way back up to speed following a concussion. The Rams also have another goalie in junior Cam Gallant, who is returning after a year away as a sophomore. To help boost the offense, Foye bumped senior Cam Wilson up to one of the forward spots. Wilson was an All-State defenseman as a junior.

Eventual state champion Lewiston was the only team in Class A North last season to lose fewer than six games (the Blue Devils only lost twice), and the region could shape up to be just as wide open again this season. That gives Cony (12-7-0 overall) plenty of time to jell in all facets of the game as it keeps an eye toward the postseason in February.

“Our defense is strong and we played well last year as the year went on,” Foye said. “We just have to keep moving forward. How much we can improve every week and keep moving forward will be the key.”

The Lawrence/Skowhegan co-op also looks to improve from a season ago.

After back-to-back playoff appearances, the team is coming off a four-win season in which it missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Bandits’ strength will undoubtedly be four-year starting goalie Curtis Martin, who should be able to keep the team in games, especially early in the season.

“He’s a real source of consistency back there for us,” said first-year head coach Dakota Gendreau. “He’s one of those rare goaltenders who’s started every year he’s been here. His focus, his commitment to detail in practice, for the young guys being around that, it helps as they get through preseason.”

After a one-year absence from postseason play, Lawrence/Skowhegan has a goal of getting back in a tight Class A North region.

“With how tight Class A is, you never know. One game either way can be the difference,” Gendreau said.

It’s been a tough start to the season for the Bandits, who have been adversely affected by the closure of Sukee Arena in Winslow for the season. The team spent the bulk of the preseason practicing at 5 a.m. at Colby College in Waterville.

Gendreau, however, said that challenge helped the team come together.

“It’s different having 5 a.m. practices every other day,” Gendreau said. “But it shows the commitment of the players we have to the sport, that they’re willing to get up and go to practice first thing in the morning and then immediately go to school for some of them.

“It shows that they want to get good things from this team.”

• • •

The biggest offseason story in girls hockey locally was the launch of a new co-op between Winslow and Gardiner, traditional bitter rivals on the boys side who will coexist as a single girls team.

With 25 players out for the team, the merger has been a boon for the program, particularly in Gardiner, where a number of girls are out for hockey for the first time after no longer being faced with playing on a boys team.

Fifth-year coach Chris Downing has loved how quickly the team bonded.

“I’m having a lot of fun with this group,” Downing said. “It’s good to see a bunch of kids come together like they have. As for how the season goes? Hey, we have fun together every night we go out on the ice.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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