While Messalonskee tries to adjust to being a different type of team this year, the early season schedule has been kind to the Eagles.

The team didn’t open its season until last Wednesday night with a 5-3 win over Winslow, and it doesn’t play again until Wednesday. For a team transitioning from an offensive juggernaut into a more defensive-minded one, the relaxed schedule provided the Eagles practice time to work in a number of areas.

“Our boys stayed disciplined (against Winslow), but we’ve got to stay out of the box and be more focused in our defensive zone efforts,” first-year head coach Kevin Castner said. “I was really impressed with how well they played in the defensive and neutral zones. We’ve worked hard.”

Messalonskee, which plays on consecutive nights this week against John Bapst and Waterville, did have cause for concern against Winslow. The Eagles took four penalties in all — including three in a second period that handed Winslow a lengthy two-man advantage, producing a game-tying goal for the Raiders in the final minute of the frame.

“If we can stay out of the box a little bit more, I think we’d be better off,” Castner said.

“We’ve got to stay out of the box and play 5-on-5,” added senior Dylan Brown, whose hat trick powered the Messalonskee offense in the opener. “Our defense is a little weaker this year, and those penalties will kill us. That will let teams back into games, for sure.”

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The Cony/Hall-Dale/Monmouth co-op is off to a good start, losing in overtime to Portland/Deering in the season opener before topping Mt. Ararat/Lisbon in a tight, 2-1, contest last week.

The Rams sat second in the Class A North Heal points entering this week.

“At this point, we’re just trying to figure out who we can count on and who has what strengths,” Rams coach Chad Foye said. “The kids are kind of defining those roles for themselves and working to make them bigger.”

Cam Wilson, an all-state defenseman a year ago, has two goals this season in his move back to the forward ranks. Foye also said the third line of Zach Whitney, Sam MacFarland and Noah King has been a pleasant surprise in terms of production.

“I’m pretty happy with how everybody’s playing right now,” Foye said. “I knew (the third line) would work hard, but I wasn’t really expecting a lot of scoring. They’re doing really well with that.”

Cony has also benefited from having two capable netminders. Cam Gallant played in the loss to Portland/Deering, while Dalton Bowie made 17 saves in the win over Mt. Ararat.

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While the closing of Sukee Arena this winter has had a profound effect on many hockey teams in the area, perhaps no program is feeling the effect more than the Winslow boys team.

The Black Raiders have only been practicing three times a week, and though it is still early in the season, a 5-3 loss to Messalonskee in the season opener last Wednesday highlighted some of the problems the team is facing. Only eight skaters in the lineup saw regular ice time against the Eagles.

“Is three practices a week hurting us? We’ve got our work cut out for us,” said Winslow head coach Dave Leach, whose team did run into fatigue in the third period. “It was only the first game, so it’s something to build on.”

There were positives for the Black Raiders. Sophomore goalie Ben Grenier was good against Messalonskee (28 saves), stopping a number of point-blank Eagle chances to keep Winslow in the game. Junior Nick West also had a pair of goals.

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The rematch of last year’s Class B state championship game between Waterville and Yarmouth was postponed by the winter storm over the weekend, giving the Purple Panthers an unexpected weekend off. The layoff likely won’t have much effect on the dangerous Panthers, who lead the state with 25 goals in two games. They also feature the top four point-getters in Class B. Waterville entered the week just fourth in the Class B North Heal point standings, but given the lopsided early season scheduling — with some teams playing as many as four games already — it seems a foregone conclusion that the team will be at or near the top of the region by late February.

Senior defenseman Andrew Rodrigue leads Class B in overall scoring, with 3-8-11 totals. He’s just four points shy of setting the school’s all-time career mark for defensemen.

Justin Wentworth, a senior winger, equaled a school record with six goals in a season-opening win over Hampden Academy and has seven goals and 10 points already this winter.

According to Waterville athletic director Heidi Bernier, a makeup date for Saturday’s game had not yet been scheduled as of Monday morning.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC