There are two preseason favorites when it comes to Class A North this season: Lewiston and Bangor.

Lewiston has won each of the last three Class A state championships, and are favorites to do it again. Jamie Belleau’s program continues to churn out big numbers and top-end talent, even when hit by graduation year after year.

The Blue Devils are led by Alex Robert, whose 27 assists a year ago led the league as part of a 40-point season. He was one of only two players in A North to reach the 40-point plateau on the year, joining Mt. Ararat’s Noah Austin, and was 10 points clear of the league’s third-highest point getter.

A host of teams sit below the top two trying to thrown a wrinkle into the proceedings, among them Mt. Ararat, Edward Little, St. Dominic and Cony.

Though there is a new head coach in place at Cony/Hall-Dale/Monmouth, it’s not an unfamiliar face. After 23 years as an assistant working under three different head coaches, Shawn Johnson decided the time was finally right to take the reigns at Cony.

“It was never a burning desire (to be head coach) with me. I was happy with my position,” Johnson said. “Each of those guys, I thought, were amazing coaches. I saw that there were some good kids coming in and good kids coming back, and I asked myself, ‘Am I ready to totally get done?’ … I wanted to still be a part of this. Being an assistant isn’t a bad thing, but after 23 years, I just said, ‘Let’s do it.'”

The Rams return their second-leading scorer from last year in senior winger Reed Hopkins, who had 11 goals and 24 points.

The Rams will need that much production, and likely more, as it enters the season with questions on the back end.

“I think it’s going to be a tough year in some senses for us,” Johnson said. “We’re going to take some licks, because a lot of our kids aren’t used to going up against big, strong 18-year-olds. I’ve got some older kids back, but not enough to combat that.”

Questions abound for Lawrence/Skowhegan/MCI, which has a new head coach in Gordon Small, and also faces a tremendous uphill battle once again in a difficult Class A North.

The Bandits do avoid much of the iron in the league while seeing a competitive crossover schedule that includes other building Class A South programs and ones in Class B North, too.

GIRLS

In just two seasons, the Winslow/Gardiner co-op made modest history last winter by advancing to the regional semifinals for the first time as a program.

This year, they’ve added Cony to the co-op, and they have designs on another similar tournament run — but if that’s to be the case, it will look much different than it did last year.

Becky Schaeffer Award finalist Evelyn Hinkley has graduated, leaving the Black Tigers in need of being a more balanced group.

Though everybody is still chasing Lewiston in the North region, Winslow/Gardiner/Cony could have the pieces to make life difficult for some of the state’s top teams.

Anna Chadwick and Desiree Veilleux are back among the forward group, while the blue line has Julia Hinkley and Gabby Hebert.

One key addition comes from Cony in Gabby Benson, who played three years for the Cony boys hockey team and will add instant ability to an already experienced group of defensemen for the Black Tigers.

If the team can replace goalie Cassie Demers, who developed nicely in two years at the position before graduating last spring, it should be able to limit goals from the opposition enough to have a chance to win more games than not.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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