HALLOWELL — While soccer and football have yet to crown their fresh batch of state champs, the winter sports officially got under way with girls hockey teams across the state opening practice.

The Winslow/Gardiner/Cony co-operative program skated for the first time at a season-opening practice Tuesday at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault, and coach Alan Veilleux liked what he saw.

“We did a lot of team building,” he said. “We emphasized on team bonding, working together. We talked about how they are the Black Tigers and they have to put the individual school part away from it.”

Veilleux said 20 girls signed up this season, which gives him needed depth.

“We should be able to utilize them,” he said. “We have a good group coming back and some others who are fresh out of the box. We have seven or eight new girls.”

The Black Tigers are coming off a successful season, finishing 12-7-1 and reaching the North regional semifinals.

Members of the Winslow/Gardiner/Cony girls hockey co-operative team work on a drill during their first practice of the season Tuesday at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

They eliminated Brunswick, 5-2, in the quarterfinals for the program’s first playoff victory.

The co-op, which added Cony last season, opens the season Nov. 23 against Freeport. The team’s home opener is Dec. 5 against Lewiston.

Elsewhere in girls hockey, St. Dominic added players from Gray-New Gloucester and Winthrop high schools to their program, which gives coach Paul Gosselin a roster of 17 players — depth that he hasn’t had in any of his previous seasons at St. Dom’s.

“We’re always looking to improve our program,” Gosselin said. “We took the positive approach and said, ‘How can we get some extra girls to infuse into our program?’ So we kind of looked around, and talked to some of the schools, and it worked out very well.”

St. Dom’s welcomed in four players from Gray-New Gloucester, which previously was in a co-operative partnership with Greely, and Yarmouth/Freeport before that. One of those players, Madison Pelletier, was a freshman on the Rangers’ state championship team two seasons ago.

“It was a little bittersweet leaving Greely, but I’m happy to join these group of girls,” Pelletier said. “I know a lot of them, and it was fun coming in today.”

Three more will travel to Auburn from Winthrop, some of those players coming over from the Hawks boys program, which is based out of Maranacook but includes Winthrop among its other schools.

“It was really exciting,” Winthrop junior Abbie Ross said. “It’s kind of sad leaving my team, but I’m excited to make new friends and it’s going to be a good year.

“It’s kind of a transition (coming from a boys team), and it’s different, but I’m really excited to start.”

The other Winthrop players are Nikki McDonald and Madison Weymouth. Joining Pelletier from Gray-NG (St. Dom’s athletic director J.P. Yorkey said all of them are from New Gloucester) are Avery Haskins and Reese and West Duffy.

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