WATERVILLE — Brandon Mason admits that he was less than thrilled about switching things up.

“I wasn’t happy about it at all, to be honest,” the Winslow High School junior said.

Cony’s Quincy Tobias taps Waterville’s Brandon Mason with his stick Wednesday in Waterville. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

Mason was one-third of a dominant first line for the Kennebec RiverHawks through the team’s first three games. But with a group allowing 8.00 goals per game after those first three contests, head coach Jon Hart was looking for a way to beef up his back line.

He approached Mason and made his sales pitch, opting to move Mason to defenseman for the first time in his career.

“We put Zach (Menoudarakos) back there to start, and didn’t love Zach there. He’s a power forward to me,” Hart said. “Brandon’s got that vision, he can cut full speed, and he can make things happen. We need speed back there, and he’s got speed.”

Mason said he wasn’t comfortable right away, at least not in the practices leading up to his debut on the blue line against Cony/Hall-Dale/Monmouth on Wednesday. But once the puck dropped against the Rams, he said any anxiety slipped away.

His ability to carry the puck up ice and out of trouble was evident in the 8-2 win, and he also generated good scoring chances both from the point and off the rush.

“It was a really big transition, going from forward all my life and stepping back to (defense),” Mason said. “It took a while to get used to it. Coaches told me to start rushing the puck more, because that’s what I’m known to do. They said I could be like a Bobby Orr-type defenseman.”

Mason isn’t the only player locally making a change.

Cony senior Zack Whitney began the season at forward before being dropped back to defense for the second period against Kennebec and remaining there for the team’s 3-2 win over Gardiner on Thursday.

“Forward’s more fun for high school, but I like defense the most,” Whitney said. “That’s what I’ve played the last few years for the (Maine) Moose, won a national championship there. It suits my style, and I feel more comfortable back there.”

 

• • •

 

The Gardiner Tigers are a different team this year.

Finally senior-laden and talent rich for the program’s move to Class B North, Gardiner remains poised for a big season.

Cony’s Tyrell Sousa, right, gets checked by Gardiner’s A.J. Chadwick on Thursday in Hallowell. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

One thing remains a constant with the Tigers, however.

“Penalties killed us again,” Gardiner coach Tyler Wing said following a loss to rival Cony on Thursday. “We’ve got to find a way to stay out of the box. It’s not coming easy.”

Through two games, Gardiner has amassed 42 minutes in penalties — three minutes shy of a full game’s worth. That let Messalonskee hang around despite eventually falling to the Tigers in Gardiner’s season opener more than a week ago, and two power-play goals for Cony on Friday were significant in the Rams 3-2 win.

“It was a good week of practice for us,” Wing said. “We’ve worked hard and done well.

“We’ve got to play hard-nosed hockey, not fancy hockey. We’re still just trying to find our stride. I think once we do, we’re going to excel.”

 

• • •

 

Cony has been perhaps the most Jekyll and Hyde team in Class  B North through its first five games.

Wins over Brunswick and Gardiner have been mixed with disappointing efforts like the one in the lopsided loss to Kennebec.

“I hate to make excuses, but we’re still really young in a lot of places,” Cony coach Shawn Johnson said. “I know those (younger kids) are trying their hardest, but they’re just not quite ready yet. They’re not ready to have that pressure on them, but yet we’re doing it. It’s not fair for them. We just have some work to do.”

Thursday’s win over Gardiner might have signaled a young team finally starting to find its way to consistency. So, too, is sophomore goalie Matty Shea, who made 30 saves in the victory against the Tigers.

“Pretty damn good, I think. Pretty damn good,” Johnson said of the netminder. “The big thing with Matty is he’s done a great job coming out of the net. Much more confidence than he had last year.”

Comments are not available on this story.