HALLOWELL — For nearly two weeks, teams around Central Maine kept finding new ways to say the same thing: The Hampden Academy boys hockey team was better than their position in the standings would suggest.

With the Broncos’ win over Presque Isle on Tuesday night, Hampden elevated itself to the No. 1 spot in the Class B North Heal point standings, a just reward for the lone unbeaten team in the region. When Hampden handled the Waterville/Winslow co-op on Jan. 18, Kennebec RiverHawks coach Jon Hart suggested the Broncos were “as good as it gets” in B North. And when that same Hampden team erased a two-goal deficit against Gardiner and later found a way to topple the Tigers in the final two minutes of regulation, Gardiner coach Tyler Wing noted that the Broncos weren’t indicative of “their place in the standings.”

At the time, Hampden was third in the league. But with the win over Presque Isle, the Broncos (10-0-2) finally took over the top spot it appeared they were destined for throughout the second half of the season.

“We’re just trying to work hard every night, get better every shift, every period,” Hampden head coach Eric MacDonald said after Saturday’s 4-3 win over Gardiner. “Every game, that’s our goal. That wasn’t our best game (Saturday), but they’re a good team and they’re well-coached.”

In a 12-team region with five central Maine teams, three of the top four spots are currently occupied by teams from the Bangor area or Aroostook County. Hampden sits at No. 1 with Old Town/Orono in second this week, while early frontrunner Camden Hills is third and one of the preseason favorites in Presque Isle is fourth.

If the playoffs started this week, Gardiner would travel to Presque Isle, Cony/Hall-Dale/Monmouth would meet heated rival Camden Hills, Messalonskee would draw Old Town/Orono and Kennebec would get the final playoff spot and hit the road for Hampden.

The Capital Region Hawks would miss the playoffs.

“It’s exciting,” said Hampden senior Cooper Leland, who leads the Broncos with 13 goals this season. “To see how far we’ve come from my freshman year to now, it’s exciting. We’ve built up our team. The coaches have helped us, and it’s looking pretty good from here. We’ve just got to keep grinding.”

The Broncos feature three forwards averaging better than a point per game in leading scorer Owen Cross (8-14-22 totals), Leland (13-8-21) and Khaleb Hale (9-7-16). They’re backed by defensemen Noah Dancoes and Cam Henderson, and buoyed by standout goaltending from junior Cooper Ryan (1.94 goals against average, .921 save percentage).

When they are playing well, Hamdpen insists on defending all 200 feet of the ice and worries more about not conceding goals than it does scoring them.

Wins like the one over Gardiner — where the Broncos started flatly and chased the game all the way to Leland’s shorthanded breakaway for the game-winner in the waning moments of the third period (after giving up a power-play goal to surrender a 3-2 lead just seconds earlier) — only serve notice that the character within the Broncos dressing room is as important as any offensive or defensive statistic.

Or is it?

“I don’t really know how to answer that,” MacDonald said. “We gave up two (goals early), and we’ve got to get better. That’s the bottom line. We’ve got to go back to work and continue to get better. We’ve still got some things to fix.”

Gardiner’s Wing isn’t necessarily buying that.

“They’re deep,” said Wing, noting the manner in which Hampden exploited even the slightest weaknesses in order to rally back for a win. “They’ve got solid lines, all the way through. They’ve got good shooters. They’ve got great passers. They don’t make a lot of mistakes, and they capitalize on the mistakes the other teams make. I can respect that.

“They’re a super-strong team. They showed us that they’re here for real.”

The league, though, still appears wide open at the two-thirds mark. Hampden has the two ties on its record — one against Old Town/Orono, the other against Presque Isle — and no other team has fewer than three losses. Only Hampden, Old Town/Orono and Presque Isle have more than seven wins.

Nobody is chalking anything up yet as finished, especially not the Broncos.

“It’s all a learning experience,” Leland said. “Anything can happen, and we know that. We got lucky we pulled it out (against Gardiner). Whether we win or lose, we can learn from all the games. It’s exciting that we won, but we’re going to take the same from it as if we lost.”

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