His team is the No. 1 seed in the Class B North boys hockey tournament, but Messalonskee coach Dennis Martin knows just how little that tends to mean this time of year.

“In tournament time, it doesn’t matter if you’re the 1 seed, 8 seed, any seed,” he said. “As long as you’re in the tournament, anything can happen.”

Coach speak? Perhaps. But there’s truth to it as well. In hockey, games can come down to one bad giveaway, one bad bounce of the puck, or one great night by a goalie. Being the top seed means being on constant upset watch.

“It’s nice to be one of the top seeds, but you’ve got to come to play,” Martin said. “Everybody’s coming after you. It’s always been that way, throughout the whole season.”

In B North, Messalonskee will play No. 8 Gardiner, a 4-1 winner over No. 9 Maranacook/Winthrop. No. 2 Hampden plays No. 10 Presque Isle, No. 3 Old Town/Orono plays No. 6 Brewer/Searsport and No. 4 Camden Hills plays No. 5 John Bapst/Hermon/Bangor Christian/Deer Isle-Stonington.

In B South, No. 1 Greely faces No. 8 Kennebunk/Wells, No. 2 Brunswick plays No. 7 Gorham, No. 3 Cheverus/Yarmouth takes on No. 6 York and No. 4 Leavitt/Gray-New Gloucester/Poland/Oak Hill plays No. 5 Cape Elizabeth.


“It feels great to be able to actually get back into the playoff mindset,” Gardiner coach Tyler Wing said, “and know that there’s going to be moving on into rounds, and not just playing within that little group that they had last year. There’s the actual sense of playing the real thing again.”

Messalonskee has had the pole position in B North all season, thanks to an 8-0 start to the winter. A 5-0 loss to John Bapst and 3-3 tie against a Cony/Erskine/Monmouth/Mt. Blue/Richmond team, however, reminded anyone looking ahead to the tournament of the parity that exists in the field.

“There are a lot of good hockey teams in this,” Martin said. “With our team, we just worry about the first opponent we have and hopefully go on from there.”

Messalonskee’s Tyler Hanson moves toward the net during a Jan. 1 game at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Teams will have their hands full with the Eagles (10-2-1), however, who boast deep scoring led by Owen Kirk, Garrett Card and Bryce Crowell and who outscored the last two teams they played in Brewer and Presque Isle by a 14-4 margin.

Messalonskee has the talent, and Martin said the Eagles need to make sure they’re not beaten in effort.

“We just (need to) do what we do,” he said. “We’ve got to out-work our opponents, and basically keep our team mentality.”


Up first for Messalonskee is Gardiner (7-9-0) for the third time this season. The Eagles beat the Tigers twice by scores of 5-3 and 5-0, but Wing said the Tigers are at full strength for the playoffs after dealing with COVID and riding a wave of confidence after their opening victory.

“Our record didn’t really show the heart and the pride that the kids play with,” he said. “I think the drive and determination that they’re bringing to the table right now in practice and in the games is going to really give some teams a challenge.”

Gardiner has gotten a boost from moving Casey Paul to a line with Nate Luiz and Gavin White and putting Cam Lasselle with Garret Doyle and Connor Whitley in order to provide more offense.

“It’s been amazing to see how well they communicate now,” Wing said. “It’s been night and day.”

Hunter Bussiere, left, of Poland/Leavitt/Gray-New Gloucester/Oak Hill and Sid Pols of Brunswick compete for the puck during a Dec. 11 game in Auburn. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

There may be no hotter team on either side of the bracket than Brunswick (13-4-0), which has won eight straight games. Nick Marro, Zach Stern-Hayes and A.J. Wolverton lead a Dragons offense that has put in 40 goals during the winning streak, a surge that included a win over Class A top seed Edward Little.

“The boys have stepped up the past few games,” Brunswick coach Mike Misner said. “I think the momentum from our last few games has really been good. Obviously that’s something you’ve got to keep building on, but I think the boys have all got a goal in mind.”


Like Martin, Misner stressed the parity in the B South field.

“All these teams push each other all night long,” he said. “You look at the competion between Greely and Cheverus-Yarmouth, Gorham, Cape Elizabeth, they’re solid teams top to bottom. Every night when you got to play, you know you’re going to face some tough competition.”

That includes this coming game. Gorham (5-13) has struggled, but the Rams have an ace in net in Jasper Crane.

“(They’ve) had a little bit of a down year, but (Crane) is probably one of the best goaltenders in the state when he’s on,” said Misner, whose team will host its first playoff game in his tenure. “We faced him two years ago when he was a freshman in the playoffs, and he played outstanding and they ended up winning that game. Even though they’re the seventh seed, they could jump out.”

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