December 16, 2013

HOCKEY: Waterville finds its groove

Panthers unbeaten through 2

By Bill Stewart bstewart@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The Waterville hockey team won just eight of 36 games while competing in Eastern A the last two seasons, a frustrating stretch for a program that’s won 20 state championships.

Kennebec Journal / Morning Sentinel Top 10

1. Scarborough

2. Lewiston

3. Messalonskee

4. Bangor

5. Kennebunk

6. Falmouth

7. St. Dominic

8. Thornton

9. Biddeford

10. Gorham

Weekly honor roll

• Maranacook/Winthrop forward Bailey Clark scored the overtime goal in a 2-1 victory over Gardiner.

• Cony forward Austin Davis scored four goals in an 8-4 win over Poland.

• Messalonskee forward Chase Cunningham had three goals and four assists in a 7-2 win over Falmouth.

• Messalonskee forward Dan Condon scored three goals and two assists in a 7-2 win over Falmouth.

• Waterville defenseman Andrew Rodrigue scored two goals in a 6-6 tie with Camden Hills.

• Waterville forward Nick Denis scored two goals in a 6-6 tie with Camden Hills.

Waterville is competing in Eastern B this season and is enjoying a change of scenery in the early going.

The Panthers blanked Old Town/Orono 2-0 in the season before tying Western B contender Camden Hills 6-6 on Saturday. Waterville rallied from a 5-2 deficit with nine minutes play against Camden (1-0-1).

“We needed this start,” Waterville coach Dennis Martin said. “We haven’t done much the last two years and we’ve talked about that with the guys. We’ve told them that we have a lot to work for.”

The Panthers, who will host Westbrook on Thursday, are skating six freshmen in important roles, making their start all the more impressive.

Defenseman Andrew Roderigue and forward Nick Denis — both freshmen — scored a pair of goals against the Windjammers.

“We are mostly freshmen and seniors,” Martin said. “It was a great game for us against Camden. We needed that. We really played a good third period. We just fought back. It’s just real important for us to get off to a good start.”

Dalton Denis, Nick Denis and Chris Lee are skating on one line while Tommy Samson, Michael Oliveira and freshman Justin Wentworth are on another.

Martin rotated a third line against Camden as well.

“I think our depth wore them down a little bit,” he said.

• • •

Messalonskee (3-0-0) earned perhaps its biggest regular season victory when it pounded defending Class A state champ Falmouth 7-2 on Saturday night.

The Eagles, the two-time defending Eastern B champs, already have a victory over Eastern A contender Bangor this season.

However, the victory over Falmouth likely opened some eyes across the state.

“We made a statement,” Messalonskee forward Chase Cunningham said after the game.

Cunningham and the Eagles sure did.

The senior forward scored three goals and assisted on four others to give him 180 career points. He needs 13 more points to become the all-time leading scorer in Messalonskee program history. Defenseman Nate Ponitz had 192 points in the late 1990’s for Messalonskee.

Chase Cunningham leads a dominant Messalonskee team that so far is overcoming an injury to key forward Josh Towle (broken arm).

Coach Mike Latendresse moved Winthrop transfer Dan Condon to the top line with brothers Chase and Jared Cunningham. Condon opened the season as a defenseman, his natural position.

“Dan played really well,” Latendresse said. “He created some room for Chase and Jared to move around. He was just very strong with the puck.”

Latendresse could afford to move Condon up because freshman Connor Smith stepped in behind the blue line and provided some consistent play.

“He’s very steady,” Latendresse said. “He makes good decisions and just does his job.”

• • •

The Winslow girls have lost three of their last four games to drop to 2-5-0. The Black Raiders are struggling offensively, scoring just 10 goals in seven games, but still hope to challenge for one of the five playoff berths in the East division.

“We’re going to play until the end,” Winslow coach Chris Downing said. “We still have a chance. We’ll just go out there, play hard and see where we end up.”

Paige Veilleux leads the team with four goals and two assists. Hillary Libby has a goal and an assist for Winslow as well.

“We’re not an offensive machine, obviously,” Downing said, “but we have a lot of inexperienced players who are learning as they go. We have a lot of girls who are playing a lot of extra minutes to keep us in games.”

Winslow hosts Yarmouth/Freeport (7-0-0) on Wednesday at Sukee Arena. The teams will face off at 5:30 p.m.

“We’ll be ready to go,” Downing said.

• • •

Games of the week: Messalonskee (2-0-0) and Skowhegan/Lawrence (1-1-0) will play at 7 p.m. at Sukee Arena on Wednesday. Cony (1-1-0) will play Gardiner (0-2-0) on Saturday 7:40 p.m. at the Bank of Maine Ice Vault.

Bill Stewart — 621-5640bstewart@centralmaine.comTwitter: @billstewartkj
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