Biddeford High played one of the toughest boys’ hockey schedules in the state this season. The Tigers (10-6-2) are the only Western Class A team to beat all the other top teams in the region.

Yet Biddeford is the No. 5 seed in the Western A tournament, which begin Tuesday. The Tigers play on the road in a quarterfinal game against No. 4 Scarborough (10-5-3).

Meanwhile, the Noble/Wells co-op team is the No. 3 seed, despite not playing any of the top teams in the state. The Knights (15-3) are the home team against South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete (10-8).

“As for seedings, it is clear that the system needs to be looked at,” said Biddeford Coach Rich Reissfelder. “I’m not sure there is a perfect system – especially with co-op teams and the constant ups and downs of talent levels.

“But this isn’t the first time the seedings seem out of whack.”

Reissfelder has a sympathetic ear in Noble Coach Keith St. Cyr.

“I totally understand where Rich is coming from,” St. Cyr said. “The MPA (Maine Principals Association) needs to change how they classify hockey.”

Like every other sport, hockey teams are classified according to their school’s enrollment. There are two classes in hockey, A for larger schools and B for smaller. Smaller school can choose to play up in Class A.

But hockey is also considered different than other sports because of the wide gaps in competitive levels and roster sizes. Schools in areas with rinks and strong youth programs usually thrive.

In recent years, more schools with struggling rosters have been allowed to merge – or co-op – with other schools. Of the 22 Class A teams, 10 are co-ops. Most co-op teams are not competitive with the typical hockey powers, such as Falmouth, Biddeford, Cheverus, Scarborough and Thornton Academy in the West, and Lewiston, St. Dominic and Bangor in the East – although Thornton had a rare down season (2-16).

To strike competitive balance, the weaker teams, including most of the co-ops, play mostly against each other. Schedules are “tiered” so Tier I teams play each other, as do Tier II teams and Tier III teams.

Occasionally, the stronger Tier I teams play a Tier II school, and there are teams that fit in a gray area (for example, Portland/Deering played a difficult schedule this year).

“(It) allows us to play a competitive schedule,” St. Cyr said.

Last year, Noble/Wells finished 14-4, beat Cheverus in the first round of the playoffs and then lost to eventual state champion Falmouth 5-4 in the semifinals. The Knights returned half their team, including scoring whiz Dean Pratt (50 goals this season) and goalie Wyatt Ricker.

But St. Cyr said the team lost “half of our core” players and had to rely on freshmen to fill several roles.

The problem tiered scheduling creates comes at the end of the season, when teams are seeded for the playoffs. A team piling up wins with a weaker schedule is rewarded more than a team playing the best teams and taking on losses.

The top seven Class A teams in the state this season were, arguably, St. Dominic, Lewiston and Bangor from the East, and Falmouth, Cheverus, Scarborough and Biddeford in the West.

All of Biddeford’s losses came against the aforementioned teams. Additionally, the Tigers split two games against Falmouth, went 1-0-1 vs. Scarborough and swept two games from Cheverus.

Noble/Wells did not play any of the top seven teams.

“We went 4-1-1 against Falmouth, Scarborough and Cheverus,” Reissfelder said. “Noble didn’t beat a quality opponent all year. In my opinion, we should be the two seed.

“But it is what it is. Our attitude has to be that we will play anyone, anywhere.”

Scarborough earned the No. 4 seed, but Coach, Norm Gagne is not thrilled with the playoff schedule.

“I have never liked the tier system,” Gagne said. “Biddeford and us play a much tougher schedule and we have to meet each other in the first round, while other teams get a better seed playing a soft schedule.

“No other sport I know does this. Why is hockey singled out? You see lopsided scores (in other sports). Why is it boys’ hockey can’t play a schedule like all these other sports and have a true playoff seeding, where everyone plays close to the same schedule?

“If they think the playing field isn’t fair for these teams in the lower tiers, maybe they could have their own tournament.”

Mike Burnham, MPA assistant executive director who oversees hockey, said there have been suggestions about changes in the system, including a third class for hockey (one for only the top-level teams, or perhaps one consisting of all the co-op teams).

“There have been discussions around three classes over the years,” Burnham said. “But, in reality, the number of teams has declined.”

This year, 41 teams play boys’ hockey.

Burnham said reclassifying teams by a criteria other than enrollment, as St. Pierre suggested, has been talked about. “But they have not moved past those discussions because of the subjective nature of determining what might be used to reclassify.”

So, the current system may continue.

“I do believe a tiered scheduling system, for the most part, works for ice hockey,” Burnham said. “In the end, the best teams advance through the playoffs and that we always end with the top teams playing for a state championship.”

IN CLASS A, Falmouth (13-5) is the No. 1 seed in the West, and vying for a third straight state championship. The Yachtsmen’s leading scorer Isac Nordstrom returned from a midseason ankle injury and will be favored to reach the state final. While Falmouth has lost five games, it is the only team to beat St. Dominic (15-2-1) this year.

Noble/Wells will again be the dark-horse team because of its Tier II schedule, but the Knights’ semifinal appearance last year should make teams wary.

Noble/Wells is led by Pratt (50 goals/16 assists) and Ryan Marsh (16/20).

The East dark horse is No. 5 Edward Little (9-9), which defeated Lewiston near the end of the season, and then lost in overtime to St. Dominic.

IN CLASS B, defending champion Messalonskee (17-1) is on another tear. The Eagles’ only loss was to Class A Bangor, which they avenged later. Messalonskee has cruised through the East.

The West is more wide open. Kennebunk (14-2-2) is the top seed, but the region features parity throughout.

This story was updated at 9:30 a.m., Feb. 24 to correct the last name of Noble Coach Keith St. Cyr.