The Cony/Hall-Dale/Monmouth boys hockey team didn’t pick up a win against unbeaten Lewiston on Saturday afternoon at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, but the Rams might have earned something nearly as valuable as a move up the Heal point standings.

“We definitely grabbed another gear compared to our last few games,” senior center Cam Wilson said. “(Lewiston) has definitely been our hardest competition. It was nice to see we can play with them.

“I don’t see any reason why we can’t beat any team in our league after playing this game.”

On Monday, despite the loss, Cony remained third in the Class A North standings at 4-2-0. While head coach Chad Foye isn’t necessarily one for moral victories, he liked what he saw from his team against the Blue Devils.

“They make you skate a little bit quicker and move a little bit quicker, and you’ve got to make quicker decisions when you play them,” Foye said. “You always want to try to get better every game. You always look to improve and take things away from every game and say, ‘We can build on this.’ I think the effort (Saturday), we can build on. The speed we played with, we can build on.”

What Cony doesn’t want to do is fall into the trap of thinking that what it did against Lewiston, in which it executed a defensive game plan that often left the Blue Devils frustrated, is ‘good enough.’

“We can’t slip back into a lower gear and go play lazy,” Foye said. “We can’t be lazy in our next games. We’ve got to keep getting better and keep building. That’s the thing you take away. We can be this good if we really try and focus on it, but we’ve got to expect to be this good every time we go on the ice.”

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Gardiner is off to an impressive start.

The Tigers entered the week at 4-1-0, including a victory over reigning Class B South champion Yarmouth, and at the top of B South in Heal points.

“We have eight seniors, and I think it’s their leadership,” Gardiner head coach Sam Moore said of the key for his team. “It’s just been hard work, and I think they’re learning that it pays off.”

All five of Gardiner’s games have been decided by three goals or less, including a 3-2 win over Greely in the season opener and a 3-1 win over York last week. Where inexperienced teams might cave under pressure, the Tigers are thriving.

And Moore is happy to have played an abundance of tight contests.

“Last year, we had some close games, but we also had some games where we blew teams out,” Moore said. “When that happens, a team can get a little complacent. When they know they have to go in and battle every night, they come ready to play.”

Senior goalie Michael Poirier ranks third in Class B among netminders with more than 100 minutes played this season, in both save percentage (.910) and goals against average (2.20). Statistics aside, his presence in net has an effect on everything else.

“It helps the defensemen, because they know if they make a mistake they’ve got someone there to back them up,” Moore said. “I think it helps us be more of an aggressive team like we want to be.”

This week should put the Tigers and their ability to succeed in close games to the test. They play at No. 3 Kennebunk (6-1-0) on Thursday before hosting unbeaten and reigning Class B state champion Waterville on Saturday.

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Fans might not recognize the face, but the name will certainly be familiar.

Last week against Maranacook/Winthrop, Messalonskee freshman Dylan Cunningham recorded the first hat trick of his varsity career. Cunningham is the younger brother of Chase Cunningham — who captained the Eagles’ 2014 Class B state title team — and Jared Cunningham, the all-time leading scorer in Messalonskee history.

“Well, we can’t fill those shoes. We’re just young kids,” Dylan Cunningham said after an 11-1 win over the Hawks at the Bonnefond Ice Arena. “But we’re trying to do our job.”

Thus far, the newest Cunningham has done his job well enough to earn the trust of Messalonskee coach Kevin Castner. Cunningham has spent the early part of the season on the team’s second line, alongside senior center Jack Moore, while also earning spot duty as the right wing on Dylan Brown’s first line.

“Dylan (Cunningham) has got good eyes, good vision, good stickhandling skills and things like that, and there’s an entire line out there with him to help him and support him,” Castner said. “He can pretty much play with any line you put him on. That just goes to show that our boys try to work hard when they’re out there and do their jobs.”

Cunningham ranks third on the team with six goals and nine points; his six goals tie him for second with senior Tyler Lewis, two goals behind Brown’s team-leading eight.

Messalonskee is 4-3-0, holding onto the sixth of seven playoff spots in Class B North.

“We haven’t played a lot together. We’re kind of getting used to each other, and we’re picking it up,” Cunningham said. “We’re making the passes, and we’re starting to know where each other is going to be. I think it’s going well.”

• • •

Maranacook/Winthrop head coach Chip Jones expected this to be another building year for the Hawks, but that doesn’t make it any easier to endure as the losses pile up.

Maranacook/Winthrop is winless as the midway point of its season (0-9-0), having scored just four goals while surrendering 86.

“It is baby steps. That’s been our problem all year long,” Jones said. “In practice, it’s pressure-pass, presssure-pass. In games, it’s no pressure and then we just get rid of the puck and panic. That’s what happens with a young team. They hear the skate blades when they’re not there.”

Jones is hoping that the Maranacook Youth Hockey Association’s participation numbers will boost the varsity program in the not-too-distant future.

“I have four seniors this year and lot of underclassmen. That’s the way we’re going to go for the next few years,” he said. “We’re going to graduate light and bring in heavy on the bottom.

“We’ll still be inexperienced, but I’ve got two freshmen defensemen that will, in four years, have four years of varsity playing under their belt. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a long tunnel.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC