There will be no easing into the Western Class A boys hockey playoffs for either Biddeford or Thornton Academy. Each team’s final eight games are against teams currently in line for a playoff spot.

The Tigers, who are currently third in the Western A MPA Heal Point standings, are 4-1-1 in their last six games, but next face No. 4 Cheverus and No. 1 Scarborough before finishing up against No. 7 Portland/Deering next Wednesday.

The Trojans, currently sixth in the West, haven’t had the same recent success against a daunting schedule. Thornton is winless in its last four games ”“ each against teams in the top-three of its region ”“ since rallying to beat Cheverus in overtime on Jan. 9. That losing streak began with a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Tigers on Feb. 1.

“We have a stretch here ”“ and we knew it ”“ that would be an incredibly difficult stretch,” Thornton head coach Jamie Gagnon said after a loss to East No. 1 Lewiston on Wednesday. “In a matter of five days, you’re looking at Lewiston, Bangor and Scarborough ”“ three of the top teams in our league. And not to mention the fact that we just played Falmouth, and we just played St. Dom’s, and we just played Biddeford. It’s been a heck of a stretch.”

Biddeford’s late-season success began in earnest with a win against the Blue Devils in Lewiston on Jan. 25. The shocking 6-3 victory came just 10 days after the Tigers had their worst defeat of the season against St. Dom’s.

“It was a huge boost,” Biddeford head coach Rich Reissfelder said after beating the Blue Devils. “It just gives you that confidence that you can beat anybody.”

Gagnon said he also gained some confidence in his team after facing the Blue Devils, even in defeat.

“I’m less concerned about the wins, more concerned about the way we play. We have to continue to progress,” said Gagnon. “The way this league works, we’re probably going to be in (the playoffs) somewhere.

“We’ve consistently, night in and night out, played the likes of Falmouth and Scarborough, Biddeford and Cheverus. So I don’t think we feel uncomfortable playing any of those teams, whether it be the first or the second round of the playoffs. In this league, it’s about getting into the tournament and making sure you’re playing your best hockey coming into the end of the year.”

The Trojans have shown flashes in some of their tougher games, but have struggled with consistency, according to Gagnon.

“We still have to play 45 minutes ”¦ and that’s what’s going to result in victories,” said Gagnon.

Reissfelder had a similar sentiment in explaining his team’s win over Lewiston.

When any team puts together three periods ”“ great teamwork, great passing, and playing their positions ”“ they can win,” said Reissfelder.

Even the veteran players on Biddeford and Thornton know it only takes one complete game to beat whoever they’re facing on the other side of the ice.

“It sends a message,” Biddeford senior Nik Lemieux said after beating Lewiston, “we know we can beat any team in the state now.”

“We show we can skate with almost anybody in the state, if we play how we should,” said Thornton senior Taylor Browne. “I believe we could go a ways.”

Staff Writer Wil Kramlich can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @WilTalkSports.



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