The only sounds were the thumps and whacks from hockey sticks, the scrape of skates across the ice and an excited dog’s yelps as two pickup games furiously played out Saturday morning at the skating rinks at the Riverside Municipal Golf Course in Portland.

Dozens of skaters descended on the side-by-side skating ponds, braving temperatures in the teens and a snowstorm threatening on the eastern horizon to take advantage of great ice skating conditions. Skating aficionados say Portland’s five city-maintained skating ponds offer some of the best public outdoor skating venues in the region.

“The ice is great. I am impressed. The city does a good job keeping care of it,” said Jeff Burnap, 36, of Portland, whose dog, Pico, 9, barked encouragement from the sidelines.

Curtis Ludwig, of Biddeford, practices his stick skills at Riverside Municipal Golf Course in Portland on Saturday.

Curtis Ludwig, of Biddeford, practices his stick skills at Riverside Municipal Golf Course in Portland on Saturday.

Although Saturday’s games at Riverside were informal, the players were mostly silent and appeared intent as they skated. Some attributed the silence to the focus required to play in chaotic conditions.

“It’s a little confusing because we keep switching sides and no one knows each other’s names,” said Ethan Andrews, 22, of Yarmouth.

For the most part, the games were five-on-five, with teams dubbed “this way” and “that way.” As skaters dropped out, others would take their place. Skaters waiting to join a match had their own unspoken system of keeping track of who was up next. The score was anyone’s guess.

“It’s a fierce rivalry – a lot of bad blood between us,” joked Keith Richard, 29, of Portland.

One of the pickup games had players from a mix of backgrounds, including former high school and college players and others with no formal training.

“It’s a motley crew,” Andrews said.

Pickup hockey games at Riverside Municipal Golf Course in Portland are informal, with players taking turns and switching sides.

Pickup hockey games at Riverside Municipal Golf Course in Portland are informal, with players taking turns and switching sides.

The ages ranged from 15 to 53 on Saturday. The ratio of women to men was about 1-to-10, until girls’ ice hockey players from Portland’s public high schools showed up.

“The ice is very nice. I enjoy the skate. There is no bad thing about it,” said Dick Grimm, 53, of Yarmouth.

Grimm, and his son, Maxwell, 23, were among a contingent of players who normally play at the Blake Skating Pond in downtown Yarmouth. When they heard about the pickup games at Riverside, they couldn’t resist trying it out.

More outdoor skating in Portland is available at Deering Oaks Pond, Ludlow Pond, Payson Park Pond and Breakwater Pond. Current conditions are available at the city’s website.

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