BIDDEFORD – High school coaches love to hammer fundamentals in practices but, for the real teaching moments, nothing beats game situations.

There were lessons to be learned Saturday night when two of the top Class A boys’ hockey teams, Scarborough and Thornton Academy, met at the Biddeford Ice Arena.

Both teams arrived with only one loss; both to undefeated Lewiston.

Thornton has been a bit of a surprise, reloading after graduating 12 seniors to become a contender. The Trojans played Saturday without one of their leading forwards, Liam Nash (sick), but still demonstrated their skill, taking a 4-1 lead 11:40 into the first period.

Scarborough (6-1-1) kept working … scoring at 11:59, then another during a five-on-three power play, before the period ended. Another power-play goal began the second period as the Red Storm tied it on their way to a 7-3 win, which included an empty-netter.

Lesson learned?

“We try to come out as strong as we can, but we weren’t prepared. We weren’t ready to go,” said Scarborough junior forward Zach Chaisson, who scored three goals.

“We saw that we needed to step up, and we amped it up; kept pushing and kept fighting.”

Red Storm Coach Jake Brown witnessed his team’s willpower – as well as better play. Thornton walked in with ease in the first period, putting 17 shots on net. The Trojans’ shots dropped to six in each of the next two periods.

“We talked about some little things – how important faceoffs are, and line changes, and the neutral zone,” Brown said. “I thought we cleaned that up in the second and third (periods).

“The kids just battled. There was no one complaining on the bench. No sense of panic … It’s all about learning opportunities. We definitely got that opportunity today. That was a big character win for us.”

For Thornton, the lesson was about holding a lead and withstanding an onslaught.

“We came out flying and, for some reason, we went flat,” Trojans Coach Michael Roux said. “We saw some weaknesses … We’ll keep working.”

Thornton has been able to reload with some strong returning players, like senior forwards Sawyer Wirsing and Nash; senior defenseman Spencer Bergeron (returning after a year in juniors) and promotions from last year’s strong junior varsity team, including sophomore goalie Gage Tarbox-Belanger (2.42 goals-against average).

Thornton’s schedule does not get easier. The Trojans play rival Biddeford Wednesday and visit Class B power Greely on Saturday.

TEAMS TO BEAT: The playoffs don’t start for over a month, but two front-runners are emerging – Lewiston in Class A and Greely in B.

Greely (6-1-1) has a loss to Lewiston, and tied Scarborough 1-1 on Jan. 4.

“They can skate with anybody,” said Brown, the Scarborough coach. “They’re not as deep as they have been in years past, but they got firepower on their top line. Good power play, good penalty kill, tough team for anybody in the league.”

The Rangers, led by Andy Moore (nine goals/nine assists), play the toughest schedule of any Class B team. Besides the upcoming game against Thornton, Greely later plays at St. Dominic.

Two teams hoping to challenge Greely, Gorham (5-1-1) and Cheverus (7-1) meet at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Southern Maine.

Lewiston’s 7-0 record is impressive because the Blue Devils have played most of the top contenders – St. Dom’s, Scarborough, Biddeford (twice) and Thornton – games with South Portland and Falmouth are upcoming. Lewiston beat Thornton 4-2 earlier this month.

“We had our chances,” said Thornton’s Roux. “They’re a good team. They’re going to be tough to beat. I think we can if we get the opportunity (in the playoffs). We’ll see.”

THE ONLY OTHER unbeaten hockey team in the state is the Lewiston High girls (7-0). And for all their dominance in both genders, the Blue Devils boys and girls have never won a state championship the same year (Greely did it twice – 2012 and 2013).

Lewiston is at Cape Elizabeth/South Portland/Waynflete (9-2-1) at 6:10 p.m. Thursday night. They last played Jan. 4. After two periods, the teams were tied 3-3 before Lewiston broke away for a 6-3 win.

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