Ella Lemieux, a Varsity Maine All-State selection last season, returns in goal for Cheverus/Old Orchard Beach/Kennebunk/Windham. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

1. Cheverus/Old Orchard Beach/Kennebunk/Windham: The Stags are built around strong defense and goaltending, and that makes them the favorite in the South region. Junior defender Brynn McKenney is a two-time selection to the coaches’ all-state team, and is joined on the blue line by Lily Johnson, an all-South player last season, junior Zoey Radford and freshman Briella Doherty. Ella Lemieux, a Varsity Maine All-State selection last year, returns in net after posting a .930 save percentage and 1.02 goals against average. Offensively, Cheverus is paced by junior Charlotte Miller (14 goals, five assists last season), Lucy Johnson (10 goals, 11 assists) and Mikayla Talbot (nine goals, 13 assists). Talbot is back healthy after missing the first half of last season with a broken wrist.

2. Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland: The Riots advanced to the regional final last season with a young squad, and the core of that group returns, including 2022 Varsity Maine All-State selections Marina Bassett (a sophomore forward) and Delaney Whitten (senior defender). Senior goalie Abbey Steinhagen was selected to the coaches’ all-state team. Libby Hooper, an all-South player last season, returns as a forward, along with Becca Good. An all-conference forward last season, Hartson Mosunic will likely move to defense this year, Coach Bob Mills said. Even with a smaller roster than last season, Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland should contend once again.

3. Yarmouth/Freeport: With three all-region players back from last season and most of the team returning with varsity experience, Yarmouth/Freeport is poised to improve on last season’s six wins and contend in the North region. Sadie Carnes and Rosie Panenka were all-region forwards last season, and lead the offense. Other players who will be counted on for offense include Sophie Smith, Chloe White and Adelaide Strout. A deep defensive unit is led by Amanda Panciocco. Coach David Intraversato feels he has eight defensemen who can move the puck quickly through the neutral zone and break out in transition.

4. Gorham/Bonny Eagle/Massabesic/Lake Region/Fryeburg/Westbrook: With 24 players on the roster, depth shouldn’t be a problem. Two Lake Region players join the co-op this season, senior Caitlin Lees and freshman Marissa Payne, and Coach Mary Vaughan sees them contributing either at forward or defense. Captains Cadence Howard and Emerson Homa return as all-South region players and provide a spark to the offense. Defenseman Greta Grant was all an all-conference selection last season and leads the blue liners. In net this season is senior Ellie Keil. Katelyn Cyr, a sophomore, will also be a key player.

5. York/Traip/Marshwood/Noble: It starts in net for the Wildcats, who return goalie Katie Brower, a coaches’ all-state selection. Brower’s play should help offset the team’s small roster size (12 skaters and one goalie). Coach Sadie Wright-Ward will count on five seniors for leadership as the Wildcats work four freshman into the lineup. Defenseman Margaret Hanlon is the captain and will look to start things when the Wildcats transition from defense to offense. Leading scorer Elizabeth Buckley returns after earning all-South honors last season and will once again be the offensive spark plug. A lack of depth might hurt the Wildcats, but if the team stays healthy, it has a good chance to improve on last season’s trip to the regional quarterfinals.

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