AUBURN — Forget the tiered schedule and recent tradition.When you’ve been absent from the Class A boys’ hockey playoffs and playing third fiddle in the Twin Cities for a winter or three, you celebrate prosperity in all its forms.

After Edward Little’s 4-2 victory Wednesday night over Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop at Ingersoll Arena, only Biddeford — widely considered the state’s No. 1 team — reached double-digit wins this winter more quickly than the Red Eddies.

Ten wins are tied riverside rival Lewiston for the most in the Eastern division. Dylan Nadeau scored a hat trick to punctuate EL’s seventh consecutive victory.

“It’s a lot better than last year,” said Nadeau. “Everybody has the desire, and good things are happening.”

Junior classmate Cody Russell assisted all three of Nadeau’s goals. The two have combined for more than 50 points to date for the Eddies (10-3).

“Dylan’s been playing well, but it’s been a team effort out there. Without his linemates, Dylan’s nothing,” said EL coach Craig Latuscha. “This was three games in five nights for us, and we’ve got a little flow going. We’re doing the little things right.”

Senior Mat Gordon also scored his team-leading 18th goal of the winter for EL.

Defensively, Rich Belanger made 20 saves while the Red Eddies’ penalty kill held firm after six of an uncharacteristic seven trips to the box. EL has allowed a total of eight goals during its seven-game winning streak.

Jared Bornstein and Mike Knowlton scored for MHW (5-8-1).

“We played as a team tonight, and that might be the first time I’ve been able to say that all year,” Latuscha said. “Everyone was on board. Our goalie was solid. Our defense stepped up. When we had chances to score, we buried it.”

EL nursed a 1-0 lead at the first intermission despite a whopping 14-2 shots advantage.

Back-to-back penalties ultimately cost the Hawks, who fought off the first half of the 5-on-3 but eventually fell victim to the numbers game. Nadeau stuffed home his own rebound after a centering pass from Russell to the far post. Jared Pelletier also picked up an assist.

“At the beginning of the season we weren’t passing it very well as a team,” said Russell. “Lately we’ve been moving the puck better. It’s going good. The morale is building.”

Nadeau made it 2-0 when he converted Russell’s nifty pass from behind the net at 2:52.

The Hawks cut the lead in half when Bornstein cashed in with help from Erik Ogren and Rob Clark on the power play. 

EL needed only 44 seconds to answer. Nadeau potted his third of the night, taking advantage of Russell’s unselfishness with a near carbon copy of the previous goal.

Belanger made 10 stops in the middle stanza.

“Our backchecking was good,” Nadeau said. “Our defense stepped up at the right time, and our goalie played big.”

Knowlton’s unassisted goal brought MHW within a goal at 6:13 of the third. But Belanger made another tough stop, this time stonewalling Bornstein on a 2-on-1, to trigger the change of possession that iced the game.

Gordon punctuated the quick turnaround by stuffing home an insurance tally with 5:10 left.

EL entered the night No. 5 in the region, with MHW at No. 7. Seven teams will make the regional playoffs.

“They were right on our heels, so (the win) is going to pick us up just a little bit more,” Latuscha said. “Seven wins a row is a big confidence booster, but we’re not going to let our guard down. We’re going to continue to work hard.”

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