Kennebec’s Sam Lloyd, left, hits Gardiner’s Garrett Doyle in the face during a Feb. 8 game in Hallowell. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

HALLOWELL — Hockey people like to stick to the script, preferring to pump cliches over pumping tires. For a refresher course, Google “Tim Thomas,” “Roberto Luongo” and “2011 Stanley Cup Final.”

So when word surfaced last week about an inaugural (and hopefully final ever) “Covid Cup,” the sampling of quotes from central Maine’s high school hockey coaches raised some suspicion on this end. In the absence of a statewide playoff this winter, the conventional wisdom seemed to suggest they were all just “happy to have a couple more games” and “grateful for the opportunity to keep playing.”

You couldn’t help but laugh, imagining the these same guys stifling giggles amongst themselves as they tried to keep their collective faces straight.

Don’t buy it.

 

“Everybody’s going to be coming to compete, of course,” Messalonskee head coach Dennis Martin said. “Everybody’s here trying to win it. If you’re a true competitor and a winner, you’re going to want to go out there and compete and not just go through the motions.”

Martin knows a thing or two about late-season hockey.

He was a three-time state championship coach at Waterville, including back-to-back Class B state titles in 2016-2017.

Beginning Thursday night, six central Maine area programs will compete in the “Covid Cup.” The teams will be divided into two three-team divisions, where they will all play each other team in their division once in round-robin format. The two teams that win their respective groups will face-off for the “Covid Cup” in a one-game championship.

Messalonskee, Capital Region and Gardiner will comprise one division; Cony/Hall-Dale/Monmouth/Erskine, Camden Hills and Kennebec will be the other.

All games will be held at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault, with doubleheaders scheduled for Thursday, Saturday and Monday to complete the round robin stages.

There won’t be any state championship trophies to give out at the final on Wednesday, and there won’t be any spectators in attendance. There won’t be any bells, buzzers or police patrolling the stands for that one fan who is taking his or her enjoyment a bit too far at the expense of a group of high school kids.

But that doesn’t mean the games won’t have a playoff atmosphere.

If you know anything about hockey insiders — aside from the ability to drum up a cliche for every occasion on a whim — it’s that when you put a piece of hardware up for grabs, things tend to ramp themselves up. At all levels of the game.

Cony seniors Bobby Stolt, left, Cooper Swan, Tyrell Sousa and Quincy Tobias get recognized before a Feb. 27 game at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

At the college level, in-season holiday tournaments bring out the best in players. Even in the National Hockey League, the All-Star Game format has been at its best in recent years with the adoption of a 3-on-3 tournament pitting teams of All-Stars aligned by their divisions.

Don’t think it matters?

A 1-0 win for the Pacific Division over the Atlantic Division in the 2016 All-Star “championship game” came just one year after the traditional All-Star game saw 29 goals scored.

“You just want to play the one game at a time, and come out and compete,” Martin said. “If you play hard.. good things will happen.”

That’s a hockey cliche worth getting behind.

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