OAKLAND, Maine — The Cunningham brothers hadn’t played together much due to the gap in their ages.
They are certainly making up for it this season.
Junior right wing Chase Cunningham, 17, and his brother Jared, a 15-year-old freshman center, have teamed up on a line with junior left wing Josh Towle.
The unit has led Messalonskee High School of Oakland to an 18-2 record, a second consecutive Eastern Maine Class B hockey championship, and a berth in Saturday’s 1 p.m. state final.
The Eagles will face the winner of Wednesday night’s Greely-Camden Hills Western Maine final.
The line combined for five goals and four assists in Tuesday night’s 7-2 EM championship game win over John Bapst of Bangor.
Chase Cunningham had three goals and two assists while Jared Cunningham and Towle each had a goal and an assist.
The five-point night gives Chase Cunningham 34 goals and 40 assists on the season while Jared Cunningham now has 32 & 35.
“They are very special,” said Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse, a former University of Maine forward. “They are both extremely smart and extremely skilled. They do a lot of very good things. Jared has more grit at times.”
Orono coach Greg Hirsch said the Cunningham brothers are “real smart hockey players, number one. They make great hockey decisions. They play with poise and they have phenomenal hands. They constantly support the puck and cycle it.
“And they work just as hard in the defensive zone as the offensive zone,” he added. “They’re fast and their hockey sense is a step ahead a lot of times.”
Jared Cunningham pointed out his brother “isn’t as physical as I am.”
“But we play pretty much the same game. We know where each other is on the ice and we know how to work the puck down low,” said Jared, who grew up accompanying his brother to the rink.
“It has been great,” said Chase, who said hockey is a common topic of discussion between them. “We work well together. We have good chemistry.”
Chase Cunningham said he has been impressed with how his brother has played as a freshman.
“I definitely didn’t expect him to put up the numbers he has. But he sees the ice well, he moves the puck and he can definitely bury it,” said Chase, who had 25 goals and 44 assists last season.
Latendresse said Jared Cunningham is a unique freshman.
“For a freshman to play the way he plays, not only offensively, but the way he thinks about the game and the way he plays defensively is very special,” said Latendresse.
He said Chase Cunningham is a dynamic game-changer and that Towle “fits well with them.”
“[Towle] doesn’t get the recognition he deserves,” said Chase Cunningham.
Towle said being on a line with the Cunningham brothers is a blessing.
“They’re great people. I love being on a line with them. It has been real nice,” said Towle.
Jared Cunningham said he and his brother thought about being on the same line in the offseason.
“And come preseason, [Latendresse] had us skate together on a line and it has worked out pretty well,” said Jared. “It has been pretty special. You don’t get to play on a line with your brother [very often].”
“We were going to try them together on the first day of training camp because of the connection they had and it obviously worked,” said Latendresse.
Chase Cunningham said winning the state’s first regional hockey title a year ago was nice but to claim one while being on a line with his brother is “even better.”
“And we’ll definitely want to win a lot more on Saturday,” said Chase Cunningham, whose Eagles lost to Greely 6-2 in last year’s state final.