OAKLAND, Maine — The Messalonskee Eagles of Oakland have certainly enjoyed their first two seasons in Eastern Maine Class B after dropping down from Class A, winning back-to-back regional championships.
Greely High of Cumberland Center has prevented them from winning state championships, beating the Eagles 6-2 two years ago and 3-0 last Saturday in Lewiston.
Coach Mike Latendresse and his Eagles could finally win a state crown next season after compiling a two-year mark of 36-7: 18-4 during 2011-12 and 18-3 this season.
“I think we’ll be as good if not better next season,” said Latendresse, who just completed his 11th season behind the Messalonskee bench. “We will lose Dom Dexter, who is a great defenseman. But we’ll be gaining a super freshman in Brendan Nales and we’ll also have some other quality freshmen. Their impact could be similar to this year’s freshmen.”
Latendresse will return the league’s most dominant line, composed of the Cunningham brothers, Chase and Jared, along with junior Josh Towle. Junior right wing Chase Cunningham finished with 34 goals and 40 assists and freshman center Jared had 32 & 35.
Chase Cunningham was the league’s Co-Player of the Year and an All-Eastern Maine first-team pick while Jared was selected to the second team and All-Rookie team.
“Because of all the returning players and having the first line back intact, I think we’ll be very strong. It’s going to be very exciting to see what happens,” said Latendresse.
Defenseman Dylan Burton was also chosen to the second team and All-Rookie team.
Forwards Corey Foye and Nate Nadeau will graduate in addition to Dexter.
The second line of junior Kalib Bernatchez, sophomore Jake Dexter and freshman Devin Pickett will return as will freshman third-liner William Weeks.
Junior Tyler Simpson and freshmen Sam Bell and Burton will be the mainstays on defense in front of junior Ben Weeks, who had an outstanding first season as the starter.
“Ben really improved. He did a tremendous job. He played a great game against Greely as did the whole team,” said Latendresse. “We just couldn’t put the puck in the net.”
Latendresse said among teams he expects to contend for the EM title next season are Presque Isle and Hampden Academy.
“Brewer is never out of the picture. John Bapst is losing quite a bit but they are bringing back some solid players. And Waterville is dropping down to B. They aren’t losing a lot and they’ll have a lot of freshmen coming in, plus they will have had experience in Class A,” said Latendresse. “They’ll be very good. They’ll be a good rival. That will generate a lot of excitement in our area.”
John Bapst coach Gene Fadrigon, who led his Crusaders to their first berth in a regional final, will have to replace All-EM second-team goalie Jaron Leonard, first-team defenseman Kurt Massey and his top line of Jacob Fletcher, Seth Yachanin and Alex LaFrance. Fletcher was a second-team choice.
“But we’ve got a pretty strong defense corps coming back. We have five returning defensemen,” said Fadrigon.
Current juniors Ray Hummels, Ethan Handley and Joe Archambault will headline the blue line corps.
Sam Lander, a sophomore, will inherit the goaltending job.
“He has played quite a bit of hockey,” said Fadrigon.
Jonathan Cheff, brothers Jacob and Nate Reese, Hunter Pate and Logan Cyr-Ellis will be the top returning forwards along with Matthew Spear.
Perennial power Brewer will go through a building year, according to coach Dave Shedd.
Co-Player of the Year Spencer Valley, a center, and almost the entire defense corps, including first-teamer Brody Valley, Spencer’s cousin, will have to be replaced along with third-team goalie Patrick Spaulding.
Freshman Jack Schroder will be the only returning defensemen who received a lot of playing time. Shedd does return three forwards in freshman Dylan Severance, sophomore Gabe Valley and junior Gehrig White, who all played saw top-line duty with Spencer Valley.
Severance was an All-Rookie team pick.
Riots-Coyotes merger progressing
Members of a committee formed to oversee the proposed merger of the Old Town and Orono hockey programs for next season met Wednesday night to discuss the financial aspects of the situation.
Orono High School athletic director Mike Archer said the committee is composed of athletic administrators and boosters group members from both schools.
Players from the two programs met last week and there will be a meeting of players and parents next week, he said.
They will eventually seek approval from each school board and, if that happens, they will file an application to the Maine Principals’ Association.
They need to file it by May 1 to give the MPA six months before the season to set up the schedule and possibly rearrange leagues.
“We want to do it right. And we need to be expedient,” said Archer, who added he has been impressed with the cooperation between the two schools.
Orono was facing a dire situation numbers-wise next season and there was a strong likelihood that it wouldn’t have been able to field a team.
The state has eight schools with co-op agreements in schoolboy hockey.