Coach Mike Latendresse’s Messalonskee High School hockey team from Oakland had a regular season that will be hard to duplicate.
The Eagles went 18-0 and outscored their opponents 121-20 en route to the top seed in Eastern Maine Class B. They even beat Eastern Maine Class A No. 1 seed Bangor 3-2 in a mutual season opener at Bangor’s Sawyer Arena.
But Latendresse is not taking his team’s next challenge lightly.
The Eagles will play 10-9 John Bapst of Bangor, the fifth seed, in Saturday’s 8 p.m. semifinal at Sukee Arena in Winslow. Second seed Presque Isle, 12-5-1, will play No. 3 Waterville, 11-7-1, in the 5 p.m. opener.
The winners will meet in Tuesday’s 7 p.m. title game at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena in Orono.
Messalonskee beat John Bapst 8-2 on Dec. 11 and 4-1 on Feb. 18 but Latendresse said the Crusaders will be a worthy opponent.
“They’re a great skating team and they’re well-coached. They’re a very, very dangerous team,” said Latendresse, whose Eagles are the defending two-time EM Class B titlists.
“It will not be a walk in the park. They work very, very hard,” said Latendresse, whose Eagles are 36-3 over the past two seasons. “We’re going to have to play well in our [defensive] zone and keep them to the outside. And we’ll have to do a good job slowing them down in the neutral zone.”
The Crusaders will have to find a way to limit the production of Messalonskee’s phenomenal top line consisting of the Cunningham brothers, Chase and Jared, and either Dan Condon or Josh Towle.
Latendresse said that line has combined for 180 points. Chase Cunningham, the school’s all-time leading scorer, has 70 points and Jared has 60. Chase Cunningham has more than 220 career points.
Chase Cunningham had three goals and two assists in their 7-2 win over John Bapst in last year’s Eastern B title game.
The Eagles also have a pair of defensemen in Dylan Burton and Brandon Nale who have teamed up for more than 80 points.
A second line of Kalib Bernatchez between Jake Dexter and either Condon or Towle can also score and senior Ben Weeks is dependable between the pipes.
John Bapst, a 4-3 winner over Winslow in overtime in their quarterfinal, has been led up front by Nate Reese, Hunter Pate, Jonathan Cheff, Logan Cyr-Ellis, Tyler Wheeler and Matthew Spear. Seniors Ray Hummels, Ethan Handley and Joe Archambault provide the Crusaders with a ton of experience and reliability on defense and junior goalie Sam Lander is playing well, according to coach Gene Fadrigon.
Presque Isle and Waterville split one-goal games with each winning on the other’s ice.
Presque Isle has won six in a row after losing 2-1 to Waterville on Jan. 24.
Presque Isle hasn’t played since Feb. 18 and coach Carl Flynn was concerned about the layoff, so he scheduled a scrimmage game against a men’s league team he hand-picked on Thursday night.
“We did this the last time we won the Eastern Maine championship in 2009,” said Flynn.
He feels the game with Waterville will be “a real good one. It’ll be a one- or two-goal game. It’ll come down to which team gets in more penalty trouble, whose goalie shows up and which team coughs the puck up more.”
Presque Isle has been led by Tyler Seeley (29 goals, 19 assists) and linemates Alex Michaud (19-29) and Cooper Madore (5-16) along with Joseph Patenaude (5-14), defensemen Mike Michaud (9-6) and Andrew Michaud (13 assists) and goalie Jillian Flynn.
Waterville, a 5-2 winner over Hampden in a Tuesday quarterfinal, has been paced by Nick Denis (21-11), Chris Lee (11-18), Tommy Samson (8-12) and Michael Oliveira (6-9) along with talented freshman defenseman Andrew Roderigue (4-8) and goalie Kaleb Kane.