ORONO, Maine — Messalonskee of Oakland is the class of Eastern Maine B ice hockey once again.
Brothers Jared and Chase Cunningham combined for five goals and six assists Tuesday night and coach Mike Latendresse’s top-ranked Eagles used a five-goal second-period blitz to pull away from No. 2 Presque Isle 9-3 in the regional championship at Alfond Arena.
“We knew that when they score goals they tend to score them in bunches,” said Presque Isle coach Carl Flynn. “In the first period they scored and we scored right back and then they scored right back. We were trying to get a minute or a minute and a half after a goal that we scored to just not let them score but we could never do that.
“In the second period, once they started scoring they just kept scoring.”
Jared Cunningham, a sophomore, had three goals and three assists while senior Chase Cunningham added two goals and three assists as undefeated Messalonskee never trailed in winning a third consecutive EM title game — contests the Eagles have won by a combined 21-7.
“We just had to go out and work hard and just beat them to every loose puck and I felt like we played pretty well tonight,” said Jared Cunningham. “They were playing good in the first period but we came out hungry in the second period to get those goals and we worked hard.”
Messalonskee (20-0) will face the winner of Wednesday night’s Western B final between Gorham and defending state champion Greely of Cumberland Center for the state crown Saturday at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
Presque Isle, which had won seven straight matches heading into the regional final, ended its season with a 13-6-1 record.
“We gave them a good game,” said Flynn. “The outcome is not surprising to us. We had hoped for something different but that’s truly what we probably all expected.”
Defenseman Daniel Condon added two goals for Messalonskee, while Brandon Nale and Josh Towle also scored for the Eagles and goalie Ben Weeks made 17 saves.
Andrew Michaud, Tyler Seeley and Alex Michaud each scored for Presque Isle, while Cooper Madore had two assists and Alex Michaud, Seeley and Dennis Young had one assist each. Jillian Flynn made 19 saves and Oliver Gerrish had three stops in goal for the Wildcats against 31 Messalonskee shots.
“At one point in the season we were really worried about whether or not we were going to make the playoffs because we were fighting for that six-seven spot and we wound up in second,” said coach Flynn. “I’m proud of these kids.”
Jared Cunningham’s second goal of the first period, a deflection off a Presque Isle defender on a 2-on-1 play, with 2:07 remaining gave Messalonskee a 3-2 lead at the first intermission.
Cunningham went in deep along the left wing with Chase Cunningham on his right, and Jared’s pass across the ice hit the skate of a defender in front of Flynn and trickled into the net.
It gave Messalonskee its third one-goal lead of the opening 15 minutes of play.
Condon staked the Eagles a 1-0 lead 1:13 into the match, deflecting a shot from the right point by fellow defenseman Samuel Bell past Flynn’s stick side.
Andrew Michaud tied the match for Presque Isle at 9:09, but the Wildcats’ momentum lasted all of 24 seconds, as Jared Cunningham answered with a sharp-angled shot from along the left boards assisted by Towle and Dylan Burton.
Seeley scored from between the circles off assists from Madore and Young at 11:06 to rally Presque Isle to a 2-2 tie. Seeley won a battle for possession of the puck from two defenders and struck a low screen shot to Weeks’ glove side.
Messalonskee outshot Presque Isle 13-4 in the first period.
The Eagles then tightened up defensively and took control with two goals within a 96-second span midway through the second period.
Nale scored off a Chase Cunningham assist at 5:39, then Condon scored on a power play at 7:15 on assists from Nale and Burton.
Presque Isle cut its deficit to 5-3 with a power-play goal by Alex Michaud off a Madore assist, but Messalonskee closed out the period with unanswered goals by Towle and both Cunningham brothers to build an 8-3 advantage.
“We’re well balanced, we make great decisions most of the time and just play really good team defense,” said Latendresse. “With the skills and the talent at the other end, things happen.”