Senior right wing Chase Cunningham, who racked up 82 points (33 goals, 49 assists) in leading Messalonskee High School of Oakland to its first state Class B hockey championship, has been named the Eastern Maine Class B Player of the Year.
Cunningham shared the award with Brewer High School’s Spencer Valley a year ago.
Mike Latendresse, who guided the Eagles to a 21-0 season, was named the coach of the year in a voting of the league’s coaches. The Old Town/Orono Black Bears, in their first season as a co-op team, won the league’s sportsmanship award.
The 5-foot-7, 150-pound Cunningham capped his career with a goal and two assists in the 6-1 victory over Gorham in the state championship game. He set a school career record with 251 points.
“He’s a great player,” said Presque Isle coach Carl Flynn. “He sees the ice very well and he’s unselfish with the puck but he can finish when he needs to.”
“It’s well-deserved,” said Latendresse.
“He had a few more points this year and what the team was able to accomplish had a lot to do with his leadership,” he added.
He said Cunningham possessed an exceptional skill set and a “tremendous work ethic” and constantly strived to improve.
“He pushed himself to get better as well as everyone else. He was the first one on the ice and the last one to leave. He was a hockey junkie,” said Latendresse.
Latendresse was honored to be named coach of the year for the second time in three seasons. He credited his players and assistant coaches Dave Richard and Lee Bureau.
“We had a great team and they came together at the end of the year. The last six games were our better games and the last one was our best,” said Latendresse. “The coaching staff was all on the same page. We all tried to achieve the same goal. We looked to improve the team every day. We all got along well and I’m not an easy guy to get along with sometimes because I’m so intense.”
Joining Cunningham on the first team were teammates Jared Cunningham, his brother Dylan Burton and Ben Weeks, along with Presque Isle center Tyler Seeley and defenseman Andrew Michaud.
Seeley, Michaud and Weeks are seniors while Jared Cunningham and Burton are sophomores.
Chase Cunningham is the only repeat first-team selection. Jared Cunningham and Burton were second-team picks in 2012-13 and were also on the All-Rookie team.
The second team is composed of Hampden Academy’s Ryan Manning, a senior goalie, and Mike Ward, a senior forward, along with junior defenseman Riley Eastman, Messalonskee freshman defenseman Brandon Nale, Waterville senior forward Chris Lee and Presque Isle junior forward Alex Michaud.
The third team contains Waterville senior goalie Kaleb Kane, freshman defenseman Andrew Roderigue and freshman forward Nick Denis, Winslow sophomore forward Jacob Trask, Messalonskee senior forward Dan Condon and John Bapst of Bangor senior defenseman Ethan Handley.
Trask was an all-rookie selection a year ago.
The honorable mentions were Brewer’s Gehrig White, Hampden Academy’s Rob Stowe, Houlton-Hodgdon’s Lucas Grant, John Bapst’s Nate Reese, Messalonskee’s Sam Bell, Old Town-Orono’s Tyler Byther, Presque Isle’s Joseph Patenaude, Waterville’s Tommy Samson and Winslow’s Alex Berard.
The All-Academic team was made up of Stowe, Houlton-Hodgdon’s Alejandro Casillas, John Bapst’s Ray Hummels, Messalonskee’s Elija Tuell, Old Town-Orono’s Nash Allan-Rahill, Presque Isle’s Jillian Flynn, Waterville’s Todd Serbent and Winslow’s David Selwood.
Jared Cunningham finished with 29 goals and 44 assists while playing on a line with his brother.
“He was the smartest player on the team,” said Latendresse. “I asked him to quarterback our power play as a sophomore. That’s how smart he was. His understanding of the game is a level beyond a lot of players.”
Burton had 10 goals and 42 assists and headlined the blue-line corps.
“His vision and understanding of the game were extremely good and he was a rock on defense,” said Latendresse. “He was the best defenseman in Eastern B and one of the top five in the state [in either class]. He also had unbelievable stamina.”
Weeks had an 18-0 record, a 1.37 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. He made 23 saves in the state championship game win over Gorham.
“Ben would play his best in the bigger games. He did that last year and this year,” said Latendresse. “He was able to raise his game to the next level when we needed him the most.”
Seeley and Michaud led Presque Isle to a 13-6-1 record and a berth in the EM Class B title game.
The 6-foot-4 Seeley had 30 goals and 24 assists and was a “man among boys,” according to Flynn.
“He was the king of the garbage goals. He would muscle his way to where he needed to get. He was a good skater with a long stride,” said Flynn.
Michaud had 15 goals and 12 assists and Flynn pointed out that the talented defenseman had a couple of game-winners, including one against Waterville in the semifinals.
“He was big, he moved well and he had a big wingspan. He was the fastest skater on our team and he could shoot the puck,” said Flynn.