HAMPDEN, Maine — The way Skowhegan High School has steamrolled its field hockey opponents all season, coach Paula Doughty hasn’t had much cause for concern.
Tuesday night, after Messalonskee’s Kristyna Bernatchez scored with 6:08 remaining to make it a one-goal game, Doughty called a quick timeout.
The top-seeded Indians held off a late charge by the No. 2 Eagles of Oakland down the stretch, earning their 12th consecutive Eastern Maine championship with a 2-1 victory at Hampden Academy.
“What I said was, ‘you can’t sit on a lead,’” explained Doughty, whose undefeated team (17-0) heads to the University of Maine in Orono for Saturday’s Class A state title contest against the winner of Tuesday’s late game between Scarborough and Cheverus of Portland.
“With a team like Messalonskee, you can’t hold the lead,” Doughty added. “You’ve got to keep executing. You’ve got to keep coming at them defensively. You’ve got to keep shooting.”
All three of the 14-3 Eagles’ losses this fall came at the hands of the Indians, who have won two straight state crowns and 10 of the last 11 overall.
Skowhegan dominated Tuesday, outshooting Messalonskee 16-4 and earning a 12-7 advantage in penalty corners. Even so, the score remained tight.
“They’re fun. They’re exciting,” Skowhegan senior forward Makaela Michonski said of the rare, one-goal game. “I like playing games like this where we’re challenged and put our skills to work and we really come together as a team.”
The Indians broke a scoreless tie with 3:53 left in the first half. On a penalty corner, Rylie Blanchet inserted the ball to Michonski. The rebound of her initial blast was knocked in from in front of the cage by sophomore Renee Wright.
Skowhegan made it 2-1 with 11:21 to play after senior midfielder Sarah Finnemore made a steal near midfield and worked the ball down the right side of the field.
She got it to Michonski, who fired the ball toward the far (right) post, where freshman Brooke Michonski, her sister, one-timed it past goalkeeper Abigail Roberts (14 saves).
“It was really intense,” Finnemore said.
“We just tried to stay calm and not freak out if we didn’t get a goal right away,” she added.
Coach Katie McLaughlin’s Eagles, who had outscored its opponents 117-8 this season (seven of the goals were by Skowhegan), refused to roll over.
Senior midfielder Kristyna Bernatchez cut the deficit to 2-1 with 6:08 left, on a penalty corner. Lynnae Luettich inserted the ball to Bernatchez, who unleashed a low rocket of a shot that beat Skowhegan keeper Anne-Marie Provencal (3 saves) to her left.
It was only the second goal the Indians had allowed all season and both were scored by the Eagles.
“I think it was all mental today. We just had to play them like any other team,” Bernatchez said.
“We played really well defensively, we had some good defensive saves, but we couldn’t really get our attack going like we usually do,” she added.
Messalonskee spent the majority of the game in its own end trying to negotiate the ball through a gauntlet of Skowhegan forwards and midfielders.
Makaela Michonski, Wright, Blanchet, slick-handling midfielder Allison Lancaster, Finnemore and Logan LeBlanc headed that effort.
“We just really try to fly in at them to make it so they have pressure at all times, to try to keep control of the game,” Finnemore said.
The Eagles’ tireless backs included Natalie Hunt, Mikayla Turner and Brianna Garland. Roberts held her ground and made several impressive saves.
“We just played with a lot of herat and we gave it our all,” Roberts said.