WINSLOW — Dylan Burton isn’t hard to find off the ice.
The Messalonskee sophomore spends the bulk of his free time doing what he loves most in the basement of his family’s Oakland home.
“I go down there and do a lot of stick handling,” said Burton. “I shoot a lot of pucks. We have a nice concrete floor, a slab that is like 60 feet by 20 feet. It’s big. I go down there and run around, and I can roller blade down there, too. I have a nice net I can shoot at.”
The 6-foot-1 1/2 Burton is also pretty easy to spot on the ice.
He’s the smooth-skating defenseman who logs major minutes, who is dangerous with or without the puck and who is a stabilizing force to an overlooked shut-down defense.
Burton is a big reason the unblemished Eagles (20-0-0) are back in the Class B state title game for a third straight season.
Messalonskee and Western B champ Gorham (17-3) will face off at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“We’re ready,” Burton said. “We want this pretty bad.”
The three-time defending Eastern B champ Eagles feature a prolific offense led by the Cunningham brothers, Jared and Chase, as well as Dan Condon and Josh Towle.
Messalonskee averages 6.9 goals a game. It’s scored seven or more goals in 12 games this season as well.
Chase Cunningham leads the potent offense with 79 points (32 goals, 47 assists) while younger brother Jared is second with 70 (28-42). Condon is third on the team in scoring with 28 goals and 31 assists for 59 points.
But here’s an equally impressive, if not more meaningful, statistic: The Eagles have allowed three or more goals in a game just once this season.
“I take a lot of pride in that,” Burton said. “We’re kind of over-shadowed a little bit, but that’s OK. We get the job done.”
Burton logs more than 32 minutes a game — a testament to his durability and importance.
He’s strong in the defensive zone, winning one-on-one battles with ease and frequency.
“He has great stamina,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “He’s able to log a lot of ice time, like a lot of great defensemen do. He’s just real poised out there.”
He also makes life easier for goalie Ben Weeks, who says he takes great comfort when Burton is on the ice.
“He does make it easier out there,” Weeks said. “He takes some of the pressure off. He just makes the plays. He’s also a threat at the offensive end.”
Burton has nine goals and 40 assists for a whopping 49 points. He has a quick shot and isn’t afraid to carry the puck into the offensive zone to create a scoring chance.
“He adds a lot,” said Chase Cunningham. “He logs a lot of ice and is very reliable out there. He’s a difference-maker.”
Added Latendresse: “His confidence is so much better. Last year, it was just not knowing what he can do. This year he just elevated his game all around, both defensively and offensively. We know he’s going to make a play. He’s just very dangerous at both ends. Ive been here for12 years, and I think he’s the best defenseman I’ve ever had, and we’ve had some good ones.”
Burton and the Eagles are prepping for their showdown Saturday against Gorham, which toppled Greely 4-2 in the Western B final.
Like the Eagles, the Rams feature some dynamic scorers and quick-skating forwards.
Burton said he and his fellow blueliners are ready for the challenge.
“We can’t wait,” he said. “I don’t have much worries anymore. I only worry if I’ll play well. I don’t have much nerves anymore. Those days are gone. This has been a lot of fun. It’s been really contributing to a winning team. I love it.”