LEWISTON — Redemption can come in different ways, forms and times. It can come when least expected or when most needed.
But when it comes — if it happens at all — the impact is palpable.
Messalonskee senior captain Chase Cunningham stood near center ice inside a still-buzzing Androscoggin Bank Colisee and did his best to describe the feeling of winning the first state championship in program history — a 6-1 grounding of Gorham on a splendid Saturday afternoon that erased consecutive years of frustration in this Class B game.
“This is definitely emotional,” said Cunningham, who’s scored more points (251) than anyone else in program history. “We talked about losing the last two (Class B state title games) this week. We tried to forget them but it’s hard to forget. It’s hard.”
Cunningham and the rest of the Eagles will remember Saturday for a long, long time.
Dan Condon scored two third-period goals and Cunningham finished with a goal and two assists as Messalonskee (21-0-0) capped an unblemished season with a dominant showing against over-matched Gorham (17-4-0).
The Eagles lost each of the previous two Class B state games to Greely by a combined 9-2.
“This has been an unbelievable season,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “A great season. We went 21-0, undefeated. It’s the first time I am saying the word with this team. It’s really been a special team.
“The guys prepared themselves really well the last three days. We practiced well. We had a good feeling. We were calm and we were determined to come out on top this year.”
The teams were tied 1-1 after the first period but the Eagles pulled away with two goals in the second — including a jaw-dropper from Jared Cunningham — and three more in the third.
Josh Towle and Dylan Burton also scored for Messalonskee while goalie Ben Weeks had 23 saves.
“This is real emotional,” said Weeks, one of five seniors on the team. “We’ve been talking about this game for a long, long time. We’ve been counting down the days, pretty much since the end of last season. I’m loving every second of this. We knew this was going to be our year.”
Tucker Buteau scored a goal and senior captain goalie Justin Broy had 25 saves to lead Gorham, which reached a state final game for the first time in its history.
“Messalonskee is a fantastic team,” Gorham coach John Portwine said. “They came as advertised. They have a high-powered offense and we just couldn’t stop them. We tried to wear them down but it didn’t work. I don’t know if this is frustrating because we’re happy to be here. We’re happy for the program. We’ll learn from this.”
Jared Cunningham scored what proved to be the winning goal with 9 minutes, 41 seconds left in the second period.
Cunningham took a pass from Burton down the left side, beat a defender with a nice inside move and then deked Broy while he cut across the slot.
The shifty sophomore forward then went to his forehand to tuck the puck into an open net.
The Eagles extended the lead about four minutes later when Chase Cunningham took advantage of a Gorham defensive miscue in the offensive zone.
After two Gorham players collided, Chase Cunningham picked up a loose puck along the right boards, charged in on the net and beat Broy with a backhand to the far post.
“They collided and I was left untouched,” he said. “I picked up the puck and went to the front and tucked it around (Broy). I barely got it by him.”
The goal gave Messalonskee a 3-1 lead that it would never relinquish.
“I think the couple goals in second period really took it for us,” Latendresse said. “We finished it off in the third.”
Condon scored two goals about three minutes apart early in the third period.
The first came off a pass from Jake Dexter; the second on a laser in the slot with the Eagles on the power play.
“I just wanted to shoot high,” Condon said. “Chase fed me the puck in the slot and I ripped it.”
Towle capped the scoring when he beat Broy from the slot with 5:33 left.
“We just wore them down in the third period,” Chase Cunningham said.
Burton gave Messalonskee a 1-0 lead when he ripped a shot from the left point that made its way through a crowd and past Broy to the short side with 2:59 left in the first period.
The goal came after the Eagles generated several good scoring chances.
It didn’t take long for the Rams to answer as Buteau beat Weeks from out front just 46 seconds later.
“They whipped one out from the corner,” Weeks said. “There wasn’t really much I could do. (Buteau) batted it out of the air. It was a great play. We knew we just had to keep going after that.”
The Eagles did just that and they didn’t stop until the coveted title was theirs to keep.
“We just kept skating and skating,” Chase Cunningham said. “It feels unbelievable. We finally did it. We got redemption.”