WINSLOW — There was a time when Sam Dexter was a wide-eyed youngster on the Messalonskee High School hockey team.

As a freshman and sophomore, Dexter saw ample ice time, but it often came with older and more established players.

“They were all older than me,” he said. “I looked up to them because they had all the experience. It’s kind of cool now to see what kind of impact I’ll have on my line this year.”

Dexter is a senior captain and the lone veteran on the Eagles’ top line. Sandwiched around him are a pair of sophomores — James Varney and Chase Cunningham — who made quite an impression as freshmen last season.

Individually, they all possess plenty of speed and talent to impact games. Together, they form what Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse says is, “one of the best lines we’ve ever had here.”

“We’re really excited to see what they can do,” said Latendresse, whose Eagles are competing in Eastern B. “I really believe it’s one of the better lines we’ve ever had. We’ve had some great lines over the years, but this one is up there. Just their all-around talent. If you don’t know them now, you will soon.”

Dexter had 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points last season. Cunningham scored 25 points while Varney was primarily a defenseman before moving to center this season.

“It gave me a whole new perspective playing (defense) last year,” Varney said. “I felt I had a decent season. It was my first permanent position back there. But my role is changing this year.”

Messalonskee is poised to contend with Brewer for the Eastern B title. The Eagles, with Nate DelGiudice in net and Travis St. Pierre back behind the blue line, are deep and talented enough to make a postseason run.

Up front, however, the Eagles will need plenty of production from its top line.

“Sam and I skated together last season, and we worked great together,” Cunningham said. “Last year I was a little nervous and I really just wanted to get the first few goals out of the way. Once I did that I felt a lot more confident. This year Coach wants me to step up and score more. Coach is looking for more scoring.”

Latendresse said it was an easy decision to play the trio together, rather than break them up and create more balance because the players’ styles complement each other.

The addition of St. Pierre, who played at Kents Hill last season, created some flexibility.

“One of things we wanted was to have Chase play wing,” Latendresse said. “He played center last season and we wanted to give him more freedom this year. As a winger, you are allowed more freedom. He’s very skilled, very determined. It allows him to play differently.

“Two, we had the opportunity to move James out front. Last year, he played defense for us. The two younger guys I also think will push Sammy. It does add a little bit of pressure on them, but they are all extremely talented.”

Added Dexter: “Both those guys bring such knowledge of the game. They do things you don’t usually see from sophomores. They know what to do out there. We should be able to put up a great amount of points this year.”

Dexter, Cunningham and Varney will likely be matched against the best Messalonskee’s competition has to offer. They’ll be relied upon to carry the offense in front of an already strong team defensively.

“Chase and James are developing before our eyes,” Dexter said. “I’m very excited for this season. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

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