WATERVILLE — Messalonskee High School has featured some talented teams in the last seven seasons, playing consistent playoff hockey in always-tough Eastern A.

What Messalonskee didn’t do during this stretch?

Topple Waterville. That changed Tuesday night.

Chase Cunningham had a hat trick and three assists to help the Eagles beat the Purple Panthers 7-1 at Alfond Rink for their first victory over their rivals since February 2005.

“I think it’s been a roadblock that we’ve had for a lot of years,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “It’s a great feeling. We played really well. It’s a stepping stone.”

Added Cunningham: “We capitalized on our opportunities. It’s just awesome. We just buried them when we needed to.”

James Varney celebrated his 16th birthday with a pair of goals while Sam Dexter had a goal and two assists for the Eagles (6-1-0), who controlled this game from opening faceoff to the final horn despite being out-shot 27-26.

“It’s fantastic,” Varney said. “We wanted this so bad.”

Corey Foye also scored for Messalonskee while Nate DelGiudice stopped 26 shots to earn the victory.

Dalton Denis scored the lone goal for Waterville (1-8-0) on a breakaway with a second remaining in the third period.

“We go through spurts when we play good hockey but their top line hurt us (Tuesday),” Waterville coach Dennis Martin said. “They just beat us. They beat us to the puck.”

Martin said leading up to the game that his team would have to contain Messalonskee’s top line of Cunningham, Varney and Dexter. However, the trio combined to score six goals.

“We matched lines,” Martin said. “My first line gave up five goals. But Messalonskee is a good hockey team.”

The Eagles put the game out of reach with three goals — a power play, even strength and a short-handed one — in the first period.

Foye opened the scoring when he converted a rebound to the right of Thibodeau with 6 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first period.

Cunningham then made it 2-0 about four minutes later with a beautiful short-handed strike. A forechecking Sam Dexter dug the puck out of the corner between two Panthers and slipped a nice pass into the slot, where Cunningham was positioned uncovered.

Cunningham took the puck, deked Thibodeau and buried it to the near post with 2:11 left.

“I faked it and went backhand,” Cunningham said.

The Eagles were just getting started.

Varney beat Thibodeau with a high shot to the glove side from the top of the right circle to give the Eagles a commanding 3-0 lead with 29 seconds left in the first period.

Messalonskee struck again early in the second, when Dexter roofed a shot past Thibodeau just 1:17 into the period.

Cunningham and Varney scored 48 seconds apart early in the third period to blow the game open.

“We’re playing some really good hockey,” Latendresse said. “I can’t ask for much more to be 6-1 after seven games.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]


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