The Messalonskee High School hockey team is enjoying one of its finest seasons in program history, winning 16 games and earning the No. 2 seed in the Eastern B playoffs.

Tonight, the Eagles will try to make history.

Messalonskee (16-3-0) will play No. 3 Presque Isle (12-7-0) in an Eastern B semifinal at 5 p.m. at Sukee Arena. The Eagles are gunning for their first-ever trip to a regional final.

“We’ll have to be at our best to beat them,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said, who’s team moved to Eastern B from Eastern A this season. “It’s going to come down to a couple of breaks here and there.”

No. 1 Brewer (18-1-0) and No. 5 Old Town (10-8-1) will follow at 8 p.m.

in Eastern A, No. 4 Cony (15-4-0) will meet top-seeded Lewiston (14-4-1) in a regional semifinal game at noon in the Androsccogin Bank Colisee.

The Rams have won 11 of their last 12 games, including an overtime victory over rival Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop in an Eastern A quarterfinal this week.

“We’ve been playing well,” Cony coach Chad Foye said. “I like the way we’ve been going at it.”

No. 2 Bangor (14-5-0) will meet No. 3 St. Dominic (13-6) in the other semifinal, also at the Colisee.

Messalonskee beat Presque Isle 8-3 in the regular season, although that game was over two months ago, on Dec. 16.

“This is going to be a much different team from what we played earlier,” Latendresse said. “We have to forget that game and look at what they’ve done in the second half.”

The Wildcats, who lost in the regional quarterfinals last season, are 7-2-0 in their last nine games. One of their losses was in overtime to Brewer, the two-time defending Eastern B champs.

“It can go either way,” Presque Isle coach Dr. Carl Flynn said. “My kids are confident we can do this if we stick to the plan that we have. But we realize we are the underdogs. We know we have our work cut out for us, but I think we have a legitimate chance to upset them.”

The Eagles and Wildcats feature two of the most explosive lines in the league.

Sam Dexter, Chase Cunningham and James Varney have combined for 165 points for Messalonskee. Dexter leads the team in scoring with 41 goals and 27 assists for 68 points. Cunningham has 62 in 17 games while Varney checks in with 35.

Senior captain Isaac LaJoie leads Presque Isle with 54 points while Brennan Shaw has 51. Linemate Adam Flynn has 30 points in just 12 games.

“The key to them is to neutralize their first line and beat their second line,” Carl Flynn said. “Their speed impressed us the first time we played them, but I don’t think it will this time around. We’ve caught up to them.”

Added Latendresse: “They have some great players and their kids are playoff-tested.”

Presque Isle is playing in its fourth Eastern B semifinal game in seven years. The Wildcats are have won their last three appearances in the semis.

Carl Flynn said he hopes his Wildcats that experience will come into play tonight.

“They may be a Class A school in B, and they may have played with the big guys for a lot of years, but in my recollection I don’t remember them going deep in the playoffs. They will go in as favorites but inexperienced, and we’ll need to take advantage.”

Lewiston will also go in as the favorite and the more experienced team against Cony.

“I know they’ll be good,” Foye said. “I expect we will have to be at the top of our game to compete with them. This is our biggest opponent to date. To get Lewiston in Lewiston is always a tough matchup. They have the tradition. We’ll definitely have our hands full.”

Dallas Clark and Dakota Bowie lead the Rams. Each has scored 25 points this season. Senior goalie Matt Swan will also need another big performance for the Rams to spring an upset. He has an .886 save percentage and a 2.05 goals against average this season.

“We expect them to be a disciplined, gritty team,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. “I expect them to play a mistake-free game. I expect them to give us everything they have. If we try to do too much and get away from our game, they can make our life difficult.”

Senior defenseman Brandon Tiner, who was named a Travis Roy Award semifinalist this week, leads Lewiston. Senior captain forwards Matt Therrien and Desmond Gagne provide some of the scoring punch.

“We’ve played well,” Belleau said. “We skate three to four lines. We’ll be ready.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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