WINSLOW — The Messalonskee hockey team didn’t exactly play its best game in an Eastern B semifinal game Saturday night against Hampden.

Of course, it didn’t exactly hurt the top-seeded Eagles, who advanced to the regional title game for a second consecutive season with a come-from-behind 7-5 victory.

“If we play like we did on Saturday, we are done,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “We have to play better. We know that.”

Messalonskee (17-2-0) and No. 2 John Bapst (14-5-1) will face off at 7 tonight in the Alfond Arena at the University of Maine with a trip to the Class B state championship at stake.

The winner will face either Camden or Greely at noon Saturday in the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.

The Crusaders and Eagles split their two regular-season games, with each team winning on its home ice. Messalonskee squeaked out a 1-0 victory in the regular-season opener before John Bapst took the rematch 5-4 in overtime on Jan. 12.

“Both teams are very different now,” Latendresse cautioned. “I don’t think there is an underdog in this game. These are just two great teams facing each other. We have a lot of respect for each other but once that puck drops, it’s going to be a fight.

“It’s exciting. We want to go back to states.”

The Eagles feature the top scorers in Eastern B — brothers Chase and Jared Cunningham.

Chase Cunningham, a junior, leads the team with 69 points (31 goals and 38 assists). Freshman Jared Cunningham also has 31 goals to go along with 34 assists.

John Bapst coach Gene Fadrigon said the pair presents a tough matchup.

“The Cunninghams are just top-of-the-line players,” he said. “We don’t have players like them. Messalonskee is just so good in so many areas across the board. They also have a lot of tournament experience.”

The Crusaders are playing in their first regional final.

“We’re kind of in uncharted territory here,” Fadrigon added. “They just went to Eastern Maine game last year. That should help them.”

Added Latendresse: “I don’t feel like that is an advantage, but we have been there. We know the rink and what to expect in a game like this.”

John Bapst, like Messalonskee, will skate primarily two lines with a third occasionally mixed in. It also skates four strong defensemen, also like Messalonskee, and features a more-than-capable goalie in Ryan Manning. The Eagles will counter with first-year starter Ben Weeks in net.

Kurt Massey (17 points) powers the John Bapst defense while Dom Dexter and Dylan Burton lead the Eagles behind the blue line.

Senior captain Jacob Fletcher leads the Crusaders in goals (28) and points (39). Ethan Handley and Jonathan Cleff each have 13 points for John Bapst as well.

“We’ll have to shut the Cunninghams down,” Fletcher said, “and I think it’s something we can do. We’ve been underdogs all season. Messalonskee has been favored all year and they look really good. We kind of flew under the radar all season but here we are.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640
[email protected]

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