ORONO – Messalonskee junior Chase Cunningham threw his gloves and stick into the air and rushed to his goalie, Ben Weeks. A host of Eagles followed while coach Mike Latendresse pumped his fist on a jubilant bench.

The Eagles were Eastern B champs again.

Chase Cunningham scored a hat trick, including two goals in the third period, and top-seeded Messalonskee rolled into the Class B state title game with a 7-2 victory Tuesday night over No. 2 John Bapst at Alfond Arena.

“It feels great,” Cunningham said, “but the next one is the one we want.”

Latendresse: “We played really solid. That was a really good game for us. We stayed with the game plan. We finished everything.”

Jared Cunningham, J.T. Towle, Dylan Burton and Corey Foye also scored for Messalonskee, which scored four unanswered goals in the third period to break open a 3-1 game.

The Eagles (18-2-0) will play Greely or Camden Hills, who meet in the Western B final at 7 tonight, in the Class B state title game at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. John Bapst ends the season 14-6-1.

“It was fun to be here,” John Bapst coach Gene Fadrigon said.

Chase Cunningham scored two jaw-dropping goals 24 seconds apart early in the third period after John Bapst scored to cut the deficit to 3-1. Cunningham put the Eagles up 4-1 when he converted a mini-breakaway just 4 minutes, 19 seconds into the period.

“That was a big goal,” he said. “I just came down and beat (Bapst goalie Jaron Leonard) high.”

Added Fadrigon, whose team was out-shot 27-15: “The fourth goal, that was it.”

Chase Cunningham buried an insurance goal just seconds later when he beat defenseman Josiah Simko in the right circle and roofed the puck over Leonard’s left shoulder.

“We’ve been focusing on burying every opportunity we get,” Latendresse said.

The Eagles led 2-0 after the first period on goals from the Cunningham brothers, then scored with 24.4 seconds left in the second to extend the lead. Chase Cunningham cut through the slot into the right circle and fed the puck to Foye, who had circled to the front of the net. Foye took the pass and ripped the puck on a hard wrist shot through traffic and past Leonard.

“That third goal, that was the back-breaker in my opinion,” Fadrigon said. “They scored rush goals. I don’t think we played our best game of the season.”

The goal came after Ben Weeks made a handful of key saves to keep the Crusaders scoreless.

The junior goalie robbed Jacob Fletcher twice in a 40-second span late in the period. He needed every inch of his pad on the second one, which came with 3:06 left in the second, as Fletcher tried to bang a rebound home to the near post.

“I just tried to get my pads out,” Weeks said. “They kept trying to go five-hole so I had to make sure I blocked it.”

Messalonskee went up 1-0 on a beautiful short-handed goal from Chase Cunningham just 3:43 into the first period.

Cunningham won a loose puck in the neutral zone and came charging into the offensive zone down the right side. After bouncing off a check from Raymond Hummels, Cunningham broke in alone on net, faked the forehand shot before tucking a backhand past sprawled-out Leonard.

The Cunningham brothers, along with Towle, connected about five minutes later to make it 2-0 on another nifty goal. Towle got knocked down at the right of Leonard, but managed to keep possession of the puck. From his knees, Towle fed the puck out front to Chase Cunningham, who then slipped it to his younger brother at the far post. Jared Cunningham had an open corner to shoot at, and he didn’t miss.

“We stepped it up,” Latendresse said. “We played a really good game.”

Bill Stewart – 621-5640

[email protected]

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