When Joseph Hague resigned as Skowhegan hockey coach in 2011, citing family commitments, he wondered if he’d ever return to a bench.

He wonders no more.

Messalonskee High School this week named Hague, 36, of Belgrade, its next hockey coach.

“When I left, it was a family decision,” said Hague, 36, of Belgrade. “I had a 2-year-old son and my wife needed me around. But now we’re ready as a family for me to go back and have some fun on the ice. I’m ready. This is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Added Messalonskee athletic director Tom Hill: “He showed a real passion for the game. Even though he’s been out of it, he’s kept up to date. He has the compassion to keep the program at a high level.”

Hague replaces Mike Latendresse, who resigned after 12 seasons at Messalonskee to accept a full-time position with Colby.

Hague is a 1996 Messalonskee graduate. He played on some of the school’s first hockey teams with several standout Eagles, including Nate Ponitz.

His connection to the program made him an appealing candidate, Hill said.

“Obviously, the success of the program is important to him,” Hill said. “We have high expectations of our players both on and off the ice. He has a good understanding of all that. There were some quality applicants but he really stood out.”

Hague, who is a chef at Bear Spring Camps in Rome, went 20-27-1 in his three seasons at Skowhegan.

Now, he steps into a program that’s been dominant in Class B the last three seasons.

The Eagles, behind standout scorers Jared and Chase Cunningham, went 21-0-0 last season and won the program’s first state title.

Messalonskee went 57-7-0 in the last three seasons.

Messalonskee standout defenseman Dylan Burton said it’s been “different” without having Latendresse around, but added he’s looking forward to the season.

“It’s going to be different without his leadership,” Burton said. “Hopefully, we’ll respect (Hague) and go out and play well for him.”

Added Hague: “I know how dominant they’ve been the last three seasons. This would be any coach’s dream to walk into a situation like this. I just want to keep the momentum going. Mike (Latendresse) did a lot for that school and a lot for the program. I’m going to make sure we’re still known out there. I like a good forecheck but I don’t really have a complete style. I like to adapt as the game goes along. I don’t follow a specific style. I’m going to come in and stress fundamentals. I’m ready to go. I am really excited to see what we have coming back and to go out there and continue what this program has done. I hope to go in there and do as good as Mike did.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5618

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Twitter: @billstewartmtm