WINSLOW — Moments after the Messalonskee hockey team buried Brewer 12-1 in an Eastern B semifinal at Sukee Arena last Saturday, captain Jared Cunningham offered a quick response when asked if anyone could beat the Eagles when they are at their best.

“No,” said a smiling Cunningham, who has 28 goals and 42 assists for 70 points.

Hours later, after his team stuffed Waterville 5-2 in the other semifinal, Winslow coach Andy Dube had this to say about the Eastern B title game Tuesday night at the University of Maine.

“We are faced with a big challenge, but we aren’t backing down from anybody,” he said. “We’re not afraid of anybody.”

The top-seeded Eagles (18-1-0) and No. 3 Black Raiders (14-6-0) will face off at 7 p.m. in the Alfond Arena with the winner advancing to the Class B state title game Saturday at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Dube said. “We’re going up there with a loose attitude. We’re going to have fun with it.”

The Eagles, who have won 75 of their last 83 games, are gunning for their fourth consecutive trip to the Class B state game.

Winslow, meanwhile, is on a quest to win its first Class B state title since 2008.

“It should be a good game,” first-year Messalonskee coach Joe Hague said. “We know what they are all about and they know what we are all about.”

Messalonskee, which has won 16 straight since it dropped a 6-1 decision to Bangor about a week before Christmas, brings a wealth of experience and talent to Alfond Arena. The Eagles average 6.3 goals a game.

Brandon Nale, Cunningham and Jake Dexter comprise as dominant of a top line as there is in Eastern B, if not the state.

Nale (32 goals, 28 assists) and Cunningham share the team lead in points with 70. Dexter, who has a team-high 36 goals, is close behind with 67 points.

Sam Bell and Dylan Burton lead a strong defensive unit in front of Elija Tuell, who’s proved to be more than just a capable goalie this winter.

Burton has nine goals and 33 assists to lead the blueliners in scoring. Tuell has a 1.81 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. He’s also recorded three shutouts.

“They have a lot of skill,” Dube acknowledged “We know that. We’re going to have to be on top of our games.”

The Raiders dropped both regular season games to the Eagles, 6-5 and 5-1. Still, Winslow has won six of its last seven games and feels it can match up with the fast-skating Eagles.

“We have a lot of team speed, too,” Dube said. “And we have Andrew.”

Andrew, of course, is junior goalie Andrew Beals, who was spectacular Saturday against Waterville. Beals is one of the better goalies in Eastern B and the Raiders will need another standout performance Tuesday.

“(Messalonskee) is tough,” Beals said. “I’ll have to be on my game again.”

Jimmy Fowler, Jacob Grenier, Jake Trask and Alex Berard help lead a balanced Winslow offense.

Berard leads the Raiders with 46 points (22 goals, 24 assists). Fowler, who had three goals against the Purple Panthers last Saturday, has 43 points (17-26). Trask has 44 points, including a team-high 23 goals.

“They have some things we need to focus on,” Cunningham said. “They’re a tough team.”

Added Fowler: “We watched Messalonskee play Brewer and we were surprised with how quick they were in the third period. They just bring it in the playoffs. They’ve won states so they understand what it takes. They know how to bring it.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5618

[email protected]

Twitter: @billstewartmtm


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