ORONO — Jake Dexter and Jared Cunningham were right at home at Alfond Arena Tuesday night.

The duo, making their third and fourth career Eastern Class B championship game appearances, respectively, combined for 10 points as the Messalonskee High School hockey team rolled Winslow 8-3 to clinch its fourth straight state finals appearance.

Cunningham, a junior, finished with one goal and five assists for the Eagles, while Dexter, a senior, notched a pair of first period goals to go along with two assists. Fellow first line forward Brandon Nale had a trio of scores and goaltender Elija Tuell made 19 saves.

“We had about a 3 minute collapse and they got a few points in, but overall I felt like we had good control of the game,” Messalonskee coach Joe Hague said. “We stuck to our game plan, the boys struck first, that’s always the goal and I couldn’t be any prouder right now.”

Messalonskee will play either No. 1 Kennebunk (15-2-2) or No. 6 Gorham (13-5-2) in the Class B state final Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Those two teams play for the Western B title Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Colisee.

“We all like to play here. It’s just a privilege to play in this complex and we all love it. I think it brings out the best in us playing in this game,” Dexter said. “We know it doesn’t matter unless you go and get the big prize at the end. That’s all we want. This game is good to win but in hindsight we want something greater than this.”

It took just 2 minutes, 22 seconds for Dexter to give Messalonskee the lead after finishing off a nice assist from behind the net from Cunningham, but from there Winslow held its own thanks in large part to strong play from goaltender Andrew Beals. The junior goalie faced steady pressure throughout the contest and finished with 33 saves.

“He was hot tonight and it was unfortunate we couldn’t score early,” Winslow coach Andy Dube said. “He kept us in the game early. Keeping them down to two in the first period I thought was a key. We had a couple of opportunities in the first we couldn’t bury.”

Dexter did not get his second goal until there was 3:48 to go in the opening period, but 46 seconds into the third he and Cunningham combined to set up Nale for a goal to push the lead to 3-0.

From there it looked as if it would be an easy night for Messalonskee. Will Weeks and Nale each added goals before the end of the second, and within the first 1:04 of the third goals by Dylan Burton and Cunningham gave the Eagles a commanding 7-0 lead.

Throughout the Eastern B playoffs the Black Raiders have shown plenty of fight though, and they did their best to try to make things interesting in the third. Jimmy Fowler’s goal with 10:01 to play started a string of three straight scores in less than two minutes that cut Messalonskee’s lead to 7-3.

“The team didn’t quit. It’s tough to come out in the third period against a top team like that knowing what’s on the line, knowing how hard it is to battle back,” Dube said. “This team showed a lot of heart, a lot of courage and a lot of effort to play hard the way they did.”

That would be as close as Winslow would get though. Nale added his third goal with 46 seconds to play to round out the game’s scoring.

“We got a little too confident in ourselves and we just kind of sat back a little bit,” Cunningham said. “We can’t do that, even against any team. They’re going to capitalize on your mistakes so you just have to go out there, you have to work hard and you have to stay within yourself.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley


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