LEWISTON — The Eagles were out of their comfort zone for more than half of Saturday’s Class B state hockey championship.

Trailing 2-0 late in the second period, the Eagles were, one might say, out of their habitat.

“That’s not usually how it is, but we just kept fighting,” junior defenseman Dylan Burton said.

The last time Messalonskee trailed in a game was Dec. 22, when it fell behind to Waterville in the first period, 2-1.

The Eagles ended up winning that game, 7-2, the same score that earned them their second straight state title at Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

Perhaps that win was in the back of the players’ minds as they watched Gorham take the early lead, battling with anger and dissatisfaction over their start to rule their thoughts.

One thing that never entered their thoughts, however, was doubt.

“The small breakdowns that we had … it was frustrating,” Burton said. “But we just knew that we were a talented team, that we would be able to turn it around.”

“They came out flying. No doubt about it, they came out ready to play,” Messalonskee coach Joe Hague said. “I think our boys were a little nervous coming in. But once we got the pace down to what we were happy with and we started transitioning better, everything started falling into place.”

To keep things from falling apart, Hague called a timeout after Gorham’s Travis Mansir scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway to make it 2-0 Rams.

“Just settle down. We’ve got to get the next goal. That’s the most important thing,” Hague told his team. “We’ll start with one and then we can go from there.”

They kept calm and kept firing away at Gorham goaltender Noah Bird, who had to that point been standing on his head. Jake Dexter provided that next goal at 11:19 of the second period.

The Eagles kept the pressure on through the end of the period, and then the floodgates opened in the third period.

“It was mainly that end of the second period goal that turned our game around, because we had confidence that we could put the puck in the back of the net,” Burton said. “We came out on fire in the third period.”

Dexter lit the fire in the second period, but the Eagles’ power play poured gasoline on it in the third. After starting the game 0-for-2 with the man advantage and giving up a shorthanded goal, they got back-to-back power play goals from Dexter and Brandon Nale to take the lead 5:06 into the third.

Gorham coach John Portwine took a timeout to try to settle his tiring team down, and the Rams did come out with a burst of pressure afterwards. But Messalonskee goalie Elija Tuell made a couple of nice stops in the next four minutes to keep the momentum and the scoreboard in the Eagles’ favor.

“I was just sick of letting goals in, honestly,” Tuell said. “I honestly said to myself, ‘I’m done doing this,’ and stopped letting in goals.”

Messalonskee’s top line of Dexter, Nale and Jared Cunningham willed itself into blowout mode shortly thereafter. Cunningham’s insurance goal kicked off an outburst of four scores in the final 4:35 for the Eagles.

“We knew our offense would put up points,” Dexter said. “Once we get a couple in, it usually comes in storms with us.”

Saturday’s game certainly stormed to the top of the short list of comeback wins by the Eagles this season.

“To come back in a game like this is much better than the regular season, any day of the week,” Hague said.

“Coming off a 21-0 season last year and just coming out here and doing a repeat, it’s an amazing feeling,” Cunningham said.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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