Jared Cunningham recognizes that he is entering the third period of his brilliant high school hockey career.

In turn, the Messalonskee senior is trying to finish a path that includes a pair of state championships and a soon-to-be school scoring record to the best of his ability.

“This is definitely like the third period of my chapter in my high school book,” Cunningham said Monday. “I’m just trying to finish it the right way.”

Cunningham scored a goal and assisted on three others in a 5-4 loss to Camden Hills on Saturday night at Sukee Arena to bring his career scoring total to 254, just two short of the program record set two years ago by his older brother, Chase.

Given his career scoring averages, that mark will likely fall when the Eagles (5-2-1 Class B North) travel to take on John Bapst (7-2-1 Class B North) Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Sawyer Arena in Bangor. Cunningham admits that he has had mixed emotions as he prepares for the game.

“It’s definitely ringing through your head as you’re getting ready for the game and while you’re out there,” Cunningham said. “I’m just obviously trying to get there and achieve that goal, but at the same time you still have to perform and play the game.

“…Emotions are definitely going to be running high and the intensity is going to be through the roof, and not only just because of the record but just because it’s another game and it’s another opponent. We’ve got to go out there and play.”

It was a similar approach for Chase Cunningham as he neared — and ultimately broke — the previous scoring record of 192 held at the time by defenseman Nate Ponitz in a 10-0 win over Winslow on Thursday, Jan. 9 2014.

“It didn’t really mean too much,” Chase said. “I was more focused on winning a state championship and when I broke it, yeah, it was special but I just wanted to focus on the team more than anything.

“Hopefully it’s special for him but I don’t want him to focus on it too much.”

It is difficult to imagine the moment not being a special one for Jared Cunningham.

Hardly the biggest player when he steps on the ice, few play with more passion than the younger Cunningham. Even as he discusses his hockey career — one that began as a 3-year-old when he first put skates on with his brother and father, Wayne — and its inevitable end, he cannot keep those same emotions from bubbling over.

“I’ve got too many memories, too many trophies — too many memories to even start describing,” Jared Cunningham said. “It’s been a memorable ride — a roller coaster that’s full of memories.

“I’ll love hockey to the day I die.”

The final games in each of the past two seasons have certainly been the highlights for Cunningham, first capping off a perfect season to win a state title with his brother and then claiming another one last winter after erasing a 2-1 deficit against Gorham heading into the third period to win 7-2.

“There’s no better feeling than knowing you’re on top and you’re just the best team out there,” Jared said. “There’s nothing like it.”

It is also a feeling that has left the Eagles somewhat as of late. After going nearly three years without losing to a Class B opponent, Messalonskee has dropped two straight with a 6-5 loss to Waterville (8-0-1) preceding Saturday’s defeat against Camden Hills.

“It’s a gut check for everybody and (Cunningham) was the first one to say it,” Messalonskee coach Joe Hague said. “It gets them willing to do what has to be done to get out of the slump and back onto the winning streak. We’re still 5-2-1, but we need to right the ship and get back to what we usually do.”

The losses have been eye-openers for Cunningham, who described himself as “furious” after the past two games. At the same token, he has been a part of enough wins in a red, white and blue jersey to know not to let his emotions boil over too much.

As he prepares for Saturday’s likely milestone contest against John Bapst and the remainder of his final season at Messalonskee, he plans to do so utilizing the same advice his father gave him when he first began playing hockey.

“Just go out there and do my thing,” Cunningham said. “That’s what my dad told me to do ever since I was little and I’ve just gone out there and done my thing.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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