WATERVILLE — Two of the most prolific scorers in Messalonskee history may have graduated last spring, but Dylan Brown made sure no one was going to forget about him in the Eagles season opener.

Brown kicked off his senior season with a hat trick on Wednesday night to help Messalonskee sink Winslow 5-3 in a Class B North hockey game at Alfond Rink. Jacob Bernatchez and Dylan Cunningham also scored for the Eagles, who received a 23-save performance from sophomore netminder Amber Kochaver.

Junior Nick West scored a pair of goals for Winslow in the loss.

“It was awesome,” Brown said of his first career three-goal game. “I’ve got to be a goal scorer, just like everyone else. … We worked hard, stayed with the game plan and scored some goals. It was good.”

Jared Cunningham and Brandon Nale may be gone from a once-potent offensive attack for the Eagles, but Brown backed up his 27-point junior season on the first night of the new year. Messalonskee coach Kevin Castner had a feeling that Brown could emerge from the large shadow cast by Cunningham’s 260-point career this winter.

“You can’t replace a Jared or a Brandon, but Dylan’s a great hockey player,” Castner said. “These kids have been working really hard in practice, and I was really impressed with how well they played in all three zones tonight.”

“They put up about 160 points together (last season). They were unreal,” Brown said of his former teammates. “It’s a lot to fill, but I’ve just got to keep working hard and do my best.”

Tied at 3-3 through two periods, Brown netted his third of the night just 1:22 into the final frame, finishing off a nice centering feed from the freshman Cunningham in the low slot. The Eagles added insurance when Cunningham himself polished off a 2-on-1 just over five minutes later to make it a 5-3 game.

Winslow goalie Ben Grenier (28 saves) tried his best to keep the Black Raiders in the contest, but tired legs and a shallow bench finally caught up to Winslow.

“We played eight guys most of the game,” Winslow coach Dave Leach said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us. We weren’t ready to play, and that’s about it.”

The opening six-plus minutes of the contest belonged to Winslow, which racked up a 6-1 advantage in shots on goal in the early going, but the better scoring chances went to Messalonskee — first on Connor Smith’s partial breakaway while shorthanded and then on Ben Hellen’s one-time from the low slot area. Grenier held his ground on both.

A flurry of activity marked the middle of the stanza, with the teams combining for three goals in a 1:27 span.

The Eagles opened the scoring on Brown’s unassisted goal at the 7:11 mark, but the Black Raiders evened it up 65 seconds later on Tyler Martin’s breakaway. Just 22 seconds after tying the game, West put Winslow on top off a play that developed out of the right wing corner.

“It gave us life. It definitely pumped some blood in,” Leach said. “But to sustain anything, we’re still looking. It’s the first game, so it’s something to build on.”

Messalonskee started to find its skating legs, which produced better breakouts leading to extended attacking zone time. Jacob Bernatchez took advantage, shoveling home his own rebound to tie the game at 2-2 with just 44.1 seconds remaining in the period.

Grenier turned away Bernatchez’s initial bid on a fine sliding post-to-post save at the left post, but the puck was loose under his pad and Bernatchez pounced on it.

That momentum carried over into the second period, as Brown struck again at 4:01 on a breakaway. Kochaver stopped a Winslow rush at the opposite end of the ice with her right pad, and Tyler Lewis flipped the rebound out to center ice for the streaking Brown.

A rash of penalties handed Winslow a two-man advantage in the final minute of the frame, and West scored his second on a power play wrister from the point with 28 seconds remaining to send the teams into the final period knotted at 3-3.

“The kids worked hard,” Castner said. “They earned this win.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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