KENTS HILL — Familiarity may not have bred contempt, as the saying goes, but it certainly left the Messalonskee boys hockey team with an idea of where it needs to find improvement over the second half of the Class B North season.

Senior forward Joey McLain netted a hat trick, while Marc Thibodeau added a goal and two assists to lead Hampden Academy to a 4-2 win over Messalonskee on Wednesday at the Bonnefond Ice Arena. It was the Broncos’ second win in four days over the Eagles (4-5-0), who fell on the road by an identical 4-2 score Saturday at the Penobscot Ice Arena in Brewer.

“We knew what to expect from them, so most of my goals kind of went the way I’d planned out after the previous game,” McLain said. “It was a battle out there.”

Messalonskee head coach Kevin Castner, who opted to start sophomore goalie Eli Michaud (29 saves) over Amber Kochaver in the return match, said there were few surprises Wednesday.

“I think we’re pretty evenly matched,” Castner said. “It’s just basically who’s going to capitalize on their opportunities more. They seemed to do that.”

Hampden coach Eric MacDonald agreed, noting the rarity of a home-and-home series in high school hockey scheduling.

“This is my second year, and I haven’t seen anything close to it. Usually, you play a team once and then don’t see them until the second half of the year,” MacDonald said. “Back-to-back is really tough. I thought our guys came out ready to play right from the get-go. Our whole game plan was to work hard on every shift.”

Messalonskee did the two things it wanted to do after dropping Saturday’s game — namely, button up the defensive zone coverage and stay out of the penalty box. On both fronts, the Eagles succeeded, but the game was lost in Hampden’s speedy transition though the neutral zone.

After Tyler Lewis put Messalonskee on top 1-0 at the 4:37 mark of the first period (on the Eagles’ first shot of the night), the Broncos (9-3-0) used their quickness through the middle of the ice to produce a pair of McLain goals just 56 seconds apart.

Trailing the play on an odd-man rush, McLain teed up a slapper from the right point that was redirected by a body in front of goal to tie the score at the 6:16 mark. Again it was McLain, at 7:12, who found himself alone at the right post when Cooper Leland’s shot was partially blocked and popped straight over everything, rattling off the end glass and settling in front of McLain for a 2-1 lead.

“We made a couple of bad choices in the neutral zone and coughed up the puck right outside (the offensive) blue line, and that’s really not the place you want to cough up the puck,” Castner said. “It puts a lot of pressure on us to transition quickly back into our zone.”

“Transition is huge for us,” MacDonald said. “We’ve been working on it all year, trying to be better in our own zone and be better with our breakout. It just goes back to working hard every shift, being first to the puck and making good passes.”

After being outshot by a 16-4 count in the opening period, Messalonskee was much better in the second, producing Dylan Brown’s equalizer at the 10:44 mark on a play similar to McLain’s second tally. Jack Moore’s rebound chance was blocked up into the air, bouncing high over Bronco goalie Cole Benner (21 saves) and settling on the goal line behind him. The puck’s momentum carried it over the line to tie the game.

Hampden made sure Messalonskee couldn’t carry momentum into the break, however, with McLain capping off his hat trick at 13:37.

“It starts in practice,” McLain said. “You just have to make sure you carry it over to the game. It’s about moving your legs all the time, otherwise you can’t do anything.”

The Broncos added an insurance marker from Thibodeau early in the third to account for the final score.

“It’s a tough loss. We worked pretty hard,” Castner said. “We just need to work a little harder.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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