WATERVILLE — Like their on-ice chemistry to begin the new season, it took a while for things to come together for the Kennebec RiverHawks Wednesday night. But when it finally clicked, it was nearly impossible to stop.

The first-year Waterville/Winslow co-op squad scored three goals in the final 2:09 of the second period, delivering the knockout blow off the stick of senior Tyler Martin with just eight seconds remaining in the frame, en route to a 7-2 Class B North boys hockey win over winless Messalonskee at Colby College’s Alfond Rink.

Seniors Cody Pellerin and Chase Wheeler each had a goal and an assist in the win, while Wheeler’s defensive partner Nick West collected two assists. Sophomore defenseman Sean Rodrigue scored both Messalonskee goals, including one on the power play late in the third period with the game already decided.

Kennebec entered the night off consecutive lopsided losses, and the seven-goal outburst — courtesy of seven different goal scorers — was just what the RiverHawks (2-2-0) needed.

“We needed some confidence,” Pellerin said. “We’ve been slacking the last two games against beatable teams, and we really needed this.”

“We’re still finding that identity,” Kennebec coach Jon Hart said. “We’re getting a lot of shots. You saw in the second (period) that the momentum started to come our way more. We started cashing in.”

Messalonskee deserved a ton of credit for being in the game midway through the contest. The Eagles (0-3-0) mustered only six shots on goal through two periods but found themselves within a pair of top-notch RiverHawk goalie Bryce Gunzinger saves of tying the score.

The contest opened up into an end-to-end affair five minutes into the second period. First, Ben Hellen set up Jacob Bernatchez in the slot on a two-on-one rush, and Gunzinger (13 saves) got just enough of his pad on the puck to turn it aside and preserve the 2-1 lead Kennebec held after the opening 15 minutes. Less than 30 seconds later, Messalonskee freshman Myles Hammond’s bid from the left circle was similarly thwarted by an otherwise lightly-tested Gunzinger.

For a RiverHawks team that outshot Messalonskee by a 3-to-1 margin (46-15) for the night, it was a little too close for comfort. And, for one coming off recent losses, it could have served as a critical point early in the season.

“Anytime you’re in that situation, and you feel like you’ve outplayed a team but they’re in it, there’s that doubt that can creep in,” Hart said. “I thought our guys responded really well and puck possession was really in our favor. That makes it a lot easier.”

“People are maturing, and some younger kids are starting to step up,” Wheeler said. “Some kids are still kind of nervous, but everybody’s getting used to playing big games. The upperclassmen from Waterville have played big games over time, but everyone is still getting used to it (as a team).”

Gunzinger’s opposite number, Eagles netminder Eli Michaud, was equal to the task. Michaud’s rebound control, in particular, was spot-on throughout the night — and the junior stopped 32 of the first 33 shots he faced before the RiverHawks broke through late in the second period.

Michaud’s quick glove on a Pellerin wrister from from the left circle kept the Eagles in the game for as long as it could. He finished with 39 saves.

But the proverbial floodgates finally opened at 12:51 of the middle stanza, when Wheeler got beneath the Messalonskee goal line and punched the puck through Michaud to Logan Denis for an easy tap-in into the vacated net.

Twelve seconds later, off the ensuing faceoff at center ice, Kennebec junior John Evans popped one in for a 4-1 lead.

“We talk a lot about those pressure points — right after a goal, beginning of the period, the end of the period,” Hart said. “Those are the times when strong teams make those plays.”

With the RiverHawks soaring from the momentum burst — and the Eagles clearly gut-punched — Martin made sure there would be no third-period comeback at the 14:52 mark.

“We wore them out,” Pellerin said. “That was it.”

“It’s human nature to dip down a little bit, but it’s how fast you bounce back,” Messalonskee coach Kevin Castner said. “We had that two-minute spurt where they just hammered us. We have things to work on, and we’re going to just keep plugging away at it and working hard.”

Kennebec added a 4-on-4 goal from Kyle Gurney early in the third period, and Tyler Dunn capped the scoring with less than six minutes remaining.

“Our young guys produced, and we needed it. That was good,” Pellerin said. “They need to step up in games like this.”

Things got off to a cumbersome start for both teams, with the first period serving as a game within itself.

When Pellerin and Chase Wheeler scored within the first five minutes of the first period to open a quick 2-0 led for Kennebec, it appeared the RiverHawks would be off and running toward an easy win. But Messalonskee answered before the 10-minute mark, turning a Kennebec icing into an offensive zone draw that ended with Rodrigue’s first of the night.

It stayed a 2-1 lead for Kennebec until late in the second period, when Denis finally solved Michaud for a third time.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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