WATERVILLE — Messalonskee’s first corner of the afternoon rolled to Autumn Littlefield, the senior forward drilled a shot that smacked against the back of the cage, and the Eagles were in the lead in their first showdown of the season with their nemesis from Skowhegan.

They were there for 17 seconds.

Then Skowhegan began to look like a team that’s made every state championship game since each player on its roster was born.

Alexis Michonski scored a pair of goals less than two minutes apart on her way to a hat trick, putting the Indians in the lead for good in what became a 4-1 Skowhegan win at Thomas College.

The season may be young, but both teams felt the stakes were high. They always are when the two teams that have made up the last three and seven of the last eight Class A North finals meet.

“Whenever you play a team like Messalonskee, you only get better,” coach Paula Doughty said. “They’ve been our rival, really, for the last 10 or 15 years.”

Messalonskee (4-1), which topped Skowhegan (4-0) in overtime at Thomas last season, struck first when the Boston College-bound Littlefield rattled home a shot off a feed from Kaitlyn Smith with 23:35 left in the half, but the Indians had an answer from the moment play resumed. Hannah McKenney got the ball down deep into the Messalonskee end and smacked a shot that deflected off of Eagles back Megan Smith’s stick and right to Michonski, who quickly shot in the loose ball for the tying score with 23:18 left.

“I think the thing I was most proud of was when we got scored on, we came right back,” Doughty said. “We came right back, boom boom. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

The action wasn’t over. Skowhegan went on the attack again, and again tried a shot that again hit off of Smith’s stick, and again skidded over to Michonski, who potted her second goal with 21:49 to go.

“They scored the first one, so we always come back as hard as we can,” said Michonski, a junior. “We talk a lot, so we know where each other are. … It felt like a turning moment in the game, definitely. It gave us some confidence coming back from that.”

Down the sideline, Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin could feel some energy drain from her team after the 1-2 punch.

“I think it kind of does, absolutely, especially the two,” she said. “The one, okay. But that second one definitely takes a little steam out and you know you have to dig yourself out of the trench at that point. It’s always tough, if you get down against them they really work hard to bury you.”

The Eagles were reminded of that in the second half. On Skowhegan’s sixth corner of the game with 14:24 to play, Brooklyn Hubbard inserted the ball to Liz York, and the senior captain rapped a shot home that made it 3-1.

“I thought Lizzie York had the game of her life today,” Doughty said.

McLaughlin called timeout but Messalonskee couldn’t halt the Skowhegan attack. Michonski netted her third goal when she got the ball on the right side, saw goalie Rylie Genest coming out to challenge and flicked a shot around her back and in for a 4-1 lead with 12:45 to play.

“I didn’t want to shoot at the goalie, so I tried to spin and pass it off,” Michonski said. “But it went in. Got lucky on that one.”

While Skowhegan was able to consistently set up an attack in the Messalonskee end, the Eagles had trouble doing the same on the other end of the field. The Indians’ defense, coached up by Tammie Veinotte and Kim Leo and led on the field by York and Alyssa Salley, was able to stifle each Messalonskee attack, particularly after Skowhegan took the lead.

“It’s a new group, they’re learning and I think they did a good job today,” Doughty said.

Doughty praised the play of goalie Mackenzie McConnell, who was aggressive in charging up and breaking up offensive chances.

“That first shot was a bullet, and that could throw some goalies,” Doughty said. “It didn’t throw her at all. She was right out there all day long.”

The bullet had Messalonskee thinking it could be their afternoon. For a little while.

“I feel like Skowhegan does a really good job just coming back after a goal’s scored on them,” Littlefield said. “It definitely caught us back on our heels.”

There will be another meeting between the rivals. There are often three, with a third coming in the postseason. McLaughlin sounded confident that that can still be the story this time.

“That’s completely what this game is. Where do we measure up, what do we need to work on, what adjustments do we need to make?” she said. “This is a huge learning opportunity type of game. These are the fun ones to play.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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