WATERVILLE — Until the bitter end, the Messalonskee boys hockey team fought and fought some more.

The No. 6 Eagles fell 6-5 to No. 2 Old Town/Orono in a Class B North semifinal Friday night at Alfond Rink, ending an incredible turnaround season.

Messalonskee – which went 1-17-0 last season – finished 11-7-2 and a nearly pulled off the upset.

“It’s obviously not the ending that we would have preferred,” Messalonskee coach Kevin Castner said. “But my kids have nothing to hang their heads about. They played hard as a team. They stuck together, they didn’t get hard on each other.

“They could’ve folded it in, but they didn’t. They stuck with it and I’m proud of them as a team, they need to be proud of themselves, too.”

The Black Bears (14-5-1) will meet No. 4 Presque Isle in the regional final. The Wildcats upset No. 1 Hampden Academy 4-1 earlier in the evening.

“Hats off to Messalonskee, they’re a darn good team,” Old Town/Orono coach Chris Thurlow said “I didn’t sleep well for a couple nights knowing about (Dylan) Cunningham and (Myles) Hammond. They’re the real deal. They gave everything they had.”

Down 5-3 in the third period, the Eagles came within a goal of the Black Bears not once, but twice. Dylan Cunningham scored with 3:35 remaining in the game to make it a 5-4 game. A minute later, Tyler McCannel scored for Old Town/Orono to push the lead to 6-4.

But Messalonskee refused to quit, as Cunningham netted another goal, bringing the score to 6-5 with 1:31 remaining.

A penalty within the final minute forced the Eagles to play a man down, and they ran out of time before finding another scoring opportunity.

“In any sport, momentum shifts back-and-forth,” Castner said. “But I’ll tell you this much, name me any team that would not stand up and play the rest of the game like my kids did. Did (momentum) shift back-and-forth? Sure, absolutely. We go down (and score), they answered back. We’d come back.

Old Town/Orono players celebrate a goal during a Class B North semifinal game Friday at Colby College in Waterville. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Pheln Buy this Photo

“But we never quit, and that’s what I’m going to hold to right there.”

Hammond scored a hat trick, burying a goal in each period.

Tanner Evans had two goals for the Black Bears. Zach Needham, Jackson Campbell and Sam Henderson also scored for Old Town/Orono.

“We hung on by the skin of our teeth,” Thurlow said. “But I’m happy for our kids, they pulled through.”

The Black Bears outshot the Eagles by a 42-17 margin. Messalonskee goalie Mitchell Grant had 36 saves.

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