HALLOWELL — The 200th win of Dennis Martin’s coaching career had a little bit of everything.

The game was delayed at the start for ice repairs. There were three 5-minute major penalties. There was a 40-save performance, a hat trick and a 6-foot freshman who had his breakout game in just his second varsity appearance.

When the rink doors were finally latched shut following Messalonskee’s 5-3 Class B North win over Gardiner on Friday night at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault, it was the squad under Martin’s guidance doing all the celebrating — just as it had 199 times before.

Dennis Martin

“He told us before the game, and I think it’s great,” Messalonskee junior captain Bryce Crowell said. “I’m not surprised at all. (The coaches) just work really well together and they know how to control a team.”

Every one of Martin’s 200 coaching wins across 15 seasons has come with his brother Troy Martin serving as his assistant coach.

Crowell, who had two goals and an assist in the victory, is like all the Eagles in that he’s only played for Martin for the last two seasons.


Martin took over for Kevin Castner at Messalonskee prior to the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 campaign, after spending the first 13 seasons as a head coach at Waterville. Martin led Waterville to consecutive Class B state championships in 2016 and 2017.

“You know, when I told the kids I told them that this isn’t about me,” Martin said. “Troy and I, we’ve been doing this 15 years together. It’s about the kids and the players we’ve had. They’re the ones who’ve put in the work.

“Honestly, it’s something I didn’t even realize until recently.”

One of the driving forces for Martin when he paced the Purple Panthers bench was a firecracker top line filled with names like Aldrich, Wentworth, Pellerin and Bolduc. Messalonskee’s top group of Crowell with Owen Kirk and Will Durkee isn’t quite at that level, but the coach sees promise.

“They’re pretty good, though,” Martin said with a smirk. “They’re getting there.”

Against Gardiner, the freshman Kirk had a hat trick and Durkee, a junior, had a pair of assists. In all, they figured for all five Messalonskee goals in the win — three of them on the power play — and nine of the 11 points registered by the Eagles in the win. Defensemen Brandon Bearce and Jacob Thomas accounted for the other two.


“What they do so well with is moving without the puck,” Martin said of the top line. “That’s the whole key, moving without the puck. They do a really good job moving the puck to the open guy. When Owen had the hot hand, they were just going to keep feeding him.

“They work so hard, but that’s our team. The whole thing is outworking the opponent.”

That mantra of hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard has been a Martin staple since his first days as a head coach. It’s less X’s and O’s and set plays off of face-offs and more relying on energy and tenacity in all three zones.

The Eagles (2-0-0) needed that against the Tigers, who rallied from a 5-1 deficit midway through the third period with a pair of shorthanded goals. Anchored by a 47-save effort from netminder Sean Doyle, Gardiner (1-1-0) put a scare into Messalonskee late.

Garrett Doyle was involved in all three Gardiner goals, all of which came in the final frame, including both shorthanded goals.

“They’re still trying to figure out their lines, figure out their chemistry,” Gardiner coach Tyler Wing said. “They play hard when they feel like they’re clicking. I think we got surprised in the beginning and slowly started to lose a little bit of gas. We made a couple of mistakes and (Messalonskee) made us pay for them.”

Messalonskee senior Giovanni Caccamo made 17 saves to hold the Tigers off — including two during a 5-on-3 power play over the final 1:06 of regulation — and hand Martin the milestone victory.

“First game back with ‘The Nest’ (the Messalonskee student section) in two years, we wanted to score,” Crowell said. “We wanted to get this one.”

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