WATERVILLE — What was possibly the lone high school sporting event held in the state of Maine on a snowy afternoon was a game of hockey fans’ dreams.

Punishing hits; fiery encounters; clutch saves; a flurry of third-period goals. No, there was nothing missing Saturday in a hard-fought showdown that saw the Messalonskee boys book a trip to the Northern Maine title game with a 3-2 win over Presque Isle in the Class B North semifinals at Colby College’s Alfond Athletic Center.

The Eagles got the last of a four-goal third period on a goal by Will Durkee with 3:46 left to play to advance to the regional final against Hampden Academy back at Colby on Wednesday. It’s the team’s first appearance in a regional final since winning the Class A North crown in 2015.

“That was a hell of a hockey game,” said Messalonskee head coach Dennis Martin. “Give Presque Isle credit because they came here and fought; they didn’t panic when they went down, and their goaltender made some great saves. We just stuck to our game plan, and we were able to pull it out in the end.”

Although second-ranked Messalonskee (17-2-1) outshot Presque Isle 15-5 in the opening period, the Wildcats held their own and were able to match the Eagles in scoring chances. Presque Isle even came close to taking the lead early in the second as Messalonskee goaltender Hunter Hallee was forced into a tough save to keep the game scoreless.

At 4:25 in the second, though, Messalonskee found the breakthrough courtesy of Bryce Crowell. Crowell, who recently became a career 100-point scorer for the Eagles, found open space in front of the net and fired a shot past Connor Bell to put Messalonskee up 1-0 on third-ranked Presque Isle (13-7).


“We knew (the key to our game plan) was to get on them early,” Crowell said. “They had a long trip down, and we had to take advantage. We didn’t get anything in the first period, but we had a lot of shots, and we got on them in the second period with that goal.”

Much of that second period, though, devolved into an all-out penalty-fest. Seven players were sent to the box between the 5:51 and 13:21 marks in the period, including a skirmish in front of the Messalonskee bench that saw a few punches thrown (though no ejections occurred).

“That kind of put a fire in us,” Durkee said. “I got angry because of that. We knew we had to respond to that and fight back.”

Messalonskee’s Owen Kirk (5) and Presque Isle’s Breygan Mahan (14) fight in front of the Eagles’ bench in the third period during a Class B North boys hockey semifinal game Saturday at Colby College. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Messalonskee did so early in the third period as Tatum Doucette maneuvered brilliantly past Bell and slid the puck into the net to make it 2-0. Yet Presque Isle would respond with two goals from Isaac Staples, who cut the deficit to one at the 2:30 mark and tied at 7:52.

At 9:15, though, Messalonskee went on the power play as Presque Isle’s Blake Davenport was sent to the box for roughing. With one second left on the power play, Durkee fired an inch-perfect shot from past the blue line to put the Eagles back on top for good.

The win was the third this season over Presque Isle for Messalonskee, which had previously defeated the Wildcats on Dec. 28 and Feb. 22. It was a victory that came in much more of a nail-biter than the teams’ encounter last Wednesday, an 8-2 Eagles victory on the same ice.


“You know that, in the playoffs, the other team is going to step it up and come to play,” Martin said. “They made adjustments, and they worked hard. To take that long road trip down here and fight us as hard as they did, like I said, you’ve got to give a lot of credit to them.”

The game was one of the few entries on an extremely light Saturday sports schedule amidst a storm that blanked central and southern Maine with heavy snow. Yet that didn’t prevent a solid turnout for the contest, including a Presque Isle band that made the 350-mile round trip and a packed Messalonskee student section.

“Our nest is crazy; every game we see them pack the stands, it’s something that just motivates us that much more,” Crowell said. “They really brought it today. It was great to see so many people come out.”

Standing between Messalonskee and a trip to its first state title game in eight years is fourth-ranked Hampden (12-7-1), which upset top-ranked John Bapst in the weekend’s other semifinal game. The Eagles beat the Broncos 7-4 and 6-0 in the regular season.

The Eagles are still in search of their first state championship after falling in that 2015 game and the state championship game one year prior. It’s been a dream of a Messalonskee team that entered the season loaded with offensive weapons, and the Eagles are now inching ever-closer to that goal.

“We’ve got six more periods to go,” Durkee said. “We know we have to come out ready.”

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