OAKLAND — It’s a trend across Maine high school hockey — but one that hasn’t impacted one central Maine team.

Take one look at the boys hockey teams across the state, and one thing immediately stands out: their names. As teams consolidate, the program names are taking much longer to read.

Not so for the Messalonskee boys hockey team. As the years have gone by, there’s been no need for the Eagles to do the consolidation that’s been taking place elsewhere in the state; they’re going strong by themselves, and they like their chances to keep that up for the foreseeable future.

“We’re kind of just a hockey school; we always have been, pretty much,” said Messalonskee senior forward Garrett Card. “It’s no coincidence at all, in my opinion. We’re a good-sized school, and we have a lot of kids who love to play hockey, and it’s all worked out for us.”

The status has become the exception rather than the norm. Of the 47 boys and girls high school hockey teams in Maine, only 17 operate as a single school. Some of the co-ops are quite large, such as the nine-school girls arrangement of Winslow, Gardiner, Cony, Lawrence, Messalonskee, Maranacook, Waterville, Erskine Academy and Mt. Blue.

With Winslow, Gardiner and Waterville having formed a boys co-op last year, Messalonskee is now central Maine’s only standalone program. In central Maine, Cony, Monmouth, Erskine and Hall-Dale compete as a co-op. Brewer, Lawrence, Skowhegan and Winthrop skate with Brewer. On the girls side, Monmouth and Winthrop are a co-op with St. Dominic.


“We just have a good group of hockey players who happen to be from this Oakland area,” said Messalonskee head coach Dennis Martin. “I can’t say why that is (relative to other programs), but we do have that. It’s not happening everywhere, so it’s a really great thing to see.”

The Eagles have 23 student-athletes on the roster, all of whom attend Messalonskee High School. Sixteen of those players are freshmen or sophomores, meaning the Eagles should be able to maintain their healthy numbers even once the current class of six seniors leave in June.

Messalonskee’s Garrett Card pushes the puck ahead of Winslow/Gardiner/Waterville players during a game Monday at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The pipeline looks good for Messalonskee, too. The program isn’t lacking for players at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels, and between those soon-to-be Eagles, and the current six freshmen and 10 sophomores, their head coach expects the team to maintain its healthy roster size.

“We’re looking at about four or five eighth-graders and probably about four or five seventh-graders,” Martin said. “We also have that big sophomore class and that class of six freshmen, and we only have one junior, so I don’t think we should drop below 20 as far as I know in terms of players.”

Below the middle school-level?

Well, Messalonskee doesn’t have a youth hockey program, but that hasn’t stopped the Oakland area from producing strong players. Between playing together or playing against one another in youth’s hockey ranks, many of the current Eagles have been skating together for some time.


Messalonskee’s Tyler Hansen celebrates after scoring a goal against Winslow/Gardiner/Waterville goalie Aiden Paradis at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell on Monday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“Some of us played club, and some of us didn’t, but those of us that did play club, we either played with each other or against each other,” said junior Owen Kirk. “We’ve just always been around each other, and now, we all go to school together and see each other every day in our classes. It’s iron sharpens iron.”

Messalonskee is succeeding just fine on its own. The Eagles are the reigning Class B North champions after an 18-3-1 season a year ago and are off to a strong start to 2023-24 at 2-0. Messalonskee has scored 22 goals over its first two games, including 14 goals in a lopsided win Monday against Winslow-Gardiner-Waterville.

Given the Eagles’ success over the past few years, their players are hoping to inspire an even younger generation. The current players were coming of age when the program won back-to-back state titles in 2014 and 2015, which were also the last Messalonskee teams to reach states prior to last year.

“For us, it’s all about encouraging those younger players,” Card said. “As a young kid going to the games, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to be out there and for that to be me on the ice.’ Hopefully, we can be that team that these young kids look up to and motivate them.”

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