WINSLOW – The Messalonskee hockey team made it back in the Eastern B championship game — barely.

The top-seeded Eagles survived a scare from the resilient Hampden Academy Broncos in a regional semifinal game Saturday afternoon, erasing a one-goal second-period deficit with a flurry of goals before hanging on for a 7-5 victory at Sukee Arena.

“We were out of sync,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse. “The game almost got too big for us. But we still stepped up to win the game. It wasn’t easy, though.”

It certainly wasn’t.

Messalonskee (17-2-0) led 6-3 but then watched No. 4 Hampden (12-8-0) rally with two goals in 46 seconds to pull within 6-5 with a minute to play in the third period.

Kalib Bernatchez iced it for the Eagles, however, when he buried an empty-net goal with 28 seconds left in regulation.

“I was concerned, sure,” Latendresse said. “At 6-5, who knows, anything can happen. But that last empty-net goal got it done for us.”

Messalonskee will play No. 2 John Bapst in the regional title game at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Maine.

Chase Cunningham and Jake Dexter each scored two goals for the Eagles, who outshot the Broncos 34-23.

Nate Nadeau and Jared Cunningham also scored for Messalonskee.

“(Hampden came out hard in the first and I don’t know if we expected that,” said Chase Cunningham, who leads the team with 31 goals and 38 assists for 69 points. “We finally got into a rhythm as the game went on.”

Messalonskee trailed 2-1 when Michael Ward scored 2 minutes, 25 seconds into the second period. The goal stunned the Eagles, who suddenly were back on their heels.

“We look worried,” Latendresse acknowledged. “We look concerned.”

But Dexter and Chase Cunningham scored 25 seconds apart near the midway part of the period to give the Eagles a 3-2 lead that it would never relinquish.

Dexter tied it with 6:30 left in the second when he took a pass from Jared Cunningham and beat Hampden goalie Ryan Manning with a low shot to the far post.

“Chase came from behind the net and deflected the puck to me,” Dexter said, “and I buried it to the bottom right.”

Cunningham made it 3-2 when he converted his own rebound seconds later.

“We kept coming back,” he said. “Getting the lead was big.”

Dexter extended the lead when he scored just 4:38 into the third and the Eagles seemed well on their way to a victory, up 5-3. But the Broncos had other ideas.

Luther Vom Eigen scored both his goals in the third period, the first on the power play to make it 4-3 with 8:13 remaining.

“We never quit,” Hampden coach Bill Schwarz said. “We kept coming at them.”

Jared and Chase Cunningham scored about two minutes apart later in the period to again give Messalonskee a 6-3 lead.

But again Hampden rallied, scoring two goals in 46 seconds to pull within 6-5 with a minute left.

“We just had to keep our heads up,” Dexter said. “They made a comeback but we didn’t panic. We kept our composure.”

Added Chase Cunningham: “It was pretty crazy, but we got the victory.”

Hampden outplayed Messalonskee for much of the first period and into the second.

After Nadeau give Messalonskee the 1-0 lead, the Broncos pulled even when Dylan Cray beat Ben Weeks with a low shot to the far post from the slot with 20 seconds left in the first period.

“We early aggressive in the early going,” Schwarz said. “We knew Messalonskee could put the puck in the net. We came all the way back but we just couldn’t get that last one.”

In the second semifinal, Jacob Fletcher scored two goals and added an assist as John Bapst beat Presque Isle 5-1. Nathaniel Reese and Hunter Pate also scored for John Bapst. Tyler Seeley scored for No. 6 Presque Isle, which finished 9-10-1.

Bill Stewart – 621-5640
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