LEWISTON — Messalonskee passed its early-game test with flying colors, and the Eagles soared to their first hockey state title Saturday at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

Jared Cunningham dipped and ducked his way through the defense and past Gorham goaltender Justin Broy with a set of jaw-dropping moves for the go-ahead goal at 5:19 of the second period and brother Chase Cunningham tiptoed across the goal line for his own nifty backhand goal less than four minutes later to help lift Messalonskee to a 6-1 win over the Rams in the Class B state championship game.

“This feels amazing,” Chase Cunningham said. “We’ve worked so hard the past three years and to finally get it feels great.”

The win is the first for the Eagles (21-0) in three consecutive tries in the title game, and caps an unbeaten season, the first in school history.

“The third time around, we felt confident,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “Coming into the playoffs and in the season, obviously because of how successful we were, but just because we were calm, we had been there, and it felt comfortable. The guys were very calm.”

Messlonskee thought it was up and running late in the first, with a goal and some momentum. But the Rams (17-4) bounced back with a goal in the same minute to keep things tight.

Jared Cunningham, the younger of the pair as a 10th-grader, electrified the arena at 5:19 of the second. As he entered the zone, he found the puck at the top of the left circle. He slipped the puck to his backhand, then through the legs of the defender in front of him. He picked the puck back up on the backside of the defender, faked a quickstep to the left and danced back to his forehand as Broy bit on the deke, depositing the puck into the empty cage.

“(The defenseman) came out and played me, and I just went to the right side and buried it,” Jared Cunningham said. “It was a 2-on-2, and I didn’t know for sure if I was going to get through, but it’s a game of risk, and I took a risk and it worked.”

“I think that started the momentum for us, and we built off of that goal,” he added.

While less spectacular, older brother Chase Cunningham’s effort in the 10th minute of the second was equally important, if not more so. Two Gorham defenders fumbled over a puck in their own zone as the Eagles cleared on a delayed offside call. Cunningham wheeled through the center zone, burst past the confused defenders and tiptoed across the goal line, shifting to the backhand to deposit the insurance marker inside the far post.

“I saw them collide, and I saw a loose puck,” Chase Cunningham said. “I took it around front, and the ‘D’ never stepped up, so I just wrapped it around, got it around his pad … I barely got it by him, I don’t know how he didn’t get it.”

“The second and third goals were really nice goals, great-looking goals” Latendresse said.

One goal, Gorham could possibly have overcome. Even two. But the third, according to coach Jon Portwine, was tough to swallow.

“That third goal, that was kind of deflating,” Portwine said. “They didn’t have as much jump in their legs after that. But, right through the second period, I thought we were in it, I thought we played well enough to win. But they just kept coming.”

Dan Condon cemented the Eagles’ victory in the third frame with a pair of goals, the second of which came on a power play with 9:02 to play. Josh Towle added another on the power play at 9:27 of the period to cap the scoring.

The Eagles carried play for the better part of the first period, but the Gorham defense was solid, blocking a handful of shots and using the body to push Messalonskee away from the front of the net.

Messalonskee broke through at 12:01 of the first frame on an innocent-looking wrister off the stick of Dylan Burton. The puck appeared to change direction in front of the cage and it skipped through Broy’s pads and in for a 1-0 lead.

The Rams responded, and quickly.

Tucker Buteau pounded a second-chance rebound past Weeks from the right side of the crease just 36 seconds after Burton’s strike to even the game at 1-1. Jared Wood and Shawn Sullivan drew assists on the tying goal.

“A big part of our game, if your score a goal, the shift after is really important,” Latendresse said. “We gave up on there, and usually it’s the other way. But this team was calm, and not much really bothered them.”



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