Saturday, March 8, 2014
HAMPDEN -- It was a game worthy of perhaps the best rivalry in the state.
Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans Skowhegan High School's Rylie Blanchet, 24, celebrates with teammates after scoring against Messalonksee High School's Abigail Roberts, 44, right center and Natalie Hunt, 19, in the second half of the Eastern Class A championship game. Skowhegan defeated Messalonskee 2-1.
Skowhegan and Messalonskee, two teams that both surpassed the state's single-season goal-scoring record, and allowed a total of one goal when not playing each other, went at it Tuesday evening in the Eastern A field hockey final.
Skowhegan led at halftime, and led by two goals with under seven minutes left. Messalonskee nearly pulled off the comeback, but Skowhegan held on for a 2-1 victory at the Weatherbee Complex.
"That was an excellent game," Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. "Both sides, unreal game. I think that was definitely the best both sides have seen this whole year. Skowhegan's amazing. For my team, I think they did extremely well."
No. 1 Skowhegan (17-0) advances to the state final game, which will be played Saturday at the University of Maine. Second-seeded Messalonskee ends up at 14-3, with all three losses to the Indians.
As expected, Kristy Bernatchez for Messalonskee and Michonski for Skowhegan each scored a goal. But instead of senior Makaela Michonski, who has 42 goals this fall, it was her sister Brooke, a freshman, and her goal with 11:21 left in the second half turned out to be the game-winner.
"We always think of Messalonskee as our toughest competitors," Brooke Michonski said. "So we take this game very seriously."
Skowhegan had advantages of 11-1 in shots and 6-0 in penalty corners in the first half. The Indians went up 1-0 on a corner play with 3:53 left in the half, when Rylie Blanchet pushed a pass to Renee Wright for the goal.
"I thought we did really well cutting back, getting in position, definitely stopping Kristy when she came down the middle," Skowhegan goalie Anne-Marie Provencal said. "I thought we did a very good job playing defense. I think that's what won the game is defense."
Skowhegan's lead could have been larger were it not for a fabulous defensive save by Lynnae Luettich. But while the Eagles got a spark and carried the flow so much that Skowhegan called timeout less than seven minutes into the half, that momentum didn't lead to the tying goal.
Instead, the Indians went up 2-0 when Sarah Finnemore, who struggled at times in the first half but played a superb second half, sent a long pass ahead to Brooke Michonski, who dashed to the goal and put one inside the left post.
Messalonskee got back within a goal when Bernatchez scored her 44th goal of the season with 6:08 to play. It was a simple, deadly shot from the top of the circle. Skowhegan has now allowed two goals this season, and both were scored by Bernatchez on the same play.
"It was just a blistering shot from the top," Provencal said.
Skowhegan called another timeout and put on a dribbling clinic to waste the remaining time. Messalonskee did not get another corner or shot.
"We got our momentum a little too late at the end there," McLaughlin said. "If we had gotten that momentum five minutes earlier or 10 minutes earlier, that would have made a huge difference in the end."
Messalonskee lost to Skowhegan in the regional final for the fifth consecutive year. But the Eagles also had the kind of season dozens of other teams would gladly take.
"That was part of our pregame talk," McLaughlin said. "So many teams would give anything to be in the spot we're in. We're extremely lucky. I couldn't be prouder and second place is not that bad. Did we want first? Yes. But we'll take it with pride."
Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243