HALLOWELL — A raucous holiday crowd packed the Bank of Maine Ice Vault on Saturday night to watch Cony and Gardiner renew a hockey rivalry that dates back nearly 40 years and seldom disappoints.
This one had a little of everything, including a two-goal comeback by the visiting Tigers in the third period, and a dramatic game-winning goal by Cony’s Austin Davis with 1 minute, 29 seconds left to play. The final: Cony 3, Gardiner 2.
The Ice Vault was stretched to capacity with viewing platforms, stands and room behind the glass all occupied by partisans from both communities. The game was part of the Drive Out Cancer Challenge and included a couple of new between period promotions.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Gardiner coach Jeff Ross said.
The Rams (3-2-0) took a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from Dallas Clark and Tyler Leet and carried it deep into the third period.
The Tigers (1-3-1) sprang to life when Matt Farris pounced on a clearing pass from Cony goalie Tommy Small and scored a short-handed goal with 8:38 left to play. Less than a minute later, Cony’s Connor Perry was assessed a major penalty for hitting from behind, putting the Tigers on a five-minute power play. After a clean first period, the Rams were whistled for eight penalties over the final two.
“A lot of them was we just didn’t work,” Cony coach Chad Foye said. “You stop moving your feet and you start reaching, that’s when you get penalties.”
Gardiner took advantage of its extended power play, tying the game with 3:53 left on a wrist shot from senior Seth Wing that found the top of the net. Clark almost got the goal back on the ensuing faceoff, but Gardiner goalie Brad Moore made his best stop of the night to preserve the tie.
“I tried to do too much with it,” Clark said of his effort.
Davis had just come onto the ice when Drew Keithly put a pass on his stick to send him in alone on Moore.
“I knew I had to score,” Davis said. “I knew I had to, so I just tried to pick a corner as best I could and I just shot.”
Moore finished with 16 saves to 23 for Small, but was tested much more severely, especially in the last two minutes of the game.
“He played well,” Ross said of his junior goalie. “He made a big save on Clark on that breakaway and a couple of big saves after.”
The Rams dominated most of the first period, getting on the board at 9:29 when Davis rushed down the left side and put a shot on Moore. Clark was stationed to Moore’s left for the rebound and an easy score. Leet made it 2-0 at 2:43 just as the Tigers were being whistled for a delayed penalty. Aaron Manter drew the assist.
“The second two periods were a lot better than the first,” Ross said. “I thought we struggled to get our legs going.”
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638