WINSLOW — The Skowhegan hockey team scored at least five goals in its first six games — all victories — to establish itself as the surprise upstart in Eastern A this season.
Saturday night at Sukee Arena, the Indians extended their unbeaten streak to seven games thanks to defense, goaltending and a couple timely goals.
Captain Jake Johnson scored with 2 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third period to snap a 1-1 game and help lift unbeaten Skowhegan past Gardiner 3-1.
“Gardiner came in hungry,” Skowhegan coach Jeff Fowler said. “They wanted to steal some Heal points and we knew that. We were fortunate to come out on top.”
Chase Nelson added an insurance goal 21 seconds later for the Indians (7-0-0), who trailed 1-0 heading into the third.
Trey Michonski scored 2:17 into the third period to erase the 1-0 deficit. Kyle Demchak assisted on that short-handed goal and Sam Edmondson finished with 23 saves for Skowhegan.
Josh Moore scored for Gardiner (1-4-2) while Brad Moore had 18 saves.
“Brad kept us in the game,” Gardiner coach Jeff Ross said. “He made some unbelievable saves.”
The matchup, at least on paper, hardly seemed favorable for the Tigers. They came into the showdown allowing an average of five goals a game. The Indians came in having scored at least five goals in all their games.
Josh Moore scored five minutes into the game and Brad Moore was sensational in net, coming up with an abundance of key saves throughout the game.
The Tigers were buzzing in the Skowhegan zone and Josh Moore redirected a shot past Edmondson. The tall Skowhegan goalie stopped the original shot but the puck came off his pad and was redirected into the net.
“We gave up that first goal and that was tough,” Fowler said.
Both goalies played well in the early going to keep it close. With five minutes to go in the period, Moore made a sprawling save on Cam DesPres and covered the puck as a host of bodies piled up on him in the crease.
Edmondson, too, made several saves on good-angle shots.
Skowhegan struggled to play disciplined hockey at times. It was whistled for several costly penalties, including a five-minute boarding major to Johnson. The penalties prevented Skowhegan from getting into any rhythm.
Of course, Gardiner played as good defensively as it had all season. Led by Seth Wing and Dalton Sargent, the Tigers bottled center ice, leaving very little room for the Indians to maneuver — until it created a few opportunities in the third.
Kyle Demchak had a pair of assists for the Indians. Anthony-James Paul also had an assist.
“We just kept working and working and I kept telling the guys that eventually the puck will bounce our way,” Fowler said, “and it did.”
Added Ross: “We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. We made some mistakes that hurt us, too. We just have to try and continue to get better.”
Bill Stewart – 621-5640