AUGUSTA — Madeline Reny was in the right place at the right time, as she often is for the Gardiner field hockey team, just minutes into the fifth annual Drive Out Cancer Challenge game against rival Cony on Saturday morning .
“I was at the right post and the ball came in from the left,” the Gardiner junior forward said. “Luckily, I had my stick down because the ball was right there. I just got it and put it in.”
The goal, which came just 3 minutes, 47 seconds into the contest, proved to be all Gardiner needed as it beat Cony from the get-go in a 2-0 exhibition victory before about 250 fans.
Gardiner won its second consecutive game in the series, which raises money for the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta.
Abby Dyer scored the other goal for the Tigers while goalie Emalee Couture had five saves.
Goalie Lindsay Lapierre had eight saves for the Rams, who were out-played for large stretches of the game by the aggressive and quicker-to-the-ball Tigers.
“We have great quickness all over the field,” Gardiner coach Moe McNally said. “We have very tenacious forward lines. We came ready to play. This is Cony-Gardiner. There is no such thing as an exhibition. We get pumped for this game like we would for any other game.”
It showed, particularly early.
Gardiner controlled the play early and then scored a pivotal goal with 4:58 left in the half off a well-executed penalty corner from Dyer.
When the play came in from the sideline, Dyer acknowledged she felt a few nerves.
“I kind of muffed the first one I took,” she said. “I was a little nervous. I didn’t want to do that again.”
After taking a pass from Nicole Chadwick, Dyer ripped a low shot through a crowd that beat Lapierre to the far post to give the Tigers a commanding 2-0 lead.
“I knew we needed that second goal,” Dyer said. “We didn’t want to let them back in it. I was just really focused when I set it up. I looked up to see where their goalie was and I picked a corner.”
Added McNally: “That was huge for us. We’ve had games this year where we’ve given up leads. We knew this would be a close game so 2-0 felt pretty good.”
Gardiner carried the momentum into the second half and nearly made it 3-0 when it had three penalty corners in a five-minute span.
However, Lapierre and the Cony defense held to keep it in the game.
“We played hard,” Reny said. “We wanted to come out of the game with a win. We didn’t let up.”
The Rams sprung to life in the final four minutes of regulation, but couldn’t push one past Couture.
“We had a tough time stopping their runs,” Cony coach Holly Daigle said. “We just weren’t quick enough. We had a lot of energy in the last few minutes but it was too little, too late. We really could’ve used that energy in the first 57 minutes.
“It was a great game. Obviously, both teams wanted to win, but we all knew it was for a good cause, too.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640