GARDINER — The Gardiner field hockey team is peaking at the right time. The Tigers won eight of their last nine regular-season games and that trend is carrying over into the Eastern Maine Class B tournament.
Wednesday, the Tigers got three goals from sophomore Nickyia Lovely on their way to a 5-0 win over Brewer in a quarterfinal game at Somerville Field. Third-seeded Gardiner (12-3-0) travels to second-seeded Old Town on Saturday for a semifinal game. No. 6 Brewer finishes 5-10-0.
Gardiner won the regular-season meeting against Brewer 5-1 and dominated most of the action Wednesday. Lovely broke the ice 10 minutes into the game with a tough-angle, left-to-right shot from 5 yards away that beat Brewer goalie Brooke Richards to the far corner. Nicole Chadwick assisted.
“I wasn’t expecting to make the shot,” Lovely said. “I was pretty surprised when it went in.”
The visiting Witches got into Gardiner territory several times but didn’t put a shot on Gardiner goalie Emalee Couture in the first 30 minutes.
“It’s been an Achilles heal that we’ve had,” Brewer coach Mike Turner said. “We’ve moved the ball really well from top of the circle to top of the circle. Then we get into the circle and we just can’t seem to pull the trigger on the shot opportunities.”
The Gardiner defense, led by senior Camden Cone, played a big role in limiting Brewer’s chances.
“I think we’ve got one of the best defenses in the conference,” Gardiner coach Moe McNally said.
The offense wasn’t bad either. Chadwick made it 2-0 with just over nine minutes left in the half when she poked home a rebound. It could have been worse if not for the seven tough saves Richards made and another by sweeper Kayla Williams.
The Tigers picked up the pace in the second half. Senior midfielder Abby Dunn made it 3-0 with a hard shot from the top of the circle that skipped past a couple of defenders. Lovely scored the final two goals, wrapping up her hat trick with a tap in after a nice cross from Chadwick for her 22nd goal of the season.
“She has a little spitfire in her that no one else really has,” Chadwick said of Lovely. “She just goes after everything. She’s really aggressive.”
Couture finished with three saves while Richards had 11. The Tigers also held a 13-2 advantage in penalty corners, one of which led to a goal.
“We’ve really improved the second half of the season,” McNally said. “We were trying to find an identity and we found it in the second half. I think the key to us is we’ve got a bench this year.”
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638