KENTS HILL — The season’s first faceoff had yet to be taken, and already Gardiner Area High School’s boys lacrosse team was facing adversity against rival Winthrop/Maranacook Tuesday morning at John Huard Field.
With two key starters missing from the back line, the Tigers responded with an 11-7 victory in their Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B season opener.
Senior attack Tristan Hebert scored four goals and assisted on two others, while junior goalie Noah Keene made 13 saves for Gardiner to make up for the absence of defenders Kaleb Caron (wisdom teeth removal) and Jacob Folsom (Italy trip).
“We put a freshman and a sophomore in that never really had any varsity time at all,” Gardiner coach K.C. Johnson said. “Not bad. They’re getting there. The IQ is a little bit higher than expected for the young kids, so that’s good.”
The Tigers (1-0) seemed aware of the circumstances and jumped out to a 3-0 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Hebert scored his second of the game, after he and Michael Poirier (two goals) put Gardiner on the board in the first period.
Maranacook/Winthrop (1-1) tried to fight back into the contest once in a three-goal hole, but each time it threatened the Tigers responded. Poirier and Parker Hinkley scored in the middle of the quarter to open up a 5-2 lead.
Gardiner then finally put the game out of reach in the third quarter, with Tanner Hebert and Tristan Hebert each striking just 22 seconds apart in the final minute of the period.
“It’s nice to start off with a win against them,” Tristan Hebert said. “Our attack line was really rolling. We had seven out of the 11 goals, so that really helps. We had a couple of turnovers that we shouldn’t have, but it’s early in the season. We’ll work on that stuff.”
Tristan Hebert’s goal came after intercepting an errant clearing pass that Hawks’ goalie Will Hays (seven saves) couldn’t handle in his crease.
“We started to let them come back, but getting those couple of goals really put them out of it and helped us,” he said.
With senior middie Drew Davis marked tightly throughout the contest, the Hawks were forced to find other options. Freshman Garrett Laliberte picked up some of the slack, scoring four goals and setting up two other scores, but a largely patient Maranacook/Winthrop offense couldn’t turn enough lengthy possessions and shots into goals.
“Our youth showed today. We had a hard time,” Maranacook/Winthrop coach Zach Stewart said. “For a team with five starting freshmen, I’m pretty happy. Our shot selection was OK at best but our placement of the ball wasn’t very good, which is uncharacteristic. Had a couple of those balls been placed a little better and had we worked the ball around a little more, it could have been a different game.”
It certainly didn’t help the Hawks any that Keene was sharp, making back-to-back saves on Davis in the second quarter to preserve what was a 3-2 lead at the time, and he then made five saves in the fourth period alone to see out the victory.
Sophomore Nate Malinowski and freshman Jared Shaw jumped into duty alongside senior Cam Bell on the back, filling in admirably for the Tiger defenders who were missing. Gardiner also won all four fourth-quarter faceoffs and 13 of 16 on the day to help limit Hawk possessions.
“There was a little bit of pressure, obviously,” Keene said. “We knew we might be broken down a little bit easier because we didn’t have our strongest defenders out back. Other than that, it’s just about stopping the ball and keeping (shooters) out further.”
Connor Manter and Sloan Berthiaume (goal, two assists) added late scores put it well out of reach in the final minute.
“Overall, it’s not bad,” Johnson said. “We’re a work in progress, always. I was kind of hoping we were going to be ahead of the curve, but then we had a couple of kids on trips and whatnot.”
Travis Barrett — 621-5621