KENTS HILL — Cam Sullivan is the energy guy, the spark plug, the guy who brings speed and strength to the forward position.

Bryant Whitley, like Sullivan, is a point-producer, a go-to guy on the power play and reliable player on the penalty kill.

Cody Hickey is a grinder, a guy whose presence is felt on the power play.

And then there’s Jeff McAuslin. He won’t light up a stat sheet, but his stature as a shut-down defenseman is far from overlooked.

Meet the seniors on the Gardiner Area High School hockey team.

Individually they play somewhat different roles. Together, however, they’ve turned the Tigers (6-5-0) into a playoff contender for the first time in three years.

“They’re a big part of the team,” Gardiner coach Jeff Ross said. “They’ve logged a lot of ice. They all balance each other out, too. Bryant is intense. Sullivan is intense. Jeff (McAuslin) is a little more relaxed. Cody is relaxed, too. He can lighten the mood. It’s nice to have the mixture of intensity and calmness.”

Whitley leads the Tigers with 13 points (nine goals, four assists). Sullivan has three goals and five assists for eight points. Hickey has five points.

“I’m a big hustler,” Sullivan said. “I try to set the tone. I like to make the big hit, get to the puck before anyone else. Coach wants me to score a bit more.”

Ross said he leans on Whitley and Sullivan to provide some scoring punch.

“We expect them to be all-around players,” he said. “They do a lot of the scoring for us. They play pretty big roles for us.”

As do Hickey and McAuslin.

Both are responsible for providing tough defensive play, particularly in key spots of a game.

“I don’t score many goals,” McAuslin said. “My job is to win the one-on-one battles. I like to block shots, keep the puck out of our end. We just really want to make the playoffs this year. It’s our goal.”

It’s also attainable, although it won’t be easy. Five teams will earn berths in the Western B playoffs. Gardiner entered play Wednesday fourth in Heal points. However, all but one of its remaining seven games will come against teams with winning records. Gardiner’s remaining opponents are a combined 34-23-7.

“I’ve only been to the playoffs once since I’ve been here, and that was freshmen year,” Whitley said. “I didn’t play much then. I’d get maybe one or two shifts a game. It wasn’t a key role. This year, we know we have to step it up. We have to keep the momentum going. It won’t be easy, but we can do it.”

If the Tigers indeed “do it,” it would be a remarkable accomplishment considering the adversity they’ve faced from the onset.

When the Kennebec Ice Arena collapsed in March, Gardiner was left without a home rink for the season. The Tigers will play all of their games on the road this season.

Ross said it has been tough for the seniors to not have a home rink this season. “You’ve worked so hard to do that, but they’ve made the best of it,” Ross said.

The players agreed it’s been tough, but are happy to be able to play.

“We don’t really know if we’ll have a senior night,” Sullivan said. “It’s tough and it can be frustrating, but we deal with it.”

Added McAuslin: “I’m just glad we’re able to play.”

Gardiner, which beat perennial playoff contender Cape Elizabeth 2-1 on Saturday, next plays Yarmouth (4-3-1) at 6:50 p.m. Saturday.

“We have a tough schedule coming up,” Hickey said. “But we’ll be ready.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

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