HALLOWELL — The Cony/Monmouth-Gardiner hockey rivalry often brings out the best in both teams and sometimes the worst, but it’s never dull. With the threat of bad weather in the air, fans from both schools packed the Bank of Maine Ice Vault on Saturday night and got their money’s worth.

Cony/Monmouth dominated the first half of the game but Gardiner came back over the second half and nearly tied it in the final two minutes before losing 3-2.

The Rams led 3-1 after Austin Davis scored early in the second period, but the Tigers cut the lead to a goal seven minutes later on a power play goal from Tristen Hebert. From there the game grew increasingly physical and eventually a player from each team was ejected for fighting with just under three minutes left to play.

“On the ice is totally different than off the ice,” Gardiner senior Alex Nadeau said. “When you’re off the ice it’s buddy-buddy, but on the ice you don’t like the guy.”

The Rams (4-1-0) dominated large portions of the game, even when they were shorthanded, but they either missed the net or Gardiner goalie Brad Moore came up with a key save. The senior finished with 22 saves while Cony sophomore Tom Small had 15.

“I think when things started getting dicey for us we started playing as individuals and not as a team,” Cony coach Chad Foye said. “When had too many guys trying to do too much by themselves. I’m happy that we won but I’m not happy with the way we won.”

Cony/Monmouth dominated the first 10 minutes of the game while Gardiner (0-4-0) didn’t register a shot. But it was the Tigers who drew first blood on a 3-on-1 breakaway, Tyler Kimball fired a shot on Small and freshman Sarah Morgan was there to collect the rebound.

“She’s a nice little composed hockey player,” Gardiner coach Jeff Ross. “That was a nice goal, stick on the ice.”

Morgan’s goal came with 4 minutes, 12 seconds left in the period, but the Rams came back to score twice before the horn sounded. Senior Aaron Manter tied it on a power-play goal when he took a nice diagonal pass from Zach Gagne it the left point and one-timed a shot past Moore from the right faceoff circle. Gagne made it 2-1 with 47 seconds left when his shot from the point slipped through a maze of players in front of the net.

Cony fans began chanting “it’s all over,” when Davis scored from the slot on a pass from Cam Wilson, but the Tigers didn’t fold.

“We play a lot of freshmen and I think they were a little bit overwhelmed early in the game,” Ross said. “They just kind of got their skating legs and started to believe in themselves.”

The Tigers had a 5-on-3 advantage midway through the second period after two Rams were penalized for roughing and cross checking on the same shift, but they did little with it. But with 3 seconds left on the penalties, Hebert, another freshman, wristed a shot from 30 feet that fluttered past Small.

The third period was highlighted by some big checks and some chippy play to the delight of the crowd if not the coaches. The Tigers nearly tied the game Ryan Kelly passed the puck across the crease to Jacob Folsom, two more of Gardiner’s freshmen. But Small came up big with a diving sprawl to stop Folsom’s shot and preserve the win.

“We’ve got some really good talented freshmen,” said Nadeau, one of the team’s captains. “It’s tough but it’s a good challenge.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638[email protected]Twitter: @GaryHawkinsKJ

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