KENTS HILL — The Gardiner hockey team didn’t have many chances to work on special teams during the preseason, so coach Jeff Ross — who has a roster with no seniors and three juniors — wasn’t sure what to expect whenever someone entered the penalty box during Wednesday’s Western Class B matchup with Maranacook/Winthrop.

The Tigers did more work on special teams in the final seven-plus minutes Wednesday than many teams do in an entire game, and they looked like they have them down to a science.

Tristan Hebert scored the game-winner on the power play with 7 minutes, 21 seconds remaining, then led a penalty-killing unit that stymied Maranacook/Winthrop’s 5-on-3 for essentially the final two minutes to preserve a 4-2 win.

Hebert, a sophomore, scored twice, including the empty-netter insurance goal. Logan Peacock added a goal and an assist and Mike Poirier turned aside 24 shots to spoil the Hawks’ season-opener.

“We took a break during the timeout and coach gave us a plan and we followed what he said,” Hebert said. “We were only up by one goal and everybody wanted to win this game since we had a bad record last year.”

“We haven’t spent a lot of time on it, especially on the penalty kill, because in preseason we didn’t have many penalties, to be honest with you. We had a shortened preseason and we found things that we thought were more important to work on,” added Ross, whose team lost its opener to Cape Elizabeth on Saturday, 4-2. “But boy, it came up big today. Our power play looked really good. I thought we created a lot of opportunities. And our penalty kill was just amazing.”

The Tigers were 2-for-8 on the power play. The Hawks were 0-for-5, with all of those chances coming in the third period.

“It’s our first game of the year, so there’s a lot of jitters out there. We got hit with a few illnesses, so we had some weaker legs,” Maranacook/Winthrop coach Chip Jones said. “There’s always room for improvement and the guys know that.”

Maranacook/Winthrop rallied from a 2-0 deficit late in the second period. Zack Godbout cut the deficit in half at 12:38 of the second. Peter Prescott tied it at 5:32 of the third with a fine individual effort in front of the net, collecting his own rebound and beating Poirier top shelf while tumbling to the ice.

“I thought in the second period we gave up control of the game,” Ross said. “I thought we sat back and looked a little lazy. But we came out in the third and, even though we gave up that second goal to tie it, I thought the kids battled hard and took control of the game back. I thought our forecheck was really strong tonight and our third line gave us some valuable minutes.”

The Tigers went back in front when Hebert sent the puck in from the hash marks to the goalie’s right went through Hawks netminder Brandon Baxter’s legs and put the Tigers in front for good.

“Coach said that whenever we get a shot to shoot it because he wants us to put shots on net,” said Hebert, whose team put 31 shots on net Wednesday. “I really wasn’t expecting that to go in, but I shot it, like he said, and it ended up going in.”

The third period featured 10 penalties, but the last two put the Tigers in a tough spot. They went a man down with a tripping penalty with 2:42 left, then lost another skater to a five minute major 38 seconds later.

Hebert, Peacock and Hunter Russell drew the difficult assignment of having to keep the Hawks off the scoreboard, which they did without Poirier having to face a lot of tough shots from in close. His best save may have been when he gloved Godbout’s slapper from the right point with 30 seconds left.

Most of the time, it was two sophomores and a junior out there,” Ross said. “They really showed what they can do and what they’re made of. I was really impressed with the hard work.”

Peacock got the Tigers on the board first at 8:56 of the first period. Alic Shorey scored Gardiner’s first power play goal, assisted by Connor Manter, at 1:22 of the second period.

“Usually we don’t start off like that. Usually we start off a little slow and then progressively get better,” Hebert said. “We really stepped it up in the first period this time.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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