GARDINER — The Gardiner Area High School boys hockey team finished just 7-11 this season, but one has to wonder just how the Tigers would have fared without sophomore Michael Poirier minding the net this winter.

“He’s the real deal. He’s really a quality goaltender,” Gardiner coach Jeff Ross said. “The thing that hindered him in the past was work ethic and he showed this year that he’s got the work ethic.

“…He held us in a lot of games and gave us some opportunities to win.”

In 17 games and one period this season, Poirier stopped 612 of the 670 shots he faced for a 0.913 save percentage and very nearly led his team to a postseason berth in Western Class B. For his work in the net this season, Poirier has been named the Kennebec Journal Hockey Player of the Year.

After playing behind starter Brad Moore last season, Poirier said he decided after the season he needed to focus on working harder in the offseason.

“I just wanted to win. I felt like I wasn’t really contributing to the team and I felt like I could have done better,” Poirier said. “I just tried harder.”

The offseason work — which included fall hockey with the Maine Moose under-16 team — paid immediate dividends. The Tigers opened the season on Dec. 6 with a 4-2 loss to Cape Elizabeth, yet were competitive in the contest in large part to a season-high, 59-save effort from Poirier.

“We had a lot of freshmen on the team this year and a lot of them were inexperienced,” junior captain Logan Peacock said. “We knew Michael had to step it up with those freshmen playing and he did. He had an amazing season.”

He very nearly stole a game from top-seeded Kennebunk (15-3-2) in the regular-season finale that would have pushed the Tigers into the playoffs. The Rams trailed 2-1 late in the third period before they got the equalizer with 2:30 to play and the game-winner eight minutes into the overtime session.

Poirier may have taken the loss but it was not due to lack of effort. He made 28 saves in the third period and overtime as part of a 44-save performance.

“We didn’t know that he had that maturity in between the pipes with us and his gameday focus was impressive. To be honest with you, I didn’t expect to see this out of him until his junior or senior year,” Ross said. “He was a lot more mature in the locker room and on the ice than what we had expected of him.”

While it was clearly a very good year for Poirier, it might be only the start of something special for the sophomore and his fellow Gardiner teammates. Of the 23 players listed on the Tigers’ roster this season, none were seniors and only three were juniors.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley


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