KENTS HILL — While much of the attention in lacrosse often shifts to whom is scoring goals or stopping them from going in, often times games are won and lost in the middle third of the field.

The Maranacook/Winthrop boys lacrosse team won the battle in the middle of the field with Gardiner on Friday afternoon at Huard Field and in the process scored a 13-3 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B victory over the Tigers.

“I tell the guys the game is won in between the restraining lines and that’s really where we have to ride,” Maranacook/Winthrop coach Zach Stewart said. “The defense side and offense side of it really isn’t as (key) as in between.”

The Hawks managed to limit Gardiner’s offensive possessions with their play in the midfield, and at the offensive end took advantage of 13 penalties — totaling 12 minutes — committed by the Tigers. Ty Smith and Kyle Morand paced Maranacook/Winthrop with three goals apiece, James Canwell scored twice and Denver Cram had a goal and three assists. Isaiah Weston finished with eight saves in goal for the Hawks, while Spencer King stopped nine shots for Gardiner.

“Our lack of discipline killed us,” Gardiner coach K.C. Johnson said. “…It was evident early on it was going to be a little bit of a dogfight, and we just got frustrated with our offense and we took penalties.”

When the Tigers stayed out of the penalty zone, however, the game remained close. Gardiner did not commit an infraction in the opening quarter and trailed just 1-0 heading into the second. In the second quarter the Tigers were assessed just two penalties, yet neither resulted in a goal and Gardiner trailed just 3-0 heading into the break in a defensive battle.

Behind the play of Jake Truman, Wyatt Blair and the Tigers’ defense, Gardiner managed to stay within striking distance. Unfortunately for the visitors, when it did get into the attacking zone they were either stymied by the Hawks’ defensive front of Levi Emery, Drew Davis and Peter Prescott or flat out unlucky. The Tigers hit a post early in the second quarter and had a handful of promising chances that were just a shade off the mark.

“We had a set plan and those kids executed,” Stewart said. “Watching them from the sideline was fantastic. They worked so hard. We pride ourselves on that.”

Morand pushed the Hawks’ lead to 4-0 early in the third before Walker Norton finally got the Tigers on the board with a goal with 8:52 to play in the quarter. Any momentum the score created was quickly extinguished, however, as Canwell answered back just 10 seconds later.

Gardiner hit another post with 4:32 to play in the quarter and from there, as Johnson indicated, penalties cost the Tigers. They gave up two goals with a man advantage shortly thereafter and the Hawks went on to break the game open to the tune of a 9-1 lead heading into the final quarter.

“We know that they’re really good. We know that they’ve got a strong defense, so we had to move the ball fast and we had to make our matchups,” Maranacook/Winthrop midfielder Zach Lacasse said. “We had to be smart about them because every possession is really important.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley