GARDINER — The Gardiner field hockey team’s quest to repeat as regional champs and return to the Class B state title game remains a work in progress.

So far, so good.

Thursday at Somerville Field, the Tigers got off to a quick start and kept visiting Maine Central Institute pinned in its own end of the field en route to a 4-1 victory.

The win leaves Gardiner at 6-0 and in first place in the Class B North standings. After a 4-0 start this season, MCI has dropped three straight to three of the better teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference. Despite the loss, the Huskies (4-3) remain in first place in Class C North.

The Tigers wasted little time in seizing control of the game. Senior Nickyia Lovely scored with just over five minutes gone, blasting a hard shot into the back of the cage off a penalty corner feed from Sarah Morgan. Two minutes later, Lovely’s younger sister Hailee, a sophomore, made it 2-0 off a pass from Bri Brochu. The onslaught continued as Hailee Lovely scored again with 17 minutes, 36 seconds left to play, this time drilling a hard shot that rattled high off the back wall of the cage for her fifth goal of the season. Morgan drew the assist.

“We’re getting better,” Hailee Lovely said. “Our passing is good and our shots are getting a lot better.”

The Tigers held the Huskies without a shot in the first half with an aggressive attack and strong play at midfield from senior center mid Bryce Smith and her linemates Maddy Beaulieu and Morgan.

“She does make us look good doesn’t she,” Gardiner coach Sharon Gallant said of Smith. “She played center back for us last year and did an outstanding job. We just moved her up one line there.”

The Tigers picked up where they left off in the second half and prevented the Huskies from getting the ball past midfield for the first nearly nine minutes. MCI goalie Mikayla Carr (eight saves) made two tough saves that kept the Tigers off the board. Once they did get into the Gardiner end, the Huskies capitalized getting a goal from senior Kali Doiron, assisted by sophomore April McAlpine. This was MCI’s only shot on goal although the team picked up their intensity after their score and played the Tigers competitively over the final 20 minutes.

“They just have to keep playing,” MCI coach Nancy Hughes said. “They dug themselves a hole and unfortunately couldn’t get themselves out of it today.”

Gardiner got that goal back at 12:55 after a scramble in front of the goal in which Carr came up with a big save that took her to the ground and couldn’t make a stop against Brochu.

“Their goalie and one of their players were on the ground,” Brochu said. “(Hailee Lovely) hit it to me and I just hit it in lefty.”

Gardiner held the advantage in shots (12-1) and penalty corners (8-4).

“We had some big spots we had to fill,” Gallant said. “They are definitely working hard to fill those and they have a goal. We want to get back to where we were last year.”

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