HALLOWELL — The game’s finish perfectly fit the atmosphere at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault on Saturday night.

Jake Folsom scored on a breakaway with 46 seconds remaining to cap off an exciting 3-2 win for the Gardiner Area High School hockey team over rival Cony/Monmouth/Hall-Dale in front of a standing-room-only crowd.

The Rams (3-3-0 Class A North) had a 6-on-4 opportunity in the final 30 seconds with the goalie pulled and Gardiner (4-2-0 Class B South) serving a penalty, but could not get a shot on net thanks to some strong defense from the Tigers.

Cam Bigelow — who usually skates as a center on the third line — got the start and scored a pair of goals for the Tigers. Gardiner also got another strong performance in goal from Michael Poirier, who finished with 36 saves. Cam Wilson and Connor Perry were responsible for the Rams’ scoring.

“It was pretty exciting right down until the end,” Gardiner head coach Sam Moore said. “I thought Cony played extremely well. I thought they carried the play a lot and we happened to chip in the ones we got the breaks to.

“I can’t say enough about Michael Poirier. He stood on his head (Saturday night) and they were lucky to get two off of him.”

Gardiner led 1-0 on a Bigelow score from Alex Porter in the second period before Wilson tied it up with 8:01 remaining in the contest, wristing a shot past Poirier along the right edge of the left circle after the Tigers’ failed to clear the puck out of their defensive zone.

The Tigers answered with 4:36 to play when Bigelow sent a cross-ice pass from his own defensive zone across one line to Logan Peacock, who in turn skated up the ice. Peacock worked his way to just behind the Rams’ goal and then proceeded to drop a pass back to the trailing Bigelow for a goal.

“I count on (Bigelow) to anchor that third line,” Moore said. “I usually get to play them a little more with him back there but we went mostly two lines (Saturday night).”

The lead would be short-lived, however, as Cony/Monmouth/Hall-Dale got the equalizer just 23 seconds later. On the play Nate Foye took a shot from the point that hit off the inside of the right post and slid in front of the goal line toward the left post. There, Perry was waiting to drive home the rebound with 4:13 remaining.

As the clock ticked inside of the final minute, the Rams had possession of the puck inside Gardiner’s defensive zone when a pass back toward the blue line along the bench-side boards got past Foye. This gave Folsom an opening to race to the puck for the breakaway opportunity. The junior forward gave a slight fake to the left as he approached Rams goalie Tom Small before lifting the puck into the top, right corner of the goal for what would prove to be the game-winner.

“I was just trying to get it on net,” Folsom said. “(Small) was cheating over, towards their bench really hard so I tried to bring it back the other way.”

While the Tigers managed to get themselves a win Saturday night, early on it was all Cony/Monmouth/Hall-Dale. The Tigers won the opening faceoff and immediately got a good shot on Small (12 saves), but it would prove to be Gardiner’s only shot on net in the period.

The Rams kept the puck on Gardiner’s side of center ice for the majority of the period but each time Poirier — who made 17 saves in the first — was up to the task. On the rare occasions where he was not, though, the Tigers’ defense had his back.

Cony/Monmouth/Hall-Dale seemed poised to get on the scoreboard when Wilson set Perry up for a shot from close range that got past Poirier with 3:30 to play, but Ryan Kelley was there to swat away the puck just before it crossed the goal line.

Poirier noted after the game that the defense is backing him up, “a lot more” in comparison to last year, he said, “because our team is a little bit older than it was last year.”

Kelley also came up big in the final two minutes when he, Tristan Hebert and Hunter Russell collaborated to kill 1 minute and 16 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play opportunity for the Rams.

“We made mistakes, they capitalized,” Rams head coach Chad Foye said. “…We made a lot of mistakes with the puck, we didn’t take care of it well enough and they made us pay for it.

“I thought we were in their end most of the time. In the second period they outplayed us but I thought for the first and third we held it in their end pretty well. By the same token they did a good job blocking shots, they played strong (defense) and they didn’t give us anything in front of the net.”

For Cony/Monmouth/Hall-Dale the loss went beyond just the scoreboard, though, as the Rams may be without one of their top offensive weapons, senior Riley Boivin, for a period of time.

Boivin took a big hit on open ice from Folsom 3:30 into the second period and remained down for a few minutes as players cleared the ice. Eventually he was helped to a sitting position and later skated off the ice, toward the Rams’ locker room under his own power.

Coach Foye did not have an update on his condition after the game, but confirmed he did suffer upper body injuries and went to MaineGeneral Medical Center to be checked out.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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