HALLOWELL — At this time of year, most high school hockey teams are all about setting goals for the season. Winning games, winning playoff games and competing for championships typically dot any list of attainable goals.

For Sarah Morgan, her goals are much less ambitious, though no less significant.

“I’m trying to memorize everyone’s names,” Morgan said. “Everyday, I’m asking people their names. I try and learn three new names every day so I can have them all down.”

Morgan attends Gardiner Area High School, which for the first time this season has entered into a co-op and will combine with Winslow High School to field a girls varsity ice hockey team. Morgan is one of seven Gardiner players to join the Winslow contingent, which has independently fielded girls hockey for several seasons.

The roster featured 25 players last week as preseason work got underway at Camden National Bank Ice Vault.

Chris Downing, now in his fifth season as head coach at Winslow, has marveled at just how quickly things have come together.


“As far as goals, we’ve already met one of the major goals, and that is that we are a team,” said Downing, who credited summer clinics over the past two years as helping the girls get acquainted with their new teammates. “You’re always concerned about that.

“I’ve been around sports a long tme. This is year No. 38 for me coaching some high school sport, and I’m having fun. It was always fun before, but it’s good to see a bunch of kids come together.”

There are 16 varsity girls hockey teams in Maine, split into two eight-team regions. Of the 16, 10 of them are co-ops. Six of those 10 teams are comprised of players from at least three different schools.

The Winslow/Gardiner team will be known as the Black Tigers, a nickname the players decided on during a team dinner prior to the start of practices. The girls also had a hand in designing the team’s jerseys, which will represent both Gardiner and Winslow in the design.

Winslow’s Kate Larsen was more than happy to welcome the new Gardiner players. Last year, Winslow went 3-15-0 and missed the playoffs, and Larsen believes there is talent within the new group.

“We’re all up for it,” Larsen said. “They’re really good players, and they’re a huge asset to our team. Winslow hockey has always been a pretty good team with pretty good players, but they are skilled, too. When we’re on the ice, we just connect.”


That connection appears to have taken place rather quickly. In the grand scheme of things, four and a half hours of practice time isn’t a lot, and the players are still feeling out systems and philosophies that they might not be entirely familiar with.

Still, there’s already the sense that the group has jelled. Morgan said that coaches and players alike have made the transition comfortable.

“I definitely feel like it’s been more than three days,” said Julia Nadeau, another of the Gardiner players to join the Winslow group.

Nadeau is playing varsity hockey for the first time this season. Unlike Morgan, who spent the first three seasons of her high school career playing on the Gardiner boys team, Nadeau opted play her hockey in women’s league games on her own time instead of participating through the school on a boys squad.

“It worked out well for me, because now I get to play my senior year,” Nadeau said. “I’ve played women’s league, but there isn’t any competitiveness to that. You just sort of show up and play hockey. To be able to play on a team, with games that actually could mean something and be able to go to playoffs will be nice.”

Nadeau is not alone. There are Gardiner girls who are out for hockey for the first time, having not embraced the idea in the past of playing on a boys team.


That fact should help the Winslow/Gardiner program beyond this season. With the growth of the girls game at the youth level, more girls are conceivably looking for places to play when they make it to high school. Downing hopes that once word begins to circulate in Gardiner that there is an opportunity for girls, the team will make further strides forward.

Larsen, Morgan and Nadeau are the only three seniors on the roster. Leadership, or any lack thereof with a young team, hasn’t been a concern for Downing.

When he circled back to the topic of building chemistry on a team built from players from two towns separated by 25 miles and the Kennebec River.

“I guess the best way to say it is that they’re a group that put the Gardiner and Winslow thing aside, they call themselves the Black Tigers, and they just get along,” Downing said. “The (Gardiner players) are just a good bunch of kids. The Winslow girls are just a great group, too. You put two great groups together, and it comes out really nice.”

Nice? In hockey? On a team featuring players from Winslow and Gardiner, two towns that have staged fierce rivalry games on the boys side over many years?

“I think for girls it’s easier,” Nadeau said of setting aside rivalries past and present. “Girls get along a lot better with other people than boys. They become friends a lot faster.”


“I think for us, it definitely worked out well,” Morgan said of the co-op. “It really depends on the people. All the girls on our team are really excited to play, and all the girls on their team are really excited to play, so it made for a good mix together.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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