HALLOWELL — The first time Winslow/Gardiner hosted Brunswick this season, it watched sophomore sniper Jenna Brooks chip away at a big lead before the Black Tigers were able to steal victory away in overtime.

The same could not be said Wednesday night.

Brooks completed her hat trick midway through the second period as Brunswick built its own big lead and the No. 5 Dragons held on, securing their spot in the North regional semifinals with a 5-3 win over No. 4 Winslow/Gardiner at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault. The Black Tigers made things interesting with a pair of third-period goals, but their inaugural season as a cooperative effort ended with a 10-9-0 mark.

“I think because it was playoffs, we were all pumped up and we knew the importance of this game,” said Brooks, who scored all four Brunswick goals in the regular season loss to Winslow-Gardiner at the Ice Vault. “We finally had a full team when we played them, and that was helpful. It was exciting.”

The Dragons will play undefeated top seed St. Dominic on Saturday.

Brooks scored twice in the first period just 80 seconds apart, as Brunswick (9-10-0) built a 2-0 lead in an evenly played frame. First, she was able to find space off an odd-numbered situation out of the right corner at 8:20, and then she carried the puck through the neutral zone to the bottom of the left circle to beat Winslow/Gardiner goalie Cassandra Demers (16 saves) with a shot along the ice inside the far post.

The Black Tigers grabbed one back during a two-man advantage early in the second period, when senior defenseman Sarah Morgan’s pass from the left point carved through the Dragon zone and found junior center Evelyn Hinkley’s stick for a slick redirect in traffic just 2:10 in.

But Brooks took over, cashing in on a breakaway chance courtesy of a nifty backhand-forehand deke to build a 3-1 lead at 8:37.

“At the beginning of every season, it hits me that I have to deal with this again. I just have to play through it,” Brooks said of being the focal point of every team’s defensive game plan. “I remind myself that if I keep my feet moving, it’s hard for them to catch me.”

Beth Labbe added insurance for Brunswick just before the intermission, skating the puck straight into a 2-on-2 situation and muscling her way to the goal for the score at the 13:38 mark.

“Our first line was always missing one player the first two times we played them, and that third player makes a big difference,” said Brunswick coach Dave Boucher, whose team also lost a one-goal game to Winslow/Gardiner in the final minute of regulation in a game played at Bowdoin College this season. “And our defense did a good job, for the most part.”

Winslow/Gardiner was undeterred by the deficit through two periods, and it came out eyeing another comeback.

Morgan again was the catalyst, grabbing a weak clearance at the blue line and skating to the slot area to punch home her own rebound and cut the Brunswick lead to 4-2 at 2:10, and second-liner Bailey Robbins scored an unassisted goal with 1:37 remaining in regulation as the Black Tigers outshot the visitors by a 13-6 count in the final 15 minutes. Dragon goalie Marilyn Daniels made 11 of her 25 saves in the final period to keep Winslow/Gardiner from getting any closer.

“She made some big saves in the third period. She’s that type of goalie,” Boucher said. “When she’s on, she wins games for us.”

The lone blemish on the third period for Winslow/Gardiner — the goal that put the game out of reach — was Caroline Headley’s wrister from the left circle that caught a piece of Demers’ glove on the way across the line midway through the stanza.

“We tried. The girls, they never quit,” Winslow/Gardiner coach Chris Downing said. “A couple of goals took the wind out of our sails, but we didn’t fold up our tent. We came back and tried.

“We were playing catch up. It’s tough to come back in the game of hockey sometimes.”

It became more difficult as the night wore on, with Hinkley’s line matched up against Brooks and her trio. So much defensive hockey, coupled with a lack of practice time this season due to Sukee Arena’s closure in October, made the mountain too high to climb.

“In the game of hockey, once your legs go dead, sometimes it’s real hard to get those back,” Downing said. “We just haven’t had enough ice time to work on that.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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