HALLOWELL — Ryan Kelley summed it up succinctly when it comes to Gardiner Area High School goalie Michael Poirier.

“He saves our butt all the time — he’s one of the best,” Kelley said after the senior Poirier made 35 saves to backstop Gardiner to a 2-1 win over Cony/Hall-Dale/Monmouth at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault on Friday afternoon. Kelley and fellow senior Donovan Farris each scored for the Tigers, who also got a two-assist effort from sophomore Joe Clark.

The Class B South-leading Tigers improved to 10-4-0, while Cony dropped to 10-5-0.

“We kind of went into a shell in the third period,” said Gardiner coach Sam Moore, whose team was still feeling the effects of having blown a two-goal lead on Wednesday night at Greely. “Cony really took the game to us in the third, but once again Michael was there for everything that came at him.”

Kelley gave Gardiner a 1-0 lead nearly 11 minutes into the opening period, thanks to a fortuitous bounce in the Rams’ goal crease. He tried centering through the slot from along the goal line at the left side of the cage, but his pass hit a skate in front and ended up sneaking past Cony goalie Dalton Bowie (17 saves) at the far post.

Determined not to rest on a one-goal lead, Clark centered for Farris in the low slot, and Farris kept driving through traffic to make it a 2-0 game at the 4:03 mark of the second period. The goal came just as the game was starting to find more rhythm than it had seen in the first 15 minutes, when both teams enjoyed long stretches on the puck in the attacking zone but few shots to show for it on either side.

“Just getting the first goal was huge,” Kelley said. “It sets all the momentum, and it takes the wind right out of them. It just gave us a huge push going forward.”

Cony came out firing in the final period, killing off 1:43 remaining from a Tiger power play late in the second. The Rams couldn’t cash in on their own power play early, but sophomore winger Reed Hopkins finally put them on the board at 7:33.

Hopkins crashed the net for his own rebound, his initial shot having hit Poirier up high and then bouncing up in the air. The puck dropped in the crease behind Poirier’s feet, and Hopkins swept it in to make it a 2-1 game.

One fluky, high rebound aside, Poirier was on top of his game from start to finish. Second-chance opportunities like Hopkins’ were incredibly hard to find. The Rams were undeterred, however, and piled up a 15-6 shot advantage in the final frame.

Poirier was happy with his team’s play in front of him, particularly entering the last 15 minutes with a two-goal advantage — just like at Greely.

“We knew that we did that the other night, and we didn’t want to do that again,” Poirier said of holding onto a third-period advantage. “So we went into it a little more conservatively and played it a little more defensively than we did in the last game.”

“I don’t take him for granted, but I love having him back there,” Moore said of his netminder. “He covers a lot of mistakes. You can’t rattle him. He’s mentally tough. It doesn’t matter how much action there is around him, he’s got his head there and he doesn’t let anything bother him.”

Cony’s slow start, particularly in a first period in which the Rams were whistled for three minor penalties, certainly didn’t help matters on its end. The sluggishness carried over into the early part of the second period.

“We didn’t seem to get too many second chances in front of their net,” Cony coach Chad Foye said. “They did a good job of getting back through neutral ice and they kind of disrupted our flow a little bit. … I didn’t think we played well at first, but as the game went on we started playing better and better, and then in the third (Poirier) just stepped up and did what he does.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]


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