GARDINER — It was another win for the Gardiner boys lacrosse team, nine in a row to start the season. But coach K.C. Johnson has his sights set on bigger goals.

“Our hope is to get to the level we need to to compete at the Southern Maine stage,” he said. “You grow as the season goes along, you hope no injuries happen, you get better and you peak at the end. That’s the key to success in lacrosse, and we’re getting there.”

That certainly seemed to be the case Thursday, as the Tigers shook off a sloppy first quarter to ride an avalanche of goals — including six from Sloan Berthiaume — and beat Maranacook/Winthrop, 16-3.

“It definitely feels good. … We were talking, knowing they’re a rival team that we always have a competition with,” Berthiaume said. “They still definitely put up a good fight, in the first half it was still a close game. But with the smaller numbers, they definitely got tired and we were able to have more stamina than them and keep them pushing.”

The loss dropped Maranacook/Winthrop to 3-5, a surprising mark considering the team’s 7-5 record and trip to the Class B North final last year. But the Hawks entered this season with a young roster, and it’s been stretched even further by injuries to starters Tanner Evans, Skyler Boucher, Tucker Nussinow and Jacob Sousa. After appearing on course with a 12-3 win over Winslow and playing Gardiner to an 11-7 result in the teams’ first matchup, the Hawks have had to get by with a makeshift attack.

“We are dropping like flies,” coach Zach Stewart said. “We’ve got three or four seniors and the rest are all freshmen. We’re just trying to piece it together and keep it fun until the end of the season. Until we get more guys back, we just can’t compete with upper-echelon teams like this.”

Maranacook/Winthrop appeared undaunted, however, answering an opening 4-0 run by Gardiner with Garit Laliberte and Ian Dow goals that came only seven seconds apart, making it 4-2 with 4:18 to go in the first quarter.

“It kind of started off a little bit rough,” Berthiaume said. “We weren’t together as a team, really.”

That didn’t continue. Berthiaume notched his fourth and fifth goals of the first half and Parker Hinkley added another score as Gardiner worked its lead to 8-3 at halftime.

“He’s an old-school grinder. He works his butt off,” Johnson said of Berthiaume, who often drew the attention of three or four Hawks at a time when he closed in on the net. “He loves to play. I worry about wear-and-tear. … He drives to the hole hard and dodges three guys. That’s hard on the body by the end of the season.”

Gardiner pulled away in the second half, holding the Hawks to four shots on goal and no scores while lighting up the scoreboard themselves. Tristan Hebert scored twice in the third quarter and assisted on a goal by Mike Poirier (two goals), and Berthiaume, Marshall Clements, Poirier, Tanner Hebert and Nate Phillis added scores in the fourth.

The Tigers’ surge occurred despite the Hawks holding a 4-2 advantage in power plays for the game and a dominant showing in the faceoff circle from Drew Davis (goal), who helped Maranacook/Winthrop win 16 of the game’s 22 draws.

“Our midfield rides, getting the ball back, were tremendous,” Johnson said. “We were losing the faceoff left and right. But we got the ball back, and that’s huge for us.”

Will Hayes made 12 saves for M/W, while Noah Keene made six for Gardiner, often getting to watch his defense break up scoring chances and possessions before they materialized.

“We really work on checking correctly,” Johnson said. “You didn’t see a lot of slashes from us, you don’t see a lot of slash calls. You saw pokes and lifts and getting the guy’s hands. We’re getting better at that. We’re already past midseason form with that, and today we found a lot that was good about it.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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