There really isn’t a much better way to describe junior Sloan Berthiaume beyond the words of his own coach.

“He is a game-breaker,” Gardiner Area High School head coach K.C. Johnson said of Berthiaume.

Berthiaume, the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s player of the year, helped carry the Tigers to an unbeaten regular season for the first time since 2013 as the best central midfielder in the league. For his efforts, Berthiaume has been chosen as the Kennebec Journal Boys Lacrosse Player of the year.

“We did a lot better than I thought we’d do, not just in winning games or our record, but in the way we really played well as individuals and as a team,” Berthiaume said.

Berthiaume bookended his season with perfect illustrations of his value to the Tigers, who advanced to the Class B North final for the first time in four years. In a preseason game, he scored two goals in a span of 10 seconds, the second of which came after he won the ensuing faceoff and raced down the field for a goal as time expired. In the regular season finale, after Gardiner fell behind by four goals early against Class A Messalonskee, Berthiaume scored five goals and assisted on two others to help the Tigers rally back to an overtime victory.

“Nothing surprises me with Sloan,” Johnson said. “He can win the faceoff, run the offense, score goals or feed the guys he needs to feed. He plays to his pace, not everybody else’s pace.

“He just loves to play the game.”

The unofficial term within lacrosse circles to describe a player like Berthiaume is that he’s one who “carries the mail.” He’s a threat in all facets of the attack, he wins faceoffs at an unrivaled clip and he defends the middle of the field — where games are often won and lost.

And though he has the perpetual green light to go to goal whenever he sees fit, Berthiaume takes the most pride in his abilities without the ball in his possession.

“I wouldn’t say I’m the greatest at it, but a pretty big part of the game in the defensive side,” Berthiaume said. “You play as much defense as offense, and you need to be able to play both sides of the ball (as a midfielder). If you’re midfield defense isn’t working out, you’re not going to have the ball.”

When he can win the ball, either via a faceoff or a ground ball, he knows exactly what it means to the team as a whole. It’s not a happy accident that Berthiaume is so skilled on faceoffs — he’s been working on that part of the game since he was in fifth grade.

“You are the first one who can really possess the ball for your team, and if you can possess the ball a lot, it determines how the game is going to go,” Berthiaume said. “Playing that center area, you can dictate what’s going to happen and how the offense is going to be run.”

As a standout defenseman on the Gardiner hockey team, Berthiaume umderstands how that sport benefits his lacrosse game.

“A lot of hockey his like lacrosse, even though the two sports are obviously different,” Berthiaume said. “It’s more the mentality of it than it is the (technical side). I get something out of playing both. There’s the physicality of hockey, where this is more finesse — of course if you win a faceoff and run through seven checks, it definitely doesn’t feel likee the physical part has gone away at all.”

Johnson is eager to see what that will look like a year from now. Gardiner graduated a slew of top attacking talent from the roster, and teams will find ways to focus on Berthiaume and his ability to quarterback the offense during his senior season in 2018.

“He’s that grinder, old-school throwback type of player,” Johnson said. “He’s allowed if he sees seams out there to take those seams and excecute. The next level for him is being able to manage the whole offensive game, to be the quarterback of the offense, be the point guard.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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