HALLOWELL — For the first time in their brief, two-year history as a co-op, the Winslow/Gardiner girls hockey team has its first-ever playoff victory.

The No. 4 Black Tigers exacted a measure of revenge on No. 5 Brunswick, scoring three third-period goals en route to a 5-2 win over the Dragons in a North regional quarterfinal Thursday night at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault. Last season, Brunswick (7-12-0) bounced Winslow/Gardiner from the playoffs in the Black Tigers’ first season.

Junior Anna Chadwick scored twice in the final period. Julia Hinkley, Bailey Robbins and Gabrielle Hebert added goals for the Black Tigers (12-6-1), who will meet No. 1 Lewiston/Monmouth/Oak Hill in the regional semifinals on Friday. Winslow/Gardiner’s penalty kill was a perfect 4 for 4 on the night, and senior goalie Cassie Demers made 17 saves in an outstanding effort between the pipes.

Beth Labbe and Colleen McKearney had the goals for Brunswick.

DEFENSE FIRST: The team’s defense played a key role for Winslow/Gardiner in the co-op’s first-ever playoff win. Not only did the Black Tigers limit Brunswick to only five shots during 5-on-5 play through the first two periods, but the team’s defensemen accounted for the Black Tigers’ first three goals of the night — including the game-tying goal, the go-ahead goal and the goal that would prove to be the game-winner.

“They’ve been there for us all year long,” Winslow/Gardiner head coach Alan Veilleux said. That’s one of our strong points.”

Sophomore Julia Hinkley tied the game late in the first period, while the senior Robbins put Winslow/Gardiner ahead 2-1 with 3:15 remaining in the middle stanza. Hebert netted the eventual game-winning goal with a drive from the right point through traffic at the 3:34 mark of the final period.

In both cases, Hinkley and Robbins took advantage of turnovers just outside the Brunswick zone to find space and get to the middle of the ice — where they fired wristers past Dragon freshman goalie Hanna Wentworth (26 saves).

“We knew that we had to step it up,” Robbins said.

GAME CHANGER: Robbins made no bones about her assessment of Demers’ play in the Winslow/Gardiner nets.

“That’s the best game I’ve ever seen her play,” Robbins said. “I knew that she was ready. I can tell when she is, and I thought she really pumped the whole team up.”

After giving up a goal on Brunswick’s second shot of the game — a Labbe wrister that caught post on its way in less than five minutes into the contest — Demers made 17 consecutive saves. She provided the backbone for Winslow/Gardiner in a tight-checking game through two periods.

“I was really hungry, and I knew the rest of the team was, too,” Demers said. “After giving up the first goal, I just tried to brush it off. I said, ‘OK, I’m not letting them score again.”

Demers best save came early in the third period, less than a minute after Hebert had handed the Black Tigers a two-goal lead. Brunswick had the puck with speed in the offensive zone, and Demers slid across her crease to get the toe of her skate on Labbe’s shot just inside the right post.

POWER OUT: Winslow/Gardiner’s penalty kill went a perfect 4 for 4, including a stretch of more than four consecutive minutes to begin the second period. Twice, the Black Tigers were down two men during the Brunswick advantage — though the Dragons did not get a shot on goal across more than half a minute while skating 5-on-3.

Demers made four stops, proving the old adage that your netminder must be a team’s best penalty killer.

“I know I definitely have to step it up (when we’re shorthanded),” Demers said. “I know everyone else that’s on the ice has to step it up, too. I have full confidence in everyone on the ice, and I know they have full confidence in me, too.”

TOP LINE: The Black Tigers’ top line of Evelyn Hinkley, Chadwick and Sarah Stevens had a difficult time finding their way onto the scoresheet — but not a difficult time generating scoring chances in the offensive zone — over the first 30 minutes.

Stevens’ partial shorthanded breakaway was turned away by a good stick save from Wentworth inside the first two minutes of the second period, and four minutes later Hinkley walked by two defenders and deked Wentworth out of her net — only to see her on-ice shot run right across the open goal mouth. Hinkley’s drop pass for Chadwick forced Wentworth into action again with an athletic pad save at the right post.

“They came out to play. Hats off to them,” Veilleux said of a game that was much closer for most of it than the final score indicated. “We kind of handled them the first two games (this season), and we knew they were going to come out to play. They really did. They really gave us a hard time, but we’re glad we got the win.”

Chadwick would score twice late the clinch the win, while Hinkley picked up an assist on Chadwick’s first goal.

THREE-PEAT: The victory was Winslow/Gardiner’s third of the season over Brunswick and their first in history over the Dragons in the playoffs.

“It feels amazing,” Robbins said. “It was revenge, because they kicked us out of the playoffs last year.”

“It’s huge,” Veilleux said. “That was huge. The girls worked really hard this year, they really jelled. It’s their second year as a co-op, and they’ve really blended. It paid off tonight.”

The Black Tigers beat Brunswick by scores of 5-2 and 6-1 during the regular season. Last winter, Brunswick eliminated Winslow/Gardiner from the playoffs with a 5-3 win in the regional quarterfinals.

UP NEXT: The Black Tigers punched their ticket to the regional semifinals for the first time in the team’s brief, two-year history. They will travel to play Lewiston/Monmouth/Oak Hill (16-2-0) at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston Friday night at 7:25. The game will be a rematch of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship game on Monday that the Blue Devils won 7-0.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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