WINSLOW — Over the course of 80 minutes, there are only a few that matter. They are, in order, the first few minutes following the opening kick, the first few minutes after halftime and the first few minutes after a goal is scored by either team.

A veteran Gardiner boys team intent on finally challenging the top teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class B division made the most of those crucial minutes in their season-opener Friday afternoon in posting a 5-3 win over defending regional champion Winslow.

Senior Casey Bourque scored twice as part of a four-goal second half for the Tigers, while classmate Cam Babcock had a goal and two assists in the win. Isaac Lambrecht scored two of Winslow’s goals, while fellow senior Nick Tiner had the other.

Gardiner goalie Tim Doyle makes a save as Winslow’s Brennan Dunton (13) jumps over him Friday in Winslow. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

The teams were locked 1-1 at the break before Gardiner came out and scored twice in the first three minutes of the second half.

First, sophomore Isaac Gammon ran onto a low cross in the 18-yard-box and wrong-footed Black Raider goalkeeper JJ Carey (five saves) in the 42nd minute. A minute later, on a short corner kick play, Babcock carried all the way to the edge of the box and curled a left-footer under the crossbar to make it 3-1 in favor of the Tigers.

“This group has been part of probably 15 or 18 one-goal losses over the last three years,” Gardiner coach Nic Wallace said. “This senior group, after last year, know how to win. They know how to play together and play hard.”

For a young Winslow team, it was not the start to the second half head coach Aaron Wolfe was looking for.

“We weren’t ready, and I think we lost our composure on that goal right after half,” Wolfe said. “We were a little disorganized and didn’t look like we were able to get back from that, and then it gave them another goal right away.

“It’s definitely difficult to play catch up against any team, let alone a team that’s very good. I thought that was the game.”

Lambrecht’s second of the match in the 54th minute pulled one back and made it 3-2, but Gardiner locked things down in another of the game’s key stretches. By weathering the storm in the initial few minutes after the hosts got back within a goal, the Tigers were able to add to their lead on the first of two headed Bourque goals at the back bar in the 62nd minute.

Bourque did it again in 80th minute stoppage time to seal the win and answer Tiner’s 65th-minute tap-in in traffic.

“I think it’s experience,” said Bourque, who has never seen a single playoff game during his career at Gardiner. “We’ve been playing together for 10 years, most of us, since elementary school. We’ve got a lot of good chemistry.

“We’ve dropped the first game of every season since I’ve started high school, so this is good to start off on a win, obviously.”

Winslow had chances for more than the three strikes they put past Gardiner goalkeeper Tim Doyle (11 saves) but had to count themselves unlucky.

Just 10 minutes in, Lambrecht — a workhorse in the left side of the penalty area whenever the Raiders were on the attack — clanged a shot off the far post that Doyle corralled after it rebounded back to him on the ground. It was part of a first half that saw Winslow carry play almost throughout — but showing nothing than a tie on the scoreline through the opening stanza.

Gardiner’s Jackson Tweedy (3) scores on Winslow goalie Jameson Carey in the first half Friday in Winslow. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

“Wasted opportunities,” Wolfe said. “We had many opportunities early. You can’t expect to have that many chances throughout the whole game. We definitely had them early, but we didn’t take advantage. That was another difference in the game.”

Perhaps the best effort all around on the day belonged to Bourque, who never set foot off the pitch. He played stretches along the back line when needed, won air balls in the midfield and was the funnel through which the Tigers attacked.

His brace was more than a fair representation of his workload.

“This was a huge win for us to start the year,” Wallace said. “It’s that stigma of getting to that next level. We want to be where the Maranacooks and the Winslows and the Erskines have been the past few years. This was the first step toward getting there.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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