GARDINER — The Gardiner boys soccer team carried a winning record into Tuesday night’s game with Cony, as well as, in coach Nic Wallace’s mind, a glaring flaw.

“We’ve been, really, a slow-starting team,” he said. “Giving up early goals in five of our six games so far.”

The Tigers scratched one question mark off the list Tuesday. Jackson Tweedy scored three minutes into the game, Casey Bourque had an assist on one goal and a helping hand on two others, and Gardiner defeated Cony, 3-1, at Hoch Field.

“It was so big. We haven’t done it all year,” Tweedy said about Gardiner’s early push. “We’ve been always a goal down early and having to fight back. Getting a goal up early gave us so much more momentum.”

Gardiner also got second-half goals from Cam Kokernak and Jake Tobias en route to improving to 4-2-1. Cony (1-5-0) had chances to strike back, but failed to convert on its best looks.

“We need to finish,” coach Jon Millett said. “We have opportunities, we need to finish and convert on them, because if we do that, our record’s completely different.”

Gardiner got going quickly, as Bourque sent a ball down toward the right side near the goal line and Tweedy was able to tap it by Cony keeper Joao Benoini (five saves) for the 1-0 lead.

“When Casey Bourque has the ball, he knows where I am, I know where he is,” Tweedy said. “(I kick it) low and away every single time. He’s a super tall keeper, 6-4, 6-5. If you just keep it low he’s not going to be quick enough to get down there.”

Gardiner started fast in the second half as well, with Bourque having a point-blank shot saved by Benoini and Tweedy having a follow-up shot rattle off the post in the 41st minute. The Tigers got that sequence to work minutes late, however, with Bourque firing a shot that Benoini stopped and Kokernak redirecting the save home in the 52nd minute.

Cony appeared to jump back into the game in the 75th minute when Miqueas Biasuz was brought down in the box by Keeling Dorogi, resulting in a penalty kick that Biasuz calmly netted to make it 2-1. Any swing in momentum was dashed within the minute, however, as Bourque again fired a shot that Benoini again saved, and this time Tobias was on hand to follow up with a goal for a 3-1 lead.

“Goals like that are really important, because it shows them that we’re not just going to let them push us over,” Tobias said. “Even if they get a goal we’re still playing, we’re still playing hard and we’re still putting goals in the back of the net.”

The response impressed Wallace.

“It’s a sign of growth,” he said. “This group of juniors and seniors has had 12 to 15 one-goal losses over the last three seasons. For us now to be able to respond … that’s a big sign of growth to me.”

So was the Gardiner defense. Cony had chances, the best of which came in the 19th minute when Alex Cousins outraced defenders to the ball and fired a shot from up close that Timmy Doyle (four saves) was able to deflect away, but throughout the game a unit led by Dorogi, Tucker Boudreau and Logan Keene kept Cony midfielders and forwards frustrated on their attempts to get the ball through.

“Our biggest question mark was the defense at the beginning of the year,” Wallace said. “And I think we started to solidify that and started to grow. As they grow, our team gets better and better.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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