HALLOWELL — The Gardiner boys hockey team learned a valuable lesson the last time they faced Cony.

Back in December, the Rams better navigated the emotions that come along with playing against a fierce rival and won the first of two games this season between the storied central Maine programs. In Thursday night’s rematch, Gardiner flipped the script.

Sophomore forward Cam Rizzo potted a hat trick as part of a four-point night and the Tigers skated off to a 5-2 Class B North win at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault to split the season series against Cony.

“All the energy in the rink helped,” said Rizzo, whose power play goal less than six minutes into the second period gave Gardiner (6-4-0) the lead for good. “The fans encourage a lot of stuff, but we kept our heads, kept our cool, and we just kept putting them away.”

Cony High School’s Matty Shea grabs the stick and puck as Gardiner’s Sean Michaud tries to score Thursday in Hallowell. Staff photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

On a night when Gardiner was the better team from start to finish — racking up a 32-21 shots on goal advantage and, more impressively, an 18-8 edge in Grade A scoring chances — it was the Tigers’ best player who was rewarded with the bulk of the points.

Cony ran into some fatigue as the game wore on, having played only 24 hours earlier in a 3-0 win over Capital Region on the road.

“Our emphasis was to not buy into the fans,” Gardiner coach Tyler Wing said.. “I love our fans to death, but they can turn a game south when they start cheering ‘the wrong way.’  It was focus on the game, leave it all on the ice, and 45 minutes of hard hockey is what we played.”

“There’s times when you play the best you can, you’re not going to win,” Cony coach Shawn Johnson said. “Tonight was one of those nights where the puck didn’t bounce our way and Cam Rizzo was on fire. It happens. I can’t fault the team — the effort was there.”

Outplayed in the first period, Cony (7-5-0) escaped with a 1-1 tie after Tyrell Sousa scored just 2:31 into the contest for a 1-0 lead. Rizzo’s first of the night less than four minutes later sent the two teams into the break knotted up.

“Cam came out firing on all cylinders and never looked back,” Wing said. “He kept turning it on harder and harder as the game went on.”

When Gardiner goalie Quinn Veregge (19 saves) misplayed a puck at the top of his own crease to hand Cony’s Jacob Godbout a goal — and the Rams the lead — at 2:43, it took Rizzo only 34 seconds to even things up yet again with a wraparound at the left post past Ram goalie Matty Shea (27 saves).

Ryan Kimball and Jake Weston added third-period goals for Gardiner. It was the perfect response to Godbout hitting the post with 10 seconds remaining in the second period to nearly rejuvenate Cony as a whole.

“We forechecked hard,” Rizzo said. “There was a lot of intensity, and when we got up we stayed up.”

“We didn’t seem like we had the quality shots they had,” Johnson said. “If we could have snuck something in, maybe it would have been a little better, but we just couldn’t generate that one spark.”

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