HALLOWELL — Cony/Monmouth/Hall-Dale/Erskine boys hockey coach Shawn Johnson has been trying to hammer home one specific message so far this season.

“All of us as coaches have been really preaching intensity,” he said. “We have to work hard, or we’re not going to beat these teams.”

If Thursday was any indication, the message has been received. The Rams showcased a strong finishing kick, dominating the ends of both halves en route to a 6-0 victory over Gardiner at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault.

The win moved the Rams to 2-0 after a season-opening 3-2 victory over Capital Region, but the players knew this game was closer to the statement they want to be making as the season progresses.

“We struggled in the first game,” said forward Tyrell Sousa, who had a pair of goals and an assist. “I think we just pulled it together, really brought them down in the first half and just stayed on them the whole game. We weren’t really moving our feet in the first game, we were slow, we just didn’t control the game. This game, I think we turned it around.”

Hard work often manifests itself in conditioning, and the Rams’ stronger legs made the difference Thursday. Cony (2-0-0) had no goals in the first 10 minutes of either of the 23-minute halves, but piled up the chances as the periods wore on.

Jacob Godbout tallied the first goal on the power play with 12:35 left in the first half, and Nick Levesque, Jakob Varney and Tyrell Sousa (power play) followed with scores to make it 4-0 at halftime. The Rams and Tigers (0-3-0) matched each other at the start of the second half as well, but again, the action began to tilt Cony’s way, with Sousa and Luke Johnson rounding out the scoring.

“Winning a game like this feels pretty good against a rival team, 6-0. It’s a good feeling,” Levesque said. “With us focusing on stamina like we have been in practice, it’s starting to pay off. We’re starting to wear them down at the end of each period.”

“I said to them at the end of the game, I’m extremely proud that you guys took it to heart how important it was to work hard to beat a team,” Johnson said. “(Last year) they weren’t conditioned well enough. They were just dead-tired, they couldn’t do it. That’s been a focus this year as well, really trying to get their stamina up.”

The energy was there, and so was the focus. Cony did not get called for a penalty, which Johnson called “the icing on the cake.”

Cony/Hall-Dale/Monmouth/Erskine’s Joe Poulin, left, and Gardiner’s Darien Jamison go after the puck during a game Thursday at the Ice Vault in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“In 29 years I’ve been coaching, I can’t remember the last time Cony did not have a penalty against Gardiner,” he said. “I can’t ask anything more of them, to be mentally disciplined and to just focus on the game and work hard.”

With all facets clicking — the Rams also got solid goaltending from Matty Shea and Landon Foster — the spirits were high after what’s become a strong start to the season.

“Tonight, we moved the puck more,” Sousa said. “Our goalie in the first game really helped us with that win. I think we bounced back and helped our goalie out a little tonight, and it really showed.”

“Over some of the past years, we haven’t given that full effort, and we’ve left things on the table,” Johnson said. “It’s always bugged me. I’m trying so hard to change that mentality.”

Gardiner coach Tyler Wing said his team played closer to the Rams than the score suggested, but couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities it had.

“We’re a little inexperienced on the forward side. Losing nine seniors definitely put a change in how we play and how we operate,” he said. “But we’re getting there.”

The Tigers have shown their talent this season — they took a 3-0 lead over Kennebec earlier in the season before letting the River Hawks rally back for a 6-4 lead — but with youth and inexperience comes inconsistency, and Wing said his team struggled to find a rhythm Thursday.

“We definitely have ups and downs right now with the younger kids involved,” he said. “They don’t have the experience on how to handle certain adversities we’re facing right now. Especially only getting three practices a week, max, we’re behind the 8 ball on that.”

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