HALLOWELL — Just as it had last year, Gardiner ended Messalonskee’s promising season with an overtime game-winner. This time around, though, it counted.

After keeping the Eagles out of the 2021 Covid Cup — an exhibition, end-of-year tournament for central Maine teams — with an overtime win last February, the Tigers bit again. Senior Connor Whitley jammed home the deciding goal in the final minute of overtime to lift No. 8 Gardiner to a 3-2 upset of top-seeded Messalonskee in the Class B North boys hockey quarterfinals Wednesday night at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault.

“It’s all about luck and how the puck plays,” Whitley said. “You’ve just got to look around and see what’s happening. Hopefully, you get lucky and the puck plays well. Tonight, it did.”

The Tigers will meet either Camden Hills or John Bapst in Saturday’s regional semis.

That Whitley had a chance to push the Tigers (8-9-0) into the next round was due in large part to the play of Gardiner’s senior goalie Sean Doyle. Doyle made 43 saves to hold Messalonskee (10-3-1) at bay.

“Their goaltender won the game,” Messalonskee coach Dennis Martin said. “He stood on his head. … He was why we’re turning in our gear.”


“I couldn’t ask for a better goalie for that game,” Gardiner coach Tyler Wing said. “He made saves that I didn’t think were possible, made a huge save toward the end of the third that kept us in it.”

Messalonskee went up 2-1 when Grayson Podey’s seeing-eye shot through traffic beat Doyle at 10:10, and the Eagles appeared to be in the driver’s seat.

Gardiner immediately called timeout, regrouped, and turned a quick transition up ice into the tying goal at 12:21 courtesy of Chase Kelley.

In overtime, Doyle turned away all seven Messalonskee shots.

The puck flips over Gardiner goalie Sean Doyle’s head as he and Messalonskee’s Jacob Thomas collide while he is makes a save during a Class B North quarterfinal hockey game Wednesday in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I’ll give it to (Messalonskee), they’re a really skilled team, but I think it came down to heart,” said Doyle, who was in the net for Gardiner’s OT win over Messalonskee last year. “The stress is definitely higher in overtime. It’s a lot easier to focus on things if you just treat it like it’s any other period.”

Doyle made more than his share of highlight-reel saves.


In the second period, he lost his stick but still managed to turn in a pair of point-blank stops on Eagles Owen Kirk and Bryce Crowell. In overtime, he sprawled across the nice to stop Kirk — Messalonskee’s leading scorer this season — on a breakaway.

“He was outstanding, had tons of really good saves,” Whitley said. “He was what got us the win, in my opinion.”

The teams were even on the scoreboard through two periods, just as they had been at the end of regulation.

Messalonskee opened the scoring in the final minute of the first period, cashing in on a faceoff play out of the left wing circle. Crowell won the draw to Kirk at the top of the circle, and Kirk walked out front to beat Doyle at 14:05.

Gardiner’s Connor Whitley celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to beat Messalonskee in a Class B North quarterfinal Wednesday at The Camden National Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

It was the second of two consecutive set plays off the draw, the first of which Doyle snuffed out.

Gardiner couldn’t capitalize on a pair of second-period power plays, but the Tigers found the equalizer nonetheless. Like Messalonskee’s first, the goal came in the late stages of the frame.

An Eagle turnover in their own corner floated right to Garrett Doyle, and Doyle had all the time he needed to pick his spot over the shoulder of Messalonskee netminder Gio Caccamo (24 saves) at 13:44.

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