Oh my! Tigers nip Lions in late-season clash of undefeated foesBelfast hits road for battle of Class B North's top opponents
Gardiner — It seemed fitting that the outcome of the high school field hockey game between Belfast and Gardiner — two of the three remaining unbeaten squads in Class B North and two squads clearly separated by the slimmest of margins — was one goal.
The game between the Lions and Tigers on Thursday, Oct. 6 was a physical one from start to finish, with the opponents clawing for a victory that would make the winner the clear-cut top seed in the 14-team region.
In the end, the ball bounced in the direction of the Tigers, who found the back of the cage with 14:31 remaining in regulation for the lone score en route to a 1-0 victory for the hosts.
The Tigers held an 8-3 edge in penalty corners through the first 30 minutes and continued to generate those chances in the second half as they ultimately held a 14-7 advantage over the Lions in that regard.
The lone tally of the game came off Gardiner’s 12th penalty corner of the game, which was inserted by Sarah Morgan.
Morgan found Hailee Lovely near the top of the circle and made a crisp pass to Mikayla Bourassa near the endline, who snuck it past Lion goalie Morgan Fernald near post, in a scrum of players, for the game-winning tally.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Belfast coach Jan Holmes-Jackson. “It was just a bad bounce and it went in. It happens on grass sometimes. But I was happy with the way we finished. We had some chances to tie it up and felt like my team played really well. We knew it was going to be tough. It’s tough to win over here.”
The Tigers did well shutting down Belfast's transition offense, which the Lions attempted numerous times firing aerials over the Gardiner defense to their forwards, but generated few quality chances at the cage.
Gardiner held a 5-4 edge in shots. Fernald made three saves in the cage for the Lions and Avery Backus four saves in goal for the Tigers.
Morgan handled inserts for the hosts on the day, in addition to drawing the defensive assignment of marking Belfast’s Kylie Nelson throughout the contest.
Belfast’s Lindsay Bruns suffered a hip injury with 23:14 left in regulation and missed significant time on the field in the second half.
The Lions had three green cards throughout the game — each two-minute penalties — and a yellow card issued to Bruns — a five-minute penalty — with 9:48 left in regulation.
The penalty to Bruns and the green card issued to Alia Wallace overlapped in time, meaning the Lions battled the Tigers down two players for nearly 90 seconds.
Holmes-Jackson said she was not surprised by the physical play from both teams. Gardiner also was issued a green card in the second half.
“I knew it would be [physical],” said Holmes-Jackson. “They’re aggressive and we play aggressive. We’re hoping we can continue to win and face them on turf eventually [down the line].”
Belfast had scoring chances in the game’s waning minutes, but ultimately could not push the tying goal into the cage.
Belfast and Gardiner have enjoyed stretches, of four straight games at various points throughout the season, of shutting out opponents.
The Lions started the season with shutout wins over Winslow, Waterville, Spruce Mountain of Jay and Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston, while the Tigers had a midseason streak of shutout victories over Morse of Bath, Maranacook of Readfield, Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield and Lincoln Academy of Newcastle.
It was the 10th time this season the Tigers prevailed by shutout and fifth game in 13 tries they prevailed by a single score.
Gardiner has outscored opponents 48-3 on the campaign and Belfast has outscored opponents 47-4.
In the Maine Principals’ Association Heal Point Standings for Class B North, Belfast (11-1, 123.4694 points) is second, while Gardiner (13-0, 143.6224 points) is first in the 14-team region. The top 10 teams qualify for the playoffs.
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Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. Haskell has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School. He has won multiple Maine Press Association awards for writing and photography.
Mark loves the Boston Red Sox, iced coffee, cargo shorts and time with friends and family.
He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn, his sons Beckett and Austin and daughter Lila.
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