Neither team found the back of the net in the first quarter, with not many chances either way (just two shots on goal apiece). Then the Tigers (1-1) found the back of the net early in the second quarter. Michael Poirier picked up his own rebound and beat Hawks goalie Isaiah Weston less than two minutes into the period.

Logan Clark made it 2-0 three minutes later, taking a feed from Connor Manter for a man-up goal.

“Everyone’s running out there frantic as soon as we’re down one-goal lead. Nobody was really playing,” Hawks coach Zach Stewart said. “I was taking seniors out and putting sophomores and freshmen in just to see if somebody else wanted to play. It was a really tough go there for a minute.”

“We were playing a little too soft. We weren’t playing aggressively. We weren’t fighting for the ground balls like we should,” Hawks senior Kyle Morand said. “We were probably playing too afraid.”

Ty Smith scored a man-up goal for the Hawks (2-0) midway through the second, but Poirier and Clark both scored again to extend the lead to 4-1 with four minutes left before halftime.

The half ended better than it started for the Hawks, who were hosting a game that was originally supposed to be played in Gardiner, but was moved due to a wet field. Zach Godbout scored with just under two minutes to play, then backup goalie Will Hayes came in for Weston — who went off after being called for a foul — and made a man-down save in the final minute.

“I talked to Will beforehand and said, ‘You know, there are going to come times as a backup keeper that you’re going to need to come up big,’ and he stood in there tall,” Stewart said. “This team sees that. That’s where it starts, at the goalie, and finishes on the offense. That was a really big thing at the end of the second quarter.”

Stewart told his team at halftime that the next goal would be huge.

“It could be a 4-3 game or a 5-2 game. How do you want this to be?” Stewart asked his team.

Smith answered that question in no time, firing a shot from the middle of the zone past Tigers goalie Spencer King 28 seconds into the third. A potential game-tying goal from Levi Emery was waved off two minutes later because of an offsides call on the Hawks, but that just delayed the inevitable. Sam Johnson did make it 4-4 just over a minute later, bouncing a shot from the top of the zone past King.

“I asked the guys to just dig a little bit deeper, and do a little bit more for yourself and do a little bit more for your team, and that’s exactly what they did in the second half,” Stewart said.

Morand said the team “turned it up a notch” in the second half, and he did that individually in the fourth quarter, scoring 23 seconds into the period and again 1:40 in. Smith added a hat-trick goal between Morand’s pair, and suddenly it was 7-4 Hawks.

“I think we imploded more than anything,” Gardiner coach KC Johnson said of his team’s second-half defense. “I think defensively we broke down a little bit more. Our team defense kind of broke down.”

Manter stopped the bleeding just over three minutes in, but Morand and Smith hooked up for Smith’s fourth goal of the game midway through the fourth.

Tristan Hebert cut the deficit to two with less than two minutes to play, and Clark nearly made it a one-goal game but hit the post in the final minute. He did the same thing late in the second quarter, when Hayes was filling in for Weston, who made seven saves.

Johnson said his team, which has just three seniors and a lot of underclassmen getting playing time, is still “searching it out” after going 10-3 last year.

The Hawks earned the No. 1 seed in last year’s Class B North playoffs and had an “unbelievable preseason” according to Stewart, followed by a 19-5 thrashing of Oak Hill in the first game of the season, but they were left doing some soul-searching at halftime on Tuesday.

They might have discovered some of that luster in a second half that saw the Hawks out-score Gardiner 6-2.

“We just came out a little slow. Got it going in the second half, and that was what we needed,” Morand said. “Still didn’t play our best game.”

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