OLD TOWN – It took a three-round penalty corner shootout to decide who would earn a spot in the Eastern Maine Class B field hockey final when No. 2 Old Town and No. 3 Gardiner met in a semifinal matchup Saturday.
After nothing could separate the two high school teams through regulation and two overtime periods, Old Town senior defensive back Kristyn Bell found the back of the cage on the team’s eighth shot of the shootout and the Coyote defense held strong on the Tigers’ ensuing try to clinch a berth in the finals with a 3-2 victory.
“It’s just really nice to end the senior year with something so exciting. This is huge,” Bell said.
“We played in a scrimmage before playoffs and we practiced [shootouts] and I thought, ‘oh I hope it never comes down to this,’ but we did good,” Old Town head coach Sarah Estes said. “They were ready. We really prepared before the postseason for anything that can happen.”
While the first half saw only one goal and a heavy dose of midfield play, the second provided much more end-to-end action that led to three quick goals in the opening 10 minutes.
The Tigers (12-4) generated more of the scoring chances in the first, though neither team was able to sustain much possession in the opening 30 minutes. Gardiner sophomore forward Nickyia Lovely netted the lone goal of the period off an assist by junior midfielder Abby Dyer midway through the half.
The Coyotes (14-1-1) answered less than five minutes into the second half on an unassisted effort by senior forward Tia Jackson on a shot from the right side of the box that beat Gardiner senior goaltender Emily Couture.
The Tigers went back up by one less than two minutes later on a goal by junior midfielder Lillian Chepke, who was assisted by senior midfielder Nicole Chadwick.
A goal by Old Town senior midfielder Kate Rawson less than 40 seconds later continued the back-and-forth play, knotting the score once again at two goals apiece.
“It was a great game. We played a well-coached team here today and we knew we were going to. We knew it was going to be a tough game. I think it was an even game all the way through,” Gardiner head coach Moe McNally said.
The two eight-minute, 7-on-7 overtime periods continued the even play. Neither squad was able to capitalize on some golden opportunities in front of goal, forcing the decisive shootout.
The Tigers, who beat Old Town in the Class B prelim game last season before falling in the quarterfinals, outshot the Coyotes by a 13-8 margin and held an 18-10 advantage in penalty corners Saturday, but could not beat Old Town senior netminder Erica Ogden in the shootout.
“We had some unfinished business left with them and we were just focusing all season,” Estes said. “The girls set a goal at the beginning of the season to get a banner and they’ve had their eyes on that prize the whole time.”
The Coyotes, who beat Waterville in the quarterfinals before their matchup with Gardiner, will face off against the top-seeded and unbeaten Nokomis Regional High School Warriors in the regional final Tuesday in Hampden.