During a particularly frigid night inside the Camden National Bank Ice Vault this winter, Gardiner boys hockey coach Sam Moore watched Evelyn Hinkley and was succinct in his evaluation of the senior.

“If she was a boy, she’d be the best player on my team right now,” Moore proclaimed.

That was not a knock on Moore’s Tigers, a young team that had its share of struggles this season. Instead, it served notice just how dominant a force the senior was for the Winslow/Gardiner girls co-op hockey team. A center, Hinkley was a finalist for the Becker Shaffer Award given to the state’s top female player while leading the Black Tigers to the program’s first appearance in the regional semifinals.

For her efforts this season, Hinkley has been named the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel Hockey Player of the Year.

Cony senior Cole Lockhart and Waterville senior Chase Wheeler were also considered.

“She’s just a worker, and she worked very hard for us,” Winslow/Gardiner head coach Alan Veilleux said of Hinkley. “Through that hard work came a lot of the offense she generated for us.”

Hinkley finished with 34 goals and 60 points this season for the Black Tigers, who were in their second year as a program, averaging 1.7 goals and 3.0 points per game. On seven different occasions, Hinkley ended the night with at least three goals.

Not surprisingly, she deflected most of the attention she generated onto her linemates Anna Chadwick and Sarah Stevens.

“I really felt like we were connected this year,” Hinkley said. “Specifically my line with Anna and Sarah, I felt like we could carry things at times.”

In his first year as head coach, Veilleux was a volunteer assistant coach with the team in 2016-17. He wasn’t surprised to see Hinkley blossom into one of the state’s best players.

In fact, he remembered a summer practice two years ago that set the tone for Hinkley.

“We had some summer skates with the girls a couple years ago, and the girls that Gardiner put out were very advanced in skills. We knew they were going to help us out,” Veilleux recalled. “One of those first practices we had, Evelyn took a girl right into the boards. She was a very strong physical presence on the ice.

“I knew that was going to be a big plus for us.”

Hinkley’s favorite moments from her senior season included a win over Brunswick during the regular season, when both she and Chadwick had hat tricks en route to a 6-1 victory. It was one of several multi-goal games for Hinkley.

It also came in the final week of the regular season, at a time when the opposition had become well aware of how good Hinkley was.

“It is difficult sometimes, especially when people are looking at you,” Hinkley said. “With my dad (assistant coach John Hinkley) and my best friend (Chadwick) on the ice with me, I had people to fall back on. I had support there, andI knew I was fine.”

Hinkley’s selection as Player of the Year is groundbreaking, as she becomes the first girls hockey player to be so honored by the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Considering she was a member of the Gardiner boys team for the first two years of her career — before the Tigers entered into the co-op with Winslow — it’s should come as no surprise she was capable of blossoming into an impact player at the girls level.

She hopes that more girls continue to to pursue hockey, particularly in Gardiner now that the sport is being offered as a standalone for girls there.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Hinkley said. “It’s really great starting to get more girls playing hockey, especially now that we have a high school team in Gardiner. Hopefully it gets more girls playing and shows them that girls are capable of doing anything the boys can do.”

“This is a huge accomplishment for her,” Veilleux said. “She’s played at many levels all the way up through. She’s leading the way for girls hockey for the future of girls hockey. This is what girls hockey needs, this type of recognition. It’s deserving. She earned it.

“I think she’s a great ambassador for the sport.”

Hinkley is currently exploring her options for college hockey, including Maine schools such as the University of New England and the University of Southern Maine.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC