GORHAM–Tanner Garand put up two goals in the Rams’ season-opener vs. visiting Gardiner on Saturday night, Dec. 8. They were Gorham’s only two goals – but they were enough, as the Tigers managed just one on the night.

“Going into the game, I really didn’t know to expect,” Gorham head coach Jon Portwine said. “We hadn’t seen Gardiner since early in the season last year. They were a little young last year; looks like they’ve grown and gotten some numbers, and their goalie, I’m not sure where he came from, but he played a heck of a game.”

Max Dearborn manned the net for the Tigers.

“We got a lot of scoring chances, got the pucks to the net, did the little things I like to see us do,” Portwine said. “We had a lot of puck control in the offensive zone. But goals were hard to come by, and I think that’s because their goalie played so well.”

Gardiner opened on the attack, but didn’t control long before Gorham took over. The Tigers then logged their first pair of penalty minutes, two minutes for contact to the head. The Rams turned in a solid powerplay effort – that phase of the game has been a strength for them since last year – but couldn’t get on the board.

Gardiner ultimately earned the first goal of outing: Gabe Poirier put up the point, sliding right to left through the Gorham slot and beating freshman keeper Caleb Waterman with a wrister. Parker Smith and Cam Bourassa assisted.

The teams traded attacking stretches to begin the second period. The Tigers, though, committed the first mistake, incurring a five-minute major for boarding. Garand capitalized just under four minutes in: Lingering off the left Gardiner post, he picked up a pass from the opposite side, a Tyler Weeks feed, and punched it past Dearborn. Cole Perreault earned the second assist.

The Rams struggled to dig up offense last winter. That they had plenty of opportunities against the Tigers bodes well, but it’s difficult to say how things will shake out. The season is a long one.

“Well, we didn’t put up 10,” Portwine said. “But I think the guys will get confidence as the season goes on and we’ll establish some goal-scorers. Things are good in practice; the guys are working well together.”

“We did a good job on the power play, getting a lot of scoring opportunities; just didn’t get to finish,” Portwine said. “But we haven’t had a whole lot of time to practice it, so it was good we got as many opportunities as we did…Three of the five guys from last year are back, in the first (powerplay) group, and the two other guys that we plugged in there have done a good job too.”

Gardiner continued to rack up penalty minutes, practically begging the Rams to capitalize on another opportunity – they didn’t, but the Tigers were daring them to. No, when Gorham pulled ahead, late in the third, the sides were at even strength. Garand put this point on the board as well, scoring on assists by Trevor Gray and Perreault.

The Rams weren’t out of the woods quite yet: After Garand notched his second goal, he promptly picked up a penalty. Before he went to the box, however, Gorham iced the puck. Now the faceoff returned to their end. Gardiner yanked their goalie, and the Rams were faced with 45 long seconds of six-on-four action and a netminder playing in his varsity debut.

“It’s my best center in the box,” Portwine said of Garand’s minor. “I’m worried about who’s going to take the draw. They took a timeout, and I looked at Trevor Gray and Cole Perreault – were the two guys I was going to put on the ice up front. Typically, they don’t play center or take draws. I said, ‘Who’s going to take it?’ Cole stepped up. I think we won the faceoff, but we didn’t get it out.”

Waterman deserves credit: Gorham didn’t give up many shots (they finished with a 22-7 advantage) over the course of the evening, but Waterman turned in a couple of key saves – including one, a nimble blocker deflection, with maybe six seconds remaining in that last, desperate stretch. 2-1 the final.

“Caleb did a nice job. He’s been really solid from day one,” Portwine said. “He’s had a great attitude. There’s a lot of good things that are going to come for him.”

Gorham travels to Kennebunk/Wells on Wednesday, Dec. 12; they visit Marshwood/Traip/Noble/Sanford on Saturday the 15th.

Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

Ben Nault surveys his pass options.

Dom Lorello cuts through the corner for the Rams.

The sole freshman on the Rams’ roster is their new goalie, Caleb Waterman. Waterman turned in a handful of key saves – including a pair late – in his first varsity win.

Tanner Garand notched both of Gorham’s goals in their win over Gardiner.

Jonah Bird tracks a Tigers opponent.

Tyler Weeks had an assist in the Rams’ narrow win over Gardiner.

Senior Joey Curesky sees a lot of minutes on-ice for the Rams.

Gorhamite Peter Richards chases the play.

Cole Perreault kicked in two assists to the Rams’ winning effort.