Byline: Jay Gearan
GARDNER - After three straight road wins to open the season, the Gardner High hockey team returned to home ice last night and continued its impressive victory streak, cruising past Leominster, 7-1, at the Veterans Rink.
Senior captain Lucas Paine and junior Andrew Johnson scored two goals each, and senior Ed Hentnik notched the victory in net for the defending Central Mass. champions, who fired 44 shots on net.
"We have 11 seniors and 10 juniors, and I've never had a lineup like this," Gardner coach Jean-Guy Gagnon said. "They've been playing together for a long time, and they were all with us last year, too."
Gagnon praised the all-senior captain line of center Paine and wingers Tyler Leger and Eric O'Reilly, plus the hustling defensive work of captain Corey Grenier, Tyrone Notice and Ryan Cormier.
Skating strongly from the start, Gardner jumped to a 2-0 lead in just over three minutes. From the low left slot at 1:49, Damian Blodgett, a junior forward, backhanded in a rebound shot. Jordan Davis earned the assist.
At 3:18, Paine struck for his first goal, a wrister from the left circle after collecting a pass from Grenier.
Five minutes later, the Wildcats made it 3-0 following a neat two-on-one break across midice. Mike Whitehouse, on the left wing, snapped a sharp centering pass to Anson Airoldi, who netted a short wrist shot past the blocker of Leominster goalie Ryan DeMar.
Leominster's best bid in the first period came on a power play when Neil Gaudet fired a 10-footer that was snared by Hentnik. The Blue Devils pressured with hard skating from Kyle Turner, Joe Stelluto and Ethan LaFosse.
Four straight unanswered goals by the Wildcats in the second period iced the...