Club Sports Report

Freeze Bantams’ state hockey championship continues player, team development

Posted March 02, 2012, at 8:18 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Cameron Burpee of Bangor enjoyed the state championship his Maine Freeze Bantams Tier III team earned Sunday afternoon.

“It was cool. It doesn’t happen very often,” said Burpee, 13. “It was nice to experience it.”

The Freeze routed the Southern Maine Travel Lightning out of Biddeford 8-1 in the 13-14 age group.

A total of 12 state champions were crowned over the weekend.

Among the squirts (ages 9-10) on Saturday morning and afternoon, Lewiston Gray won the Tier IV title over Brewer Black and the Maine Gladiators of Lewiston-Auburn swept Tier III and Tier II. Lewiston Black took the crown for Tier IV peewees (ages 11-12) in the afternoon and Casco Bay won both Tier III and Tier II.

Lewiston won the girls under-12 Tier II championship Sunday morning, edging Casco Bay in overtime, followed by Lewiston U-14 girls tipping Casco Bay by a goal in regulation. The Portland Junior Pirates U-16 girls went four overtimes before downing Central Maine Youth Hockey.

Auburn White won Tier IV bantams 2-0 over Central Maine Youth Hockey and Casco Bay nipped Maine Freeze 1-0 in Tier II.

The Maine Freeze Bantams had dominated Tier III play during the season, posting a 15-3-1 record in regular-season play, including against the Lightning. The Freeze finished in the top two in the round-robin stage, along with the Lightning, to set up the state final.

“Our confidence going in was very high, so we were comfortable playing,” said Burpee. “Once we started racking up goals, our confidence went up.

“I felt we would win if we kept our composure.”

The “we” part is the key factor that coach Lance Ingerson was happiest to see from his players, an attitude they have had all season.

“They want each other to do well,” Ingerson said.

“From Day 1, the biggest area [of emphasis] has been team play,” he added. “Everything we do is for the team.”

It takes a steadily improving group of players to maintain any success, as a player as well as a team.

“To develop individual skills all season is the key,” he said. “Whether you’re a beginner or in the NHL, you still have to develop your skills.”

Ingerson believes those skills are the same as they always have been.

“I tell the kids, the game hasn’t changed in 100 years,” said Ingerson. “You still need to develop the skills they had 100 years ago.”

Making the jump to the next ability level requires steady improvement in the execution of those skills.

“They have to develop and grow into the next level,” said Ingerson.

Ingerson has noticed that continuous development.

“The difference is drastic” between the players’ skills at the beginning of the season and where they are now, said Ingerson.

“They’ve improved a lot in all of us,” said Burpee.

The postseason isn’t over for some of the teams, including the Freeze Tier III bantams. They will play in a New England District sectional March 16-18 in Rhode Island. The same weekend, the Freeze’s Tier II bantams play in the NED sectional in Connecticut, and the Freeze’s Tier II peewees will be in the NED regional in Vermont March 9-11 along with the third-place Breakers of Southern Maine Travel.

The Casco Bay Tier II peewees and Tier II bantams earned national berths at Reston, Va., and Wayne, N.J., respectively. Their Tier III peewees are going to the district sectional in Massachusetts to be held March 16-18.

The Lewiston U-12 and U-14 girls will be going to the district regionals March 9-11 in Rhode Island, and the Junior Pirates’ U-16 and U-19 teams will be at district regionals in Connecticut. Winners of the girls regionals, and potentially some runners-up, advance to the nationals March 28-April 1 in Irving, Texas.

The Gladiators’ Tier II squirts are playing this weekend at the Colisee, and their Tier III squirts will play in the District sectional in Vermont March 16-18.

3 Majestix teams at nationals

Three age-group indoor field hockey teams from the Maine Majestix, based in Waterville, are taking part in the National Indoor Tournaments or will be.

The Majestix Under-19 team started its tournament in Virginia Beach, Va., with two games Friday night. The team will play three on Saturday and the final two on Sunday.

The U-16 and U-14 squads will play March 9-11 in Richmond, Va.

The fields are divided into eight-team round robins, and there are 15 divisions in the U-19 bracket. The Majestix are in bracket A, which is significant.

“There are 11 regions in USA Field Hockey,” said Brian Bernatchez, co-owner of the Majestix along with his wife, Amy. “Because [the Majestix] won the Northeast Regional, they’re in the pool with the other winners.

“They’re playing against the very best teams from other regions and playing against some of the very best players in the country.”

The U-16 team is in section H after finishing fifth at their regional. The U-14 squad is in section O, but that’s a little misleading because there are no regional qualifiers. Organizations interested in sending a team to the U-14 nationals have to call at a certain time and it’s first-come, first-served for 48 spots.

“It’s unfortunate they do it that way,” said Bernatchez. “There are about 50 clubs in Pennsylvania alone. They sold out in about a minute.”

Indoor field hockey used to be relatively rare, according to Bernatchez, but not now.

“All the clubs are doing indoor,” he said. “And the colleges all want their players playing indoor because it’s [a] faster [game]. It really helps develop skills.”

The games are played on a hard surface such as a basketball court with six players instead of the usual 11 of outdoor games.

Team rosters number eight or nine players and are strictly enforced.

The Majestix U-19 goalie, Lexi Cole, took sick at the regional and never played.

“We won the regional championship with two girls who had never played goal before,” said Bernatchez.

While the tournaments draw recognition, it’s not the point of their program.

“Our whole focus is training, and tournaments are the reward,” he said.

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