ORONO, Maine — The sign taped on the glass behind the bench of the Wonderland Wizards of Bridgeport, Conn., expressed the team’s philosophy.
“Hustle and Heart Sets Us Apart,” it read, and they made it happen Sunday afternoon.
The Wizards held off Darien, Conn., 4-2 in the championship game of the New England District Tier II Peewees Regional at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena.
The long bus ride back to Connecticut marked the end of a 65-game season for the Wizards.
“We were 61-4,” said a pleased Carl Larouche, the Wizards’ head coach.
“We had about 65 practices as well,” he said. “They’re fast-paced, high-intensity workouts.”
All of that time together has helped the team bond, said Larouche.
“They have good chemistry, on and off the ice,” he said.
Peewees is for players who were 11 or 12 years old before Sept. 1, 2012.
Larouche tries to set up his 17-player team so he has 13 older players and four younger ones so he will have some players each year who can help the newcomers adjust.
The two Connecticut teams in the eight-team tournament, which includes all of the New England state except Massachusetts, eliminated the two Maine representatives in the morning semifinals. New Hampshire also sends two teams to New England District regionals, while Vermont and Rhode Island send one each.
The four semifinalists advanced to Sunday play by virtue of finishing among the top two teams in the two divisions of pool play Friday and Saturday.
The Wonderland Wizards shut out Casco Bay of Portland 4-0 in Sunday’s first game, while the Darien Wave stopped the Maine Freeze of Greater Bangor 5-2 in the second game.
Darien’s lead over the Freeze was only 3-2 early in the third period before the Wave added its fourth goal several minutes into the third period followed later by an empty-netter to close out the scoring.
This was the third time in recent weeks the two Connecticut teams, which are about 25 miles apart on Long Island Sound, have met in a title game with the Wizards prevailing each time.
The Wizards defeated the Wave 4-3 on March 3 to win their Peewee Tier II state championship and also topped the Wave 2-1 in February to win the Eastern Hockey Federation AAA Invitational.
The Wizards jumped out to a 3-0 lead early in the second period before the Wave rallied to cut the margin to 3-2 with less than six minutes to play on an Edward Glassmeyer score.
Kevin Oricoli’s empty-net goal with 56 seconds left sealed the win.
Stephen Panico scored first for Wonderland in the first period when he grabbed the puck near the right corner, deftly worked his way left across the top of the crease and flipped the puck past the Wave’s James Tait. Later in the period, Brendan MacDonald grabbed a loose puck between the circles and zipped it past a screened Tait. Ryan Eckert posted a goal in the second period to grab the 3-0 lead.
Glassmeyer scored Darien’s first goal in the second period on a breakaway about four minutes after Eckert’s tally.
Goalies Ricky Offenberg for the Wizards and James Tait for the Wave picked up key saves that kept the game from getting out of reach.
The Wizards had a 5-on-3 power play for more than a minute in the second period, but Tait and his teammates kept the Wizards scoreless throughout the Wave’s shorthanded stretch.
“This was a very good game,” said Larouche. “It was back and forth.”