BANGOR, Maine — For most of this season, the Bangor Youth Hockey Tier IV Red Peewees have struggled to win, but coach Chris Tanis thought that might be the case because he has a number of players with limited experience.
“It’s been a long year for us,” said Tanis of his 11- and 12-year-olds. “We might have won three games all year.”
That is, until they played in the third annual March Showdown in southern Maine last weekend.
Bangor Red advanced out of round-robin play with a 3-0-1 record to face the Bangor White Peewees, also 3-0-1, in their age-group gold-medal match Sunday morning.
That, in itself, is a rare spectacle for the Showdown.
“Absolutely, especially in a 10-team division,” said tournament director Bob Berube. “It was a first for me.”
The Bangor White squad defeated Bangor Red 5-0 at the University of Southern Maine Ice Arena in Gorham.
Tanis was pleased with his team’s showing, despite the loss in the final.
“When the team got to the tournament, they had a lot of success right from the start,” he said.
They won the tourney opener, tied their second game Friday, then posted two wins Saturday to earn the No. 1 seed and the spot in the championship final.
The Red Peewees had come along way to get there, according to Tanis.
“The team spent the whole season, pretty much, learning basic skills,” Tanis said.
Some of the kids had a lot of experience, while others were starting from scratch. His goalie, for instance, had been a skater in the past but he decided to play goalie this year.
Tanis worked with them all, and he played them all equally.
The Red Peewees even had a hand in the White Peewees’ getting to the final.
“Their goalie was [out], and they didn’t have a backup,” said Tanis. “We gave them our normal goalie [who wanted to be a skater again] for their first game.”
Bangor White won 9-3.
“They [Bangor White] gave him a gold medal, too,” said Tanis, acknowledging the gesture.
When Berube started the March Showdown tournament for youth hockey house teams, he designed it so that teams from Maine would face mostly out-of-state teams.
Berube is the owner of Maine Hockey Development, which conducts the March Showdown as well as other hockey tournaments throughout the year. He tries to set up the youth hockey tournaments with approximately 70 percent out-of-state teams and 30 percent in-state.
That’s so the Maine teams can play against teams they won’t normally see in the course of a season.
Teams in each age group — Mites (ages 6-8), Squirts (9-10), Peewees (11-12) and Bantams (13-14) — played a four-game round robin (two on Friday and two on Saturday) before the teams were matched, based on their records, for Sunday’s final game.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw it” that Bangor’s two Peewee teams would be facing each other, said Berube.
In the final, Alex Bloomer led the White Peewees with three goals, and Nick Boudreau and Matthew Delp added one each. A.J. Meo was the goalie, while Jacob Henry was the Red Peewees goalie.
Adding to the rare occasion was when Berube noticed that two of the teams battling for the Peewee bronze medal also were local, from the Skating Association of Maine based in Hallowell. The SAM Red team downed SAM Blue 6-3 in that game.
In the other age groups, the SAM Red Squirts topped Henniker (N.H.) 4-3 for the gold, the Maranacook of Readfield Mites took gold with a 4-3 victory over Seacoast of Dover, N.H., and Wilbraham Twin Meadows (Mass.) edged the Portland Junior Pirates 3-2 to win the Bantams title.
This tournament for house teams, which Berube began three ago, is an outgrowth of one that he started for Class AAA teams seven years ago.
“It’s just exploded [in popularity],” he said. “I don’t know why nobody thought of this before.”
He tries to make the event as much fun as possible for the families as well as the players. No game starts before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m.
They also play longer 70-minute games (total time, including stoppages for whistles) instead of 60 so the fans feel like they’ve seen a full game.
He also was pleased to see that even though teams from the same association played against each other, they were friendly contests. After the game, the Bangor Peewees posed together for a team photo and the SAM Peewees did the same thing.
That’s the kind of feeling Berube wants to see in the tournament.
“It makes me quite pleased to see everybody so happy,” he said.
“I think a fun time was had by all,” said Tanis. “The kids had a blast.”
Maine Hockey Development is hosting a tournament this Friday through Sunday for Tier III teams from Squirts through Bantams, plus Under-12 Girls and Tier II Squirts. A tourney for Tier II Peewees and Bantams plus U14 and U16 Girls is set for March 22-24.
Bangor Red Peewees
Coaches Chris Tanis and John Henderson
Zac Buchanan, Garreth Alley, Mike Shaw, Curran Granger, Spencer Dieuveuil, Jacob Johnson, JoJo Picone, Zach Grant, John Archambault, Gavin Tanis, Sam Lilley, Garrett Henderson, Jacob Henry
Bangor White Pee Wees
Coaches Max Daviault and George Walls
Jack Lalime, Connor Rae, Alex Walls, Anthony Caccese, Matthew Delp, Connor Reese, Drew Lally, Nevin Daviault, Patrick MacDonald, Alexander Bloomer, Nick Boudreau, AJ Meo