Mark Lissner admits there were probably five teams that could have taken home the USA Hockey Massachusetts District Girls’ Tournament title at the 16U Tier II level.
That’s how evenly matched and stacked that group was in Massachusetts.
Fortunately for Lissner, his squad, the East Coast Wizards, came out triumphant during the fall season.
“I think we’ve won four of the last six state championships at this level and the other two we lost were one we lost in the semifinals,” Lissner said. “This has been a good level for us for a long time.”
The Wizards (18-4-2) worked their way into the semifinals by winning against their first four opponents: Cape Cod Storm, 4-0; Charles River Blazers, 3-2; Massachusetts Spitfires, 3-1 and North Shore Vipers, 6-0.
In a semifinal matchup vs. the Boston Jr. Eagles, the Wizards were tied at 1-1 entering the third period. The Wizards then erupted for a pair of goals just over one minute into the period.
“That turned the game around from being a nail-biter to just being able to control the rest of the way,” Lissner said.
The Wizards notched two more goals to cruise to a 5-1 victory.
Against the Bay State Breakers in the championship game at the New England Sports Center on Dec. 1, the Wizards met their match. The two teams battled twice during the regular season with the Wizards holding a 1-0-1 record. There was just one goal scored total in those two games.
“Our goalies played well against them all year,” Lissner said.
For the title, the Wizards took advantage of a scoring opportunity early in the second period during a scoreless affair. Off the faceoff, forward Kathryn Karo worked her magic.
“She was right on the wall and she cut across, picked up the puck behind our center and really she just put it on net. I think the goalie was screened and it found a way through,” Lissner said. “Then Daphnee [Kalogeropoulos], our goalie, she played really, really well. She had a very strong tournament, especially in the championship game. She was really doing a good job controlling rebounds and being composed. It was really good for her.”
Kalogeropoulos finished with 20 saves as the Wizards held on, 1-0.
Lissner had his goalies split during the season, but Kalogeropoulos got the nod over Bridget Gray in the final two games. Lissner knew Kalogeropoulos’ confidence was sky high, and the coach rode the hot hand.
The way the Wizards played in the district tournament was a culmination of how solid the team played down the stretch.
Defense was the name of the game for the Wizards all season. They surrendered just 24 goals and pitched 11 shutouts in 24 games.
“We had three really good pairs,” Lissner said. “Our centers were really strong defensively. They did an unbelievable job of helping out down low in the defensive zone. They weren’t the biggest goal scorers that we had, but they were really solid in their own zone.”
Offensively, the Wizards put up 88 goals on the season. In the final 11 games, the team averaged 4.1 goals per game.
“There’s a lot of balance,” said Lissner, who had three accomplished former college hockey players as his assistants this season — Boston College’s Kristina Brown, University of Southern Maine’s Katie Davis and New England College’s Erica Lissner. “We had a lot of girls that could really shoot the puck.”
The Wizards played well down the stretch and became a much better team. It showed at the district tournament.
“We didn’t know when we started out that we’d get to this point,” Lissner said. “But we started to get it together in the last five or six weeks and really started to play our best.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.