The latest issue of USA Hockey Magazine features a full-page article on the Valley Jr Warriors Junior A squad. Head Coach Andy Heinze provides insight on the returners and newcomers who will certainly make this a season to watch. And, as writer Mike Klein points out, it will be a season where the sky is truly the limit for these players. The following article appeared in the latest issue of USA Hockey Magazine. Read on to hear all about how the sky is truly the limit for this year's Valley Jr Warriors Junior A squad.
Despite last season's strong showing in the Eastern Junior Hockey League's Northern Division, always-ambitious head coach Andy Heinze has decided to start anew.
Heinze's Valley Jr. Warriors squad returns just three players, albeit three integral pieces of last year's puzzle. Heinze looks to mold his young team into a welloiled machine.
Chris Wilcox, the team's lone returning defenseman, looks to lead the defensive corps throughout the season. The Hollywood, Fla., native brings his solid, two-way game back to the Warriors' blue line after heating up in the second half. According to Heinze, the playmaking defenseman will undoubtedly be a large contributor, only building on the 17 points he scored last season. He'll also be indispensable in showing the rookies the ropes.
"Defensively, Wilcox will be our leader," Heinze said. "He's been dominant all summer and makes great decisions on the ice. He also has the character that will push him into a leadership role."
Up front, the duo of Eric Peterson and Eric Ward will lead Heinze's troops. Peterson, a 1988- born forward, netted nine goals and added eleven assists in last year's campaign. Ward is a defensive forward who can also light the lamp when he gets hot. Heinze considers Ward a bona fide Division 1 prospect who can make an impact in college hockey. Both will continue to fit in well with the Valley system that emphasizes a strong team effort instead of a few individual standouts.
"Their experience and understanding of the EJHL will help us climb up the ladder," Heinze said. "We've always been a well-rounded scoring team. We don't have anyone who can score 40 goals, but we have a lot who are capable of 20. Everyone will contribute this season."
The Warriors also have both veteran leadership and new blood in the crease, and goaltenders Ryan Casey and Kevin Lowthert will be called upon to keep the opposition off the scoreboard. Casey is new to the Warriors organization, but played for the Bridgewater Bandits last season, where he finished in the top 10 for goals-against-average and in the top 15 for save percentage.
Lowthert comes to Haverhill from the Tri-State Selects of the Empire League.
"Casey proved he could play in the EJHL last season, and Lowthert showed promise last year," Heinze said. "Lowthert didn't have the team in front of him, but I know he can get the job done here. Both goaltenders can play, so we're pretty confident in them."
These and other newcomers have already shown promise with strong showings in the Eastern Hockey Showcase spring and summer tournaments.
"Nick Marquis and Mike Jangro will have immediate success in the league," predicts Heinze. "MarkJackson, a top player from the Midwest, will also have a great season. He has the experience and the skill to be successful and he plays with a lot of intensity."
Jordan Sims also joins the team after a successful midget career. "The big question mark on our new players is how they adjust to the junior level," Heinze said. "All of them have good awareness on the ice, but there's always an acclimation period. Every year, there are guys who are going to step up right away and take advantage of their opportunities, and others will need some time to get up to speed.
"The new players will definitely solidify the lineup," Heinze added. "We have a group of great kids, and they'll allow us to bring a team kind of game to the league, and we hope to sustain that throughout the season."
With a proven system and a promising group of young players, the sky is the limit for the Valley Jr. Warriors.