After losing in the league semifinals, it is tough for a team to rebound and gather itself for the next challenge. That was not the case with this year’s Valley Jr Warriors U 16 II team.
The Warriors lost in the Massachusetts Tier II Midget Development League semifinals to South Boston in overtime. Despite the frustration and disappointment, Head Coach Ed Mathews found a way to pull his team together and the result was nothing short of magical. The Warriors squad went on to win four games en route to capturing the 2008 Massachusetts State Championship title and a chance to compete at the USA Hockey Tier 1 & II National Tournaments in April 2009.
“After losing to South Boston in the league playoffs and going down to Quincy early in the states the boys really picked up their game,” said Mathews. “They stepped up as a team to play the best hockey they have played all year. As a coach I could not have asked anymore then what these boys have given me on and off the ice. They are a great group of hard working young men that leave everything on the ice for their team.”
Heading into state championship weekend, the VJW U 16 II squad was basking in a successful regular season where it posted an impressive 12-1 record. One of the only disappointments of the season was the tough loss to South Boston – a 5-4 finish – in the league semifinals. That loss, although frustrating at the time, set the stage for great things to come.
In the all-important state championship battle, the Warriors took on tough challenges in the form of the Senators, Quincy, South Boston and the South Shore Seahawks.
Mathews’ squad started off strong with a come-from-behind victory over Quincy. In that contest, the Warriors – despite a tally by Billy Boudreau (he was assisted by Colin Edwards and Greg Tremblay) – found themselves trailing 2-1 after two periods. The third stanza was all about the Warriors, however, as the team exploded for four goals. Tremblay began the scoring barrage off assists by Edwards and Jonathan Ahern. One minute later, Zander Buttress gave the Warriors their first lead of the game to make it 3-2. He was assisted by Owen LaValley and David Evans. Edwards (from Cam Roy and Boudreau) and TimWurman capped off the scoring run to ice Quincy by a score of 5-2.
“The boys started off real slow,” said Mathews. “Once they finally settled down and played their game they really took it to Quincy.” The Warriors next suffered a 2-1 loss against the Senators. After falling behind 2-0 in the third period, Boudreau cut the lead to one with just under three minutes to go but that was as close as the team would come.
“I thought the boys played well,” noted Mathews. “I thought that we out played the Senators, but we just could not put the puck away.”
Finishing was not a problem in the next game as the Warriors skated to a 4-3 win over South Boston to earn a spot in the semifinals. For the third straight game, however, Mathews’ team found themselves facing an early deficit. This time around, it was a three-goal outburst in a 2:27 span in the second period propelled the team to victory. Boudreau, Wurman and Jonathan Pate (2) led the way offensively for the Warriors.
The Warriors continued its offensive momentum as it defeated South Boston for the second time in the tournament, this time by a score of 3-0. Roy, Atienza and Gaven LaValley all scored for the Warriors.
The Warriors then had to face South Boston again in the semifinals the next morning. Roy, Atienza and LaValley all scored in that 3-0 win.
“This was by far the best game we played all year,” said Mathews. “The boys won every loose puck and played the body from start to finish.”
In the much-anticipated state championship game – with a trip to Nationals on the line – both finalists came ready to play when the Warriors faced off against the South Shore Seahawks.
After a scoreless first period, the Warriors took its first lead thanks to Wurman off assists by Bingaman and Pate. The Seahawks evened the score midway through the second period, but the Warriors struck again to make it 2-1 off a Jake Kulevich goal. The Warriors hung on to salvage the 2-1 lead and capture the state championship.
The Warriors had a balanced attack all year up front with the lines of Wurman, Pate and Bingaman, Edwards, Tremblay and Roy, Evans, LaValley and Tyler Smith, Jarrod Hines and Eric Costa.
On defense, the Warriors were led by Boudreau, Ahern, Atienza, Buttress, Kulevich, Alex King and JCWinslow. The team was backstopped all year long by Craig Cataldo and Michael Mathews.
The Warriors U 16 II team is coached by Mathews, who is assisted by Greg Tremblay, Bob Wesley and Mike Holubowich.
This year’s USA Hockey Tier 1 & II National Tournaments will be held in Chesterfield, MO.
Congratulations to the entire team and good luck at Nationals!!