Yet another Valley Jr Warriors player has found a balance between athletics and academics. Brian Ward, a key member of Mike Holubowich's U-16 Midget team, recently announced that he will be taking his hockey skills and smarts to Dartmouth College.
In addition to his unwavering commitment to the Warriors over the years, Ward was the leading scorer at Governor's Academy and was the recipient of the Best Pro Prospect Award at the 36th annual Hockey
Night in Boston Tournament which was held at the Haverhill Valley Forum.
Gaining attention from top Division 1 coaches is nothing new for Ward, who was just an eighth grader when he was selected to compete at the USA Hockey Select 14 Player Development Camp. Two years later, Ward was a shining star when he competed in the 2008 USA Hockey Boys Select 16 Player Development Camp in Rochester along with several of his Warrior teammates. As a result of his outstanding performance and selection of Dartmouth College as his next challenge, Ward was featured in a recent issue of the Eagle-Tribune. Here is a copy of that article. All photos are courtesy of Angie Beaulieu... a staff photographer for the Eagle-Tribune and a frequent contributor to the Valley Jr Warriors.
In the company of legends
By Mike McMahon
Haverhill's Ward joins NHL greats as 'Best Prospect' at summer tourney
Brian Ward is in good company.
Make that great company.
The Haverhill resident was recently the recipient of
the Best Pro Prospect Award at the 36th annual Hockey Night in Boston
Tournament, an award that previously went to NHL greats Keith Tkachuk,
Bill Guerin, John LeClair, Craig Janney and Jeremy Roenick.
"You really don't feel like you have any business
being named with those guys at all," Ward said. "Those guys aren't just
in the NHL, those are some Hall of Famers. It really shows you how hard
you have to work to make it that far though. It's not easy. While
(playing in the NHL) would be a dream, I'm not even thinking about it,
not yet anyway."
The HNIB tourney may not be as talent-laden as it once
was, but Ward certainly opened eyes with his tourney-best 28 points,
including 20 goals, in just nine games.
It was just supposed to be a busy summer for Ward.
Workouts in the morning, some summer showcase tournaments and shooting pucks at night at a goalie camp.
The leading scorer for Governor's Academy in Byfield
(22 goals, 17 assists for the 14-13-1 Govs), his summer suddenly got a
bit busier. And more memorable.
It got busier as more and more schools began pursuing him. His recently play will only help his cause.
Coaches from Hockey East and Ivy League schools took
notice of the 6-foot-1, 190-pound center. Visits to Dartmouth and Yale
soon followed and he's hearing from Cornell, UNH and a few other Hockey
"It's really a surreal feeling," said Ward. "You
always dream about playing at a big college hockey school, especially
growing up in this area, but you never really think you're good enough.
All of a sudden schools want to talk to you and it's really an honor.
It makes me want to work harder, too."
Since he was a kid, he dreamed of suiting up for
defending national champion Boston University. Considered one of the
top prospects in this year's HNIB tournament, he was invited to be on
the cover of the annual magazine, which was shot at the BU campus.
"Playing for one of the big Hockey East schools would
be special," he said. "Meeting (legendary BU coach) Jack Parker when we
shot the cover was a great experience. I've been a big BU fan since I
was a kid.
"The Ivy League schools are great, too, though. They
obviously provide a great education and it's a very high level of
hockey there, too."
Ward has been a worker from the beginning. After being
invited to the USA Hockey Select 14 camp as an eighth-grader, he
debuted for the Hillies varsity team in 2006-07, scoring 11 goals and
14 assists and was named All-MVC-DCL.
He transferred to Governor's, where he repeated his freshman year, to play alongside his brother, Eric.
"Brian is one of the hardest working players I've ever
coached," said Governor's head coach Mike Delay. "It's a cliche, but
he's literally the first one on our ice at practice and the last one
off of it. He just eats, sleeps and breathes hockey.
"He really works for his goals. That's not to say he's
not talented — you can't teach someone how to score — but he doesn't
mind standing in front of the net and taking a beating to hammer in a
rebound. He earns every point he puts up."
No crystal ball
The junior will serve as a captain next winter.
"It's rare for a junior to serve as a captain,
especially in our league where you have a lot of post-grads," said
Delay. "His teammates voted him as one of our captains and that speaks
volumes of his work ethic. He's a man of few words but will speak up
when we need him to. He's definitely more of the lead-by-example type."
Much of his future hinges on where he'll play his
collegiate hockey. But, Ward hasn't ruled out a year of juniors after
Governor's, before heading to college.
"I'd love to play in the USHL," Ward said.
The USHL is widely regarded as the top junior league
around. With teams throughout the Midwest, some teams draw more fans
than Division 1 NCAA programs.
"I obviously haven't made any decisions, it's a long
way away, and a lot of it will depend on where I go to school," he
said. "Repeating my freshman year has allowed me to get a little more
mature on the ice and built up some strength. I know that extra year
will pay dividends, there is no doubt."
Jumping through hoops
Without even realizing it, Ward is helping break the reputation Haverhill holds as a basketball town.
"It's all about basketball here," he said. "Even I played basketball growing up, that's really what kids do around here."
But Ward is just one example of hockey making its approach to the forefront.
"My whole family played hockey," said Ward, whose
brother Eric played for Governor's and the Junior Warriors and oldest
brother Patrick was a captain at Central Catholic.
"A lot depends on what your family has played, I
think. I have a lot of friends who play basketball but that's the big
sport in their family."
Jack of all trades
Ward's scoring talents don't stop on the ice. He's
also a fixture on the lacrosse team, where he played alongside Division
1 recruits Mike Shakespeare (Maryland) and Jeff Muscatello (North
Carolina) on the top scoring line.
"It obviously helps you keep in shape," he said. "A
lot of the workouts translate to all sports. Lacrosse can help with
foot speed, coordination, vision and hand speed."
Juggling more than homework
Maybe it's a hand-eye coordination drill, but Ward is quite the juggler, possessing the ability to juggle four objects at once.
"I make him come in and do a juggling show for my
second graders," said Ward's mother, Mary, a teacher at Haverhill's
Tilton Elementary School. "They get so excited and he includes them in
tossing him the balls, they love it."
He also has knack for juggling hockey with the books.
Not only is he being recruited by the Ivy League for his on-ice
talents, but Ward boasts a 3.8 GPA.
"Academics are extremely important that it's a big
reason why the Ivy League is attractive," Ward said. "An Ivy League
education goes a long way."