VJW U-16 IIs Continue Winning and Championship Ways
vjw_u16_columbusday09.jpgNearly one year after capping off a season to remember, the Valley Jr Warriors U-16 II team is back to winning games and capturing titles.

This past weekend, the Warriors posted a 4-1 record en route to winning the 2009 Columbus Day Classic Tournament held at the New England Sports Center.

The team sealed the championship with a 2-0 blanking of Perinton SIR on Monday. In what was an exciting three days of competition, the Warriors not only found a way to knock off top talent from across the country but the players also avenged an early-season loss against a formidable foe. All in all… it was yet another impressive performance by a group of players who have learned how to win on all stages.

“They are playing their best hockey of the year right now,” said Ed Mathews, who is enjoying his eighth season with the Valley Jr Warriors. “The boys played their hearts out all weekend, and I could not be more proud of them.”

photo_collage_U16.jpgIn addition to the challenge of taking the ice against some of the top teams in the nation, the Warriors are also faced with the fact that they have a clear target on their back. After all, it was just one year ago that Mathews and his coaching staff led the team to a 2008 Massachusetts State Championship title and the USA Hockey Tier II National Tournament. Thus far the team is responding as well as anyone could expect as it has posted an 18-2 record and is a perfect 8-0 in the Massachusetts Tier II Midget Development League.

This past weekend was much of the same as the team came through with a 3-1 record en route to its championship victory.

Leading the charge offensively in the team's opening 7-2 win over Pro Ambitions was Cam Roy who netted three goals and one assist. Also scoring for the Warriors were Andrew Pierce (1-1-2), Michael Cusack (1-0-1), Adam Tanner (1-1-2) and David Evans (1-0). Dylan Costa added two assists, while Craig Cataldo and Michael Mathews shared duties in net to share the victory.

Next up for the Warriors was an important rematch with the Dallas Ice Jets. Just days earlier, Mathews’ squad suffered one of its toughest losses of the years to the Ice Jets on their home ice in Haverhill. The players – in what was one of the most exciting and tightly-contested games of the tournament – made sure that they would not be defeated two times as they pulled out an important 2-1 win.

“The game I was most impressed with was the Dallas game,” said Mathews. “We had just played them Thursday night and they beat us 10-3. We played our worst hockey of the year in the game from start to finish. We came back to play them Saturday night we had a short bench and the kids went out and played their best hockey of the year. They out worked and out hustled Dallas in every aspect of the game. It was the total opposite of the Thursday night game.”

Following a scoreless first period, Andrew Pierce gave his team a 1-0 lead when he netted an assisted tally. Michael Gianelli followed suit just one minute later to give the Warriors a 2-0 advantage. With time running out, the Ice Jets came within one goal but a tenacious defense and strong netminding by Michael Mathews shut down Dallas squad through the final three minutes of regulation.                                         

There was no letdown for the Warriors the following day as they cruised to a 7-1 win against the Orlando Jr Knights. Derek Palm put the Warriors on the scoreboard early in the first period, but the Jr Knights countered early in the second period to even the contest at 1-1. The Warriors would explode for five unanswered goals in the second period thanks to tallies by Dylan Costa (1-1-2), Christopher Lepore (2-0-2), David Evans (1-0-1) and Derek Palm (2-0-2. Craig Cataldo allowed just one goal to claim the victory in net.

In the morning semifinal contest, the Warriors took on a strong Minuteman Flames team. Cam Roy jumpstarted the offense by netting his fifth goal of the tournament in the first period. Michael Cusack and Christopher Lepore found the back of the net in the second period to extend the Warriors’ lead to 3-0. Andrew Pierce capped off the scoring in the third period en route to the 4-1 victory. For the second time in the tournament, Craig Cataldo and Michael Mathews were a formidable tandem in net.

When the championship showdown arrived, the Warriors were ready for the challenge as the team blanked the Perinton SIR team team by a score of 2-0. It was perhaps one of the most nail-biting games of the weekend as the two teams remained scoreless unless the final minutes of regulation. With just over a minute remaining, Christopher Lepore ripped a shot from the slot to put his team in front. Although Perinton SIR pulled their goalie with time running out, Craig Cataldo was a rock in net and Jonathan Pate iced the game with an empty netter.

Congratulations goes out to the entire Valley Jr Warriors U-16 II team on a job well done.

Forwards: Christopher Lepore, Andrew Pierce, Jonathan Pate, Michael Gianelli, Derek Palm, David Evans, Michael Cusack, Cam Roy, Dylan Costa and Tyler Smith (who was unable to compete in the tournament due to a knee injury)

Defense: Zander Buttress, Jake Kulevich, Alex King, Daniel O’Connor, Adam Tanner, Nick Owen, Ernest Guerrera and Jarrod Hines (who also played forward in the tournament)

Goalies: Craig Cataldo and Michael Mathews

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