When you have played alongside teammates for the better part of your life, you begin to know what the others are going to do.
That is most likely the case for the Valley Jr Warriors ’95 Elites… a team that has posted a perfect 10-0 record in Massachusetts State Hockey Select League play and is coming off a strong victory at the Columbus Day Classic Tournament.
In that holiday weekend challenge, the group of players, many of whom have shared the blue and gold jersey since they were mites, did exactly what they have done for years – win. After all, Head Coach Bill Franzese’s team is coming off a 2008-09 season in which they recorded a 32-0-1 record en route to winning the New England Hockey League Bantam West division title.
Picking up where they left off last spring, the team posted a 6-0 mark at the Columbus Day Classic Tournament held at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough and outscored their opponents by a 37-7 margin.
“Our team played better as the tournament went along,” said Franzese, who has led his team to a combined five NEHL and Massachusetts State titles and most recently a trip to the USA Hockey Nationals in 2008. “This group has been together since mites for the most part and they know how to support each other well. I’m happy with our progress so far this year and am hoping we continue to improve.”
During the opening rounds of the Columbus Day Classic Tournament, the Warriors knocked off the Minuteman Flames by a score of 6-1 and then skated past the Worcester Crusaders in a 5-3 decision. In the victory against the Flames, Shane Eiserman scored two goals, while Tyler Sifferlin and Nick Bragole led the way offensively against the Crusaders by notching one goal apiece.
Next up was an evening showdown with the Western Mass Blades. Trip Franzese came through with two goals to pace the Warriors to their third victory in as many days.
When playoff time arrived, the team was ready for the challenge. In what was a balanced offensive attack from the start of the tournament, Brian Pinho came through this time by netting two goals in a big 10-0 semifinal victory against the Perinton Blades squad from New York.
The finals featured the Valley Jr Warriors against a familiar foe – the Gulf Coast Flames which also earned a ticket to Nationals just two years ago. In that final showdown, the Warriors outlasted the Flames in a close 2-1 victory to claim the title and remain undefeated in the championship. Cam O’Neil and Brendan O'Connell were the goal scorers.
“We received strong goaltending the whole way through especially in the finals against Gulf Coast ,” said Franzese. “Drew Foley and Matt Marchman came up big for us in the finals.”
As has been the case since they first laced up their skates years ago, every single player on the Warriors roster seems to come up big at the right times.
Congratulations to all of the players and coaching staff on a job well done… and good luck the rest of the season.
Forwards: Shane Eiserman, Cam O’Neil, Brendan O'Connell, Trip Franzese, Brian Pinho, Tyler Sifferlin, Tommy Potter, Mark Azarian and Nick Bragole
Defense: Connor Hegarty, Connor Brassard, Justin Pimentel, Chas Heseltine, Andrew Irving, David Belluche
and James Brightney
Goalies: Matty Marchman and Drew Foley