Welcome Home - 4 VJW Teams Return After Strong Showing in Chicago

Four Valley Jr Warriors teams have returned home from competing in the 2009 Bauer International Invitational. Although they may have not won any titles, all four teams – the ’95 Elites, ’97 Elites, ’98 Elites ’99 Elites – competed well and proved that they can compete with even the best teams in North America.

While all teams performed well against the majority of teams ranked in the top 20 in the nation, the ’97 Elites and ’98 Elites advanced to the quarterfinals of their divisions. Regarded as one of the premier youth hockey tournaments, this year’s Bauer International Invitational drew 436 teams from across the world.

“The level of talent we saw on this display at this year’s tournament was better than we will see anywhere else,” said Fred Devereaux, the VJW Director of Player Development who traveled to the Windy City this past weekend. “The fact that our teams were able to compete so well against the country’s top teams bodes well for the rest of the season.”

Here is a summary of the impressive play by the four VJW teams.

’95 VJW Elites
Competing in the ’95 AAA Elite division, the Warriors began their title pursuit with a 6-4 come-from-behind victory over the Toronto Titans. Trip Franzese and Cam O’Neil kept the Warriors in the game early on as their solo tallies in the first and second periods, respectively, set the stage for an amazing four-period offensive outburst. In that third stanza, Shane Eiserman and Tyler Sifferlin both scored shorthanded goals, David Belluche and Connor Hegarty netted solo tallies (Hegarty's was an empty netter) and Matt Marchman captured the win in net.
The team ran into tough competition in its next two games as they fell to strong competition in the form of Detriot Belle Tire and Westchester Express.

’97 VJW Elites
In one of the most impressive showings in recent memory, the ’97 Elites finished the 2009 Bauer International Invitational with three wins and one tie and a trip to the quarterfinals where they suffered a tough overtime loss.

The road the quarterfinals was nothing short of spectacular as they posted victories against the Washington Little Capitals, St. Louis Amateur Blues and the Dallas Stars Elites. They also came through with a tie against Detroit Honeybaked.

On Friday morning, the Warriors scored a goal in each period en route to a 3-1 win over the Washington Little Capitals. In that tournament-opening victory, Casey Fitzgerald, Noah Hanifin and Cam Askew all scored while Nick Colt recorded the shutout between the pipes. Later that evening, the Warriors jumped out to a 3-0 lead – thanks to tallies by George Sennott, Jake McKenelley and Cam Askew – against Detroit Honeybaked and then held off a strong come-back attempt to secure the 5-5 tie. Ryan Mcdonough scored a solo tally in the second period, while Askew netted his second of the game early in the third period to help their team remain undefeated.

After a morning of rest, the Warriors came out firing during their third game of the tournament as they posted a 5-4 win over the second-ranked team in the nation – the St. Louis Amateur Blues. Noah Hanifin and Garrett Pietz both scored twice and Denis Bouzon added a solo tally to lead the way offensively for the Warriors.  Hours later, the ’97 Elites continued its momentum with a 6-3 in over the Dallas Stars to secure themselves a spot in the quarterfinals. In that game, Michael Disciullo (1-1-2) scored just 20 seconds into the game to lead an offensive storm which included three goals in the first and third periods. Also netting tallies in that game were Garrett Pietz (1-1-2), Noah Hanifin (1-1-2), Cam Askew (1-1-2) and Eric MacAdams.

In a quarterfinal showdown with Westchester Express, the two teams matched each other goal for goal through three periods. Brent Hill, Michael Disciullo and Noah Hanifin all scored but Westchester Express’ James Nicholas came through with the game-winning tally just 22 seconds into overtime to deflate the championship hopes of the Warriors.

’98 VJW Elites
Another team that came just two games short of the championship were the ’98 Elites which advanced to the quarterfinals of the '98 AAA division.

The squad began its title quest with a win against the TPH Thunder as Brandon Lafata posted a hattrick en route to the team’s 5-2 victory. Justin Collins and Billy Falter were the other goal scorers and  Zach Laramie was strong in between the pipes. The Warriors picked off where they left off later that day as the team scored four unanswered goals in the first period and used another impressive outing by Laramie to register a 4-1 victory over Missouri-based Affton Americans. The following day, the team secured its spot in the championship bracket with a 3-3 tie against the Green Bay Juniors. In that contest, Brandon Lafata, Jonathan Folsom and Drew Cioffi all scored to help the team earn a key point.

When playoff time arrived, the Warriors were more than up for the challenge as they pulled off a stunning 3-2 win over Guelph Jr. Storm from Ontario. Drew Cioffi and Justin Collins scored the team’s first two goals, but Noah Cameron played the role of hero by notching the game-winning tally at the 14:49 mark of the third period.

Unfortunately the journey would end in the quarterfinals when the Warriors fell to another Ontario-based team – the Huron Perth Lakers. Drew Cioffi, off an assist from Jonathan Folsom, scored his team’s only tally.

’99 VJW Elites
The red-hot Warriors (the team has already posted 10 victories in New England Hockey League play to date) posted two victories but it was unfortunately not enough to advance to the playoffs.

The team suffered its only loss of the tournament on Friday when it fell to the Vaughan Kings by a score of 5-3. In the losing effort, Matthew Quercia scored twice and assisted on another while Michael Reilly posted one goal and one assist.

The following day, Ben Mirageas stood tall in net and Jack Keane and Aaron Harmon combined for two goals to spearhead the team to an exciting 2-1 win over the Detroit Victory Honda. In what was a winning day for the Warriors, the squad, led by a two-goal and one-assist performance from Connor Leach, knocked off the New Jersey Rockets by an impressive score of 4-2. This time it was Andrew Lorusso who picked up the win in net.

“We could not have been prouder of the way our teams competed in Chicago,” said Devereaux. “Their commitment to the program is commendable and I have no doubt that they will use the experience from this past trip to make them stronger and more competitive in league play.”

Congratulations to all of the teams on a job well done!
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