After weeks of practice, the Valley Jr Warriors '97 Elites arrived in New York and will prepare to face the nation's best at the USA Hockey National beginning on Wednesday evening.
Leading up to this exciting season finale event, several of the players were featured in the local media. Here is a story from the Salem Evening News.
Best of luck to all of the Warriors!
Locals lead Valley Junior Warriors to national championship
By Matt Jenkins
Peabody's J.J. Layton speaks of his latest
athletic accomplishment without even a shred of sarcasm.
"This is probably my best year ever right now," the
13-year-old Layton said.
Probably? It's fair to say that Layton is downplaying —
or at least trying to keep his cool — about the significance of where
he's headed next.
Only seven months after serving as an outfield/third
baseman for the Peabody West Little League all-star team that advanced
to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., Layton is headed
to another national championship: this time as a defenseman for the
Valley Junior Warriors '97 Elites hockey team.
The Valley Junior Warriors hockey program is a
top-notch youth organization that keeps an intense and competitive
schedule designed to maximize a young player's potential.
In other words, the Junior Warriors play at the highest
level of hockey available to young players, and the competition will
only get tougher next week when they head to the 2010 National
Championships in Amherst, N.Y.
The Junior Warriors — who feature players from Danvers,
Salem, Middleton and Peabody, as well as players from the Merrimack
Valley and Boston areas — will play three pool games against the
Columbus (Ohio) Blue Jackets, Compuware (Michigan) and Connecticut
Clippers beginning on Wednesday, April 7.
"We're all really excited about getting to nationals,"
Layton said. "We're just expecting hard competition. It's the best of
teams that we can play."
Layton is joined on the Warriors roster by fellow North
Shore residents Nicholas Holt and Eric MacAdams of Salem, Michael
Disciullo of Danvers and Jake McKennelley of Middleton.
That local quintet has helped the Warriors pile up an
unbelievable 65-4-2 record this season and earn a top 10 national
ranking, according to the Web site myhockeyrankings.com.
The Warriors have travelled to various points across
North America looking for highly competitive tournaments. So aside from
the extra pressure of playing for a national championship, going out of
state will be nothing new.
"We've played a crazy amount of games," Warriors
assistant coach Steve MacAdams said. "We went to Toronto, Chicago and
Connecticut for tournaments. We've gone all over getting good,
competitive games to play so the kids can improve."
Improvement is a huge reason why many of these kids
play with the Warriors.
As hard as it is to believe, many of these young
players already have an eye on the future.
"There are only 12 teams left in the U.S., and there
are a lot of good teams that didn't qualify that got beat out in
regionals. This is the highest level for this age of kids," MacAdams
said. "There are also kids of ex-pro hockey players who will be in this
tournament on different teams.
"If you look back 6-7 years from now, some of these
kids will be Division 1 college hockey players, as crazy as that seems."
It seems the recruiting may have already started.
Some college coaches are expected to be in attendance
at the national championships, and the Warriors have already got a
little taste of that close to home. They had the opportunity to skate
with Boston College coach Jerry York at B.C. a couple weeks ago, and
just days after Boston University coach Jack Parker ran their practice.
The Warriors, who have several players who played
together for years on another select team before joining the program,
aren't just heading to nationals for the fun of it either.
They believe they can win.
"We've played a couple of the teams (headed to
nationals) already, and we've seen other teams that will be there that
we didn't get to play at some tournaments," MacAdams said. "But we've
seen them already, and we know we can compete with all of them."