The Valley Jr Warriors ’97 Elites scored once in each period and held off a two-period attack by the Columbus Blue Jackets to pull out a 3-2 victory in its first game at USA Hockey Nationals which are being held this week in Williamsville, New York.
The Warriors will next face off against the country’s top team – Compuware – on Thursday at 2:00 p.m. All games are being broadcast live on Fast Hockey, so spectators near and far and take in all of the exciting action at the Tier 1 12-and-under national championship.
Each team in the championship will play three games this week. The top four teams from each of the two divisions will advance to the quarterfinals which begin on Saturday.
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On Wednesday, the Warriors struggled to find their rhythm offensively but the players battled hard to pull out a gritty 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets.
“We dominated the game, but we just couldn’t score,” said Steve MacAdams, VJW assistant coach. “We were in their zone 75 percent of the game and then had some breakdowns and they scored. Overall, we had a good first period, a so-so second period and a really good third period. Hopefully we will get better.”
Despite their struggles on the offensive end – a rarity for this team which posted an incredible 29-0 league record and a 252 goal differential this past season – the Warriors jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to even-strength tallies by Noah Hanifan and Garrett Pietz. The Blue Jackets stormed back in the second period by netting two goals in a two-minute span to even the contest heading into the third and final period.
“We didn’t have the legs that we usually have in terms of speed,” said MacAdams. “We didn’t have any power plays and we had to kill off four penalties, but they came out after they made ice in the second period and we took it to them. Like I told the players after the game, a win is a win no matter how it feels during the game.”
That game winning-tally came at the 2:39 mark of the third period when Casey Fitzgerald collected a feed at the point from Zach Mirageas to give the Warriors a 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish.
“They had a really good goalie who made a bunch of saves,” said MacAdams. “All three goals were hard-working goals. Nothing came easy in terms of offense, but we told the kids that we are going to win by working hard, working in the corners and putting bodies in front of the net. “
The Warriors will have to raise the level of their game today when they face off against mighty Compuware, a team that had won every tournament it has played this past season. Included in that impressive list were championship titles at the Bauer International Invitational and Silver Sticks. In the team’s first contest, the Detroit-based powerhouse dominated the Alaska All-Stars by a score of 9-1.
“They are number one in the country and they have not lost a tournament this year,” said MacAdams about his team’s next opponent. “They have some big kids like we do and some really skilled players. It will be a battle for us. We have seen all of these teams over the course of the year and the kids know what to expect, so there will be no surprises.”
“Our kids have come to play. We can play with anybody, but these are still 12 and 13 year olds so you never know what to expect. I can tell you that they will be ready for it and they will be pumped.”