It was a magical season that ended just one game short of a national title.
The 2009-2010 season came to a close for the Valley Jr Warriors ’97 Elites on Saturday evening in New York when the Warriors fell to the Chicago Mission by a score of 6-3 in the semifinals of the USA Hockey Tier I National Championship.The season-ending loss came after the Warriors had battled through three round-robin games and one quarterfinal showdown in Buffalo this past week. Over the course of four days, the team had knocked off impressive competition in the form of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Connecticut Clippers and Kent Valley Rainiers. In the end, only two teams – ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the nation – proved that they could knock off the Warriors.
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The VJW '97 Elites began their national title quest on Wednesday with a 3-2 victory against a feisty Columbus Blue Jackets squad. Although the VJW ’97 Elites didn’t quite have their normal legs under them, the young squad found a way to pull out the victory. A second-day loss to the country’s top team – Compuware – was followed by a strong offensive showing on Friday in what was a win-or-go-home game. Needing a victory to advance to the playoffs, the Warriors outlasted the Connecticut Clippers by a score of 7-5 to earn a quarterfinal matchup with the Kent Valley Rainiers.
Despite coming off an 11-0 blanking of the Amherst Knights the day before, the Kent Valley Rainiers could not keep pace with Massachusetts State Champions as the Warriors skated to a 3-1 win and a semifinal berth. Making the win even more impressive for the Warriors was the fact that the Kent Valley Rainiers were the first Washington team in more than 30 years to represent the Pacific District at the USA Hockey Tier I National Championship and had to defeat the likes of national powerhouses such as the LA Selects and LA Jr Kings to earn a trip to New York.
In the first semifinal matchup, the Warriors were presented with a true challenge as the Chicago Mission was coming off a dominating season where the team advanced to the semifinals at the Reebok Little Caesars Tourney and Silver Sticks Tournament and the quarterfinals of the Nike Bauer International Invitational. Ranked third in Youth Hockey Report Rankings for most of the season, the Chicago Mission earned a spot in Buffalo after defeating the St. Louis Blues. Leading up to that championship victory against the Blues, the Mission had not been beaten since the team suffered two losses to the Blues in late January. They were also one of only two teams that had been able to beat the nation’s top team – Compuware - this past season.
Despite an impressive resume of accomplishments of their own, the Warriors unfortunately met their match on Saturday as the Chicago Mission pulled out the 6-3 victory and earned a chance to take on arch-rival Compuware in the Tier I 12-and-under national championship. The Chicago Mission scored five unanswered goals – two coming in each of the second and third periods – to break out to a lead that the Warriors could simply not overcome.
It has truly been a season of destiny for this talented squad which is led by head coach Paul Sacco and a talented crew of assistant coaches including the VJW Director of Player Development Steve MacAdams. The team began the season by winning the Warrior Showcase in August and then the Warrior Thanksgiving Tournament. They continued to challenge themselves by competing in some of the top youth tournaments in the country including the Nike Bauer International Invitational and the Bauer Challenge Cup in Ontario, Canada.
By winning the Massachusetts State Championship, the VJW ’97 Elites become the fifth Warrior team to win a Massachusetts Tier I Championships in seven years.
Congratulations to all of the players on a great season!
- J.J. Layton, Peabody
- Ryan McDonough, Andover
- George Sennott, North Andover
- Mike DiSciullo, Danvers
- Harrison Markell, Andover
- Jake McKenelley, Middleton
- Casey Fitzgerald, North Reading
- Zach Mirageas, Newburyport
- Brent Hill, Lunenburg
- Nick DiDuca, North Andover
- Denis Bouzon, Andover
- Nick Holt, Salem
- Ryan LaCroix, Andover
- Elijah Harris, Haverhill
- Eric MacAdams, Salem
- Garrett Pietz, Brentwood, NH
- Noah Hanifin, Norwood
- David Giunta, Lynnfield
- Cam Askew, South Boston