VJW U16 IIs Continue Winning and Championship Ways
The VJW U16 IIs celebrate after winning the league title in Haverhill
The Valley Jr Warriors U16 II squad is celebrating after a phenomenal regular season which saw the team post a dominating 24-1-1 overall record and capture a league title that earned them a trip to South Boston to compete for a State title. Making the league victory even sweeter was the fact that it happened on their home ice in Haverhill!

The team is now preparing for the challenge ahead – the 2010 U16 Tier II State Championship Tournament, which is scheduled for November 11-14 at the Murphy Memorial Skating Rink in South Boston.

To follow all of the action, click here to visit the official Massachusetts Tier II Midget Development League web site.

While the team gears up for the State Championship, here is a look back on how this special group of young players and a dedicated coaching staff came together this past fall to put together a season that will not soon be forgotten!

With no returners from last year’s U16 II team back and a new coaching staff there were a lot of unknowns about the upcoming year. The team broke from its annual August camp right before heading into the Eastern Mass Senators Labor Day Tournament.

The players started off strong with an impressive 8-2 win over the Quincy 67’s on Friday night. On Saturday, the team continued its winning ways with a 6-2 win in the morning over the Weymouth Conquistadors and a 3-1 win Saturday night over Wellesley Raiders. Sunday brought more of the same as the Warriors finished the preliminary round with a 6-0 win over the Rhode Island Hitmen and thus earned the number one seed for the playoffs and a semifinal showdown with the Eastern Mass Senators.

The highly-anticipated game was a fast paced, up-and-down scoreless game for almost three periods before the Senators struck first with 3:16 left in regulation. Coach Jim Dee saw the down look on the faces of his players and called a time out before the face off after the goal. Dee, along with fellow coach Peter Heinze, were able to settle the players down and told them to relax, that there was plenty of time left and that all they needed was one shot to tie it.

The team responded 12 seconds later off a nice goal by Mark Azarian set up by Cam Shaheen. The Senators came right back and scored with 1:22 left but the Warriors wouldn’t die and responded once again 21 seconds later on an unassisted goal by Marc Vercellini.The game headed to overtime and with 3:23 left Andrew Brandano scored the game winner assisted by Cam Shaheen sending the Warriors to the finals against the Red Rangers. 

"After that game, everyone was excited and we went to my house for a pasta lunch,” said Dee. “It was a chance for everyone to get to know each other better before the finals later that afternoon. It was where the players really bonded and where lasting friendships were made."

The finals began with the Red Rangers taking a 1-0 advantage after one period. The Warriors tied it in the second stanza on a goal by Nic Gianelli assisted by Brendan Heinze and Tyler Duval. The Warriors took the lead at the 11:52 mark of the third period on a goal by Jon-Luke Dee assisted by Brendan O’Connell. The Red Rangers responded with a goal less than two minutes later and once again the Warriors were headed for overtime. Both teams had their chances early on but Zack Pearce put home a rebound off Shawn Moody’s shot at the 13:01 mark to give the Warriors the championship title.

The team went on a 14-0-1 run before losing their first game during the Columbus Day tournament in Marlboro. The team had a tough schedule playing three games in less than 24 hours, but they were up for the challenge.

The Warriors won 3-1 on Friday night against NJ Skyland Kings. The following afternoon, the squad beat the Long Island Gulls by a score of 5-1. Following a quick bite to eat, the players had to hit the ice just two hours later against the NJ Jaguars. Unfortunately, the Warriors came out flat and tired and suffered a disappointing 6-0 loss.

They had all day Sunday to think about the loss and came back Sunday night for a playoff game where they fell behind 4-1 before rallying in the third period for four unanswered goals... the last one coming with 47 seconds left by Andrew Brandano.

“You could feel that the excitement was back in them after that tough loss the day before,” said Dee. “The boys had their own meeting after that game without the coaches where they talked about the rest of their season and their team goals. It was a defining moment for them.”

Since that loss to the Jaguars, the team went on an incredible 10-0 run, which included a gutsy, 3-1 win against a very strong RI Saints team on October 24th. The Warriors finished off the regular season this past Saturday night with a hard fought 5-3 win over the Cape Cod Whalers to remain undefeated in League play for the season with a 12-0-1 record.

The team headed into the League playoffs Sunday with a morning match up against the Weymouth Conquistadors. The team started a little slow but outstanding goaltending from Patrick O’Leary kept the game scoreless. The Warriors jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period thanks to two goals by Brendon O’Connell. The first goal of the game came at the 2:31 mark and was assisted by Brendan Heinze and James Brightney. O’Connell’s second goal – an unassisted tally – came just 21 seconds later.

Following a scoreless second period, the Warriors exploded for four goals (Andrew Brandano assisted by Jon-Luke Dee; Nic Gianelli assisted by Brendan Heinze; Zack Pearce assisted by Shawn Moody; Lloyd Hayes assisted by Brendan Heinze) in the third period. That strong victory moved the team into the Championship game later that afternoon against the Dual State Huskies.

The Huskies jumped out to a 1-0 lead but the Warriors answered with 3:49 left in the first period to tie it on a great shot from the point from Tyler Duval assisted by Mark Azarian and Cam Shaheen. The Huskies grabbed the lead right back scoring before the end of the period to make it 2-1.

“We reminded the players that they had been in this situation before and to remain focused and to keep battling,” said Dee of his talk during the second intermission. “They had their chances to tie it up and we told them that there would be more. We told them that we knew they were tired but to play hard for 15 minutes and whatever happens happens.”

The third period began and the Warriors scored with 11:24 left with Connor Irving racing down the left side and letting a shot go from the top of the circle to tie it. The goal was all started on a nice break out pass from Chas Heseltine. The remainder of the period was back and forth with opportunities by both teams and a good defensive play by Matthew Dee on a 3 on 1 and outstanding goaltending from Matthew Marchman. The Warriors once again stepped up and found a way to score another big goal with 26 seconds left in the final stanza off a nice shot from Andrew Brandano assisted by Mark Azarian and James Brightney.

The celebration began when the horn sounded the game.

“The boys played their hearts out in the third and we couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Dee. Throughout the season, the team has been ranked in the top 20, according to www.MyHockeyRankings.com, and was even tied for first in the country earlier in the season.

“The team has responded all year to challenges,” said Dee. “Injuries have plagued us, especially the defense which has been down to three defensemen for many games this year. But every time Peter or I would look down the bench for someone to fill in, one of the boys would say “I got it coach” without you having to say a word.”

The team’s overall record is 24-1-1 and the Warriors are currently ranked 17th in the country heading into the States scheduled for this weekend in South Boston.

“The road will be very tough to capture a State Championship but these players are up for the challenge,” said Dee. “The leadership on the team has been remarkable from all the players and a lasting relationship for years to come has developed between the coaches and players.”

According to Dee, the goal of his coaching staff (which included Heinze and Roy Vasque) has been to get the players ready for high school.

“We feel they are pretty well prepared heading into the last weekend of the year,” said Dee. “The scoring has been balanced from all four lines this year and the defense and goaltending has been up to the task.”

Congratulations goes out to all of the players and coaching staff.

Forwards – Brendan Heinze, Nic Gianelli, Lloyd Hayes, Andrew Brandano, Cam Shaheen, Mark Azarian, Connor Irving, Brendan O’Connell, Marc Vercellini, Zack Pearce, Shawn Moody, Steven Kehoe, Justin O’Leary and Stephen Goodwin.

Defensemen –Matthew Dee, Tyler Duval, Jon-Luke Dee, Justin Pimentel, James Brightney and Chas Heseltine.

Goaltenders – Patrick O’Leary and Matthew Marchman. Coaches – Jim Dee, Peter Heinze, Roy Vasque

 leaguechamps_250.jpg  U16IIs_captains.jpg
The VJW U16 IIs celebrate after winning the league title (left); the team captains enjoy a moment with the trophy.
 laborday1_250.jpg  laborday2_250.jpg
 The Labor Day Tournament is where the team came together and captured its first of many titles during the 2010 season.

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