There must be something special about an event that lasts 15 years. In 2010, the Valley Jr Warriors welcomed more than 20 teams to the Haverhill Valley Forum to compete in the 15th Annual Warrior Classic.
In what is a showcase of the region’s top junior teams – and a host of others from across North America – spectators, scouts and collegiate coaches alike no doubt realized just why this event keeps returning every fall.
“Since its early days, teams have looked forward to traveling here in November,” said Andy Heinze, the head coach and general manager of the VJW Junior A squad. “Year in and year out the level of talent is high and the local collegiate coaches appreciate the opportunity to see these players compete over a four-day period.”
For Heinze’s squad, the weekend was about generating positive momentum heading into the holiday stretch. The Warriors currently stand in third place in the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s (EJHL) Northern Division. This weekend, the Warriors welcomed the Philadelphia Revolution and the Rochester Stars to Haverhill for an important three-game league showdown.
The first major challenge for the Warriors came on Saturday against Philadelphia where the two squads skated to a 2-2 tie. Kevin Holmes (Newburyport, MA) put the Warriors on the board first – off a feed from the team’s leading scorer Zach Sarig (Wyommissing, PA) – and then Mike Freitag (Westmont, IL) found the back of the net at the 14:48 mark of the second period to tie the game at two and earn a critical league point.
"I thought that Philly skated well and we did a good job of generating opportunities ourselves, playing steady defense and not allowing them too many second chances," said Heinze. "The players did a good job of staying consistent and sticking to the game plan. They continued to generate opportunities even though they were down."The following day, the Warriors came through with a huge 5-4 win over Rochester. Trailing by a goal following the first period, the Warriors exploded in the second period thanks to back-to-back tallies by Josh Woody (Sunderland, MD). Steve Edgeworth and Freitag, both off assists from Sarig, and Marcus Moles (Lake Placid, NY) scored in the victory for the Warriors.
"I told the guys that I will never ask more of them than what they are ready to give," said Heinze. "I don't expect unbelievalable things from them, but if they stick to the game plan and work hard then good things will happen. Our work ethic has been good throughout, but we have been a bit banged up in front which has restricted us on the power play and kept us from being more consistent this year."
Although the Warriors dropped its third game to Philadelphia on Sunday, Heinze was impressed with what he saw from his young team and is looking forward to the upcoming challenges. Helping the team in net will be Steven Bolton, a USHL product who recently joined the Warriors.
"Steven will do a great job for us and will give us a one-two punch in
net," said Heinze, the two-time EJHL Coach of the Year. "All of the players need to continue to work hard and we hope to see improvement as the year progresses."
There is no rest for the weary as the Warriors must now prepare for a key divisional showdown with the Junior Bruins, the team that sits just above the Warriors in the Northern Division standings. Following that Wednesday evening contest, the Warriors will face off against Apple Core on Friday and Saturday at the Haverhill Valley Forum.
"The next three games are big for us to
determine what direction we are going in," said Heinze. "This past weekend was a bit of a turnaround for
us. Going into the next week of games, we are looking to go into the
Thanksgiving break on a high note. That is what we will be working
2010 Annual Warrior Classic Notes
- The VJW Junior B team – led by Head Coach Stu Irving – was also in action this past weekend playing two Empire Hockey League games. The Warriors fell to the New Hampshire Jr Monarchs on Thursday (7-3) and then once again on Saturday against Brewster by a score of 3-1. Through 17 games this season, the Junior B squad has been led offensively by Ara Nazarian, who has posted 18 goals and 10 assists, and Daniel Medvedev, who stands just three points back of Nazarian with 13 goals and 12 assists.
- Capturing the 2010 Warrior Classic crown in the Independent Division was the Junior Bruins, who knocked off Bridgeton in a shootout by a score of 5-4 on Sunday. A total of 12 teams – hailing from Ontario to Florida – made up four competitive divisions this year.
- Complete results are now available online at www.jrwarriors.com. Box scores for all EJHL (www.easternjunior.com) and Empire League (www.empirehockey.com) games can be found on the respective league web sites.