VJW '99 Selects Ring in the New Year at the 2011 Bell Capital Cup
VJW '99 Selects enjoyed the sites in historic Ottawa during their trip to the 2011 Bell Capital Cup
There was simply no better way to welcome the New Year. Mark Lester’s VJW ’99 Select squad traveled north earlier this month to compete in the always-competitive 2011 Bell Capital Cup in Ottawa. Despite taking on some of the top competition in North America, the Warriors won four games and advanced to the quarterfinals.

“I don’t know what was more competitive, the hotel knee-hockey games or the on-ice action,” joked head coach Mark Lester. “But we made our own fireworks by going 4-1 in the tournament. It was a great way to welcome the New Year and hopefully this tournament and our level of success spring boards us into the second half of the year”

It is not surprising that this young squad impressed so many in Ottawa. After all, the Warriors currently stand in third place in the Massachusetts Select Hockey League with a 15-5-2 record and have posted 125 goals and allowed just 53 goals against.

The type of offensive firepower and defensive stinginess was on display at the Bell Capital Cup beginning with the first face off.

In that opening “friendly” contest against Jokeritt Blue (Finland), the Warriors were able to stretch out their legs following a six-hour drive north and post a solid 5-3 victory. The following morning, the team was outstanding with a 4-0 blanking of the Nepean Raiders. That victory was followed by another decisive 4-0 win over Cumberland Jr Grads and then a tough 3-2 victory against the Suburban Stars.

“We had a terrific round robin and we out-skated teams,” said Lester. “Our ability to go to the net offensively made a big difference. One thing you will notice when you go to these tournaments is that the Warriors can skate with anyone which is a real tribute to the skills program we have in place.”

As a result of the team’s 4-0 record, the Warriors earned the number-one seed heading into the playoffs. First up for the Warriors was a showdown with the Ottawa Valley Seven Black on New Year’s Day. Unfortunately, the Warriors could not continue their winning ways as they fell by a score of 9-5.

“In round-robin play we were just solid on defense and our goalies played extremely well when called on,” said Lester. “The back-to-back shutouts were a big thrill for our defense. We work extremely hard on team defense and it is nice for our defensemen and goalies to be rewarded with shutouts.”

So impressive was the team’s defensive play that Patrick Hughes was named Defensive Player of the Game in the Scotiabank Canadian Tire All Star game. Also making noise in that all-star game were Sean
Oconnell (1 goal) and Bret Blackwell (1 assist).

Joining Hughes on defense are Jordan Perez, Nathan Bargman, Ethan Dore, Liam Burke and Ryan Donnelly, while Josh Kennedy and Camden Ludwig have shared netminding duties all season long.

Complementing the strong defensive play was the offensive firepower led by Eric Lester (4 goals, 3 assists) and Sean Oconnell (3 goals, 2 assists), who finished in the top five in scoring during round-robin play. Lester also dazzled during the skills competition where he won the sharp-shooting competition!

Filling out the offensive roster for the Warriors are Bret Blackwell, Eric Roberts, Aaron Harmon, Andrew Berube, Christopher Lattini, Jonathan Caux, Nolan Heinze and Steven Wesley.

“As well as we played on defense, the team offense was exceptional,” said Lester. “We were just moving the puck so well from zone to zone it was fun to watch. It was good team hockey. We tell them all of the time to go to where the goals are scored... get to the net. When we play like that, we are a difficult team to play against.”

With a difficult Massachusetts State Select League schedule remaining for this Warriors squad, the players and coaching staff realize that it will be a challenge to defend their state title. However, if their play in Ottawa is any indication of what lies ahead... the Warriors should be in good shape.

“We aren’t big on statistics on this team,” explained Lester. “As a staff we talk about it all the time. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when a team doesn’t care who gets the credit and I truly believe that our players feel that way.

They cheer for each other and cheer for each other’s successes. It is very noticeable that they play for each other. A huge part of our success to date is that we have three solid lines and a balanced scoring attack. We have 11 players with double digit points including six with more than 20. It truly is a team.”


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