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VJW Junior A Team Ready For New Challenges
celebration.jpgOne year ago, head coach Andy Heinze and his staff watched his young corps of players grow and flourish during the challenging junior hockey season. The tireless hours of teaching and practice resulted in an impressive quarterfinal appearance in the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL) playoffs.

Fast forward to the 2011-2012 season and Heinze is happy to welcome back a strong group of returning players whom he hopes will lead the Warriors to the top of league standings. With only a handful of league games under his belt, Heinze is excited about the season that will unfold over the next seven months.

“I would expect a great deal of improvement overall with our forwards and the experience that we have coming back,” said Heinze, a two-time EJHL Coach of the Year. “That experience that we have coming back is a group of players who bring us not only goal scoring but solid two-way play.”

Playing both ends of the ice has been a cornerstone of Heinze’s coaching style and it has allowed the program to develop more than 100 top Division I, II and III players over the past 10 years. Mark Roebothan (UMass-Lowell), David Strathman (Northeastern University), Mark Pandolfo (UMass Lowell) and Joe Cucci (Merrimack College) are just a sample of the outstanding talent that has come from the program.

Heinze sees no reason why this newest corps of Warriors won’t follow in line with their predecessors.  

“I know that they are all excited to get going and excited about the talent coming back and the talent coming in,” said Heinze. “They had an opportunity to come together this summer at the Showcases and I can see that the commitment is there.”

Here is an inside look at the 2011-2011 VJW Junior A squad.

FORWARDS
braun_action2010_225.jpgLast season, the Warriors depended on a more experienced defensive group to anchor its young forwards. This year, the situation has flipped as Heinze welcomes back a handful of top producers.

“I would expect a great deal of improvement overall with our forwards and the experience that we have coming back,” said Heinze. “Our returning scorers were consistent with their play and point production, and I think that we are going to be real solid there.”

Returning for the new season are Josh Woody (Sunderland, MD), Trevor Braun (Windham, ME), John Jackson (Bixby, OK), John Rogeri (Katy, TX), Connor McStravick (Philadelphia, PA) and Max Lorenzen (Leesburg, VA).

Woody was the team’s leading scorer last year with 19 goals and 22 assists in 35 games. He also notched a team-high four game-winning goals. Jackson, McStravich and Braun were all 20+ point producers, while Rogeri was a key special teams player as he - along with Woody - led the team with four power-play goals. Lorenzren played in 39 games and finished with 13 points

“All of these kids are physically more developed,” said Heinze, who along with Braun represented the Warriors at last season's EJHL All-Star game. “As a whole, we will still be fairly young from an age perspective, but I would say we are more physically developed which will make us faster and more consistent through our lines and better able to match up against the teams we will be competing against.”

Complementing the returners will be some new blood which Heinze hopes will inject some energy into the lineup. Two such players have been most recently developing their skills under the tutelage of former RPI standout Eric Cavosie at Albany Academy.

Nick Pichette (Messena, NY), a southpaw, has quickness and natural athleticism as he was a multi-sport athlete while at Albany Academy.

“He will probably play left wing for us and has good speed and quickness and a knack around the net,” said Heinze. “His speed is going to be an important factor as we watch how he adjusts to the quicker pace of play at the junior level.”

While Pichette stands at 5’8”, his teammate at Albany Academy and now with the Warriors - Albee Daley (Albany, NY) - brings his towering 6’1” frame to Haverhill this season.

“He is a bigger kid, but he uses his linemates pretty well,” said Heinze. “He is a good skater who gets around the ice well. I would say he will be more of a set-up guy because he finds guys well and sees the ice well.”

Another private-school product who will be looking to take on a key role offensively will be Tabor Academy product, Mark Meads (Middleton, MA), who has already signed on to play for Bentley College next spring.

“He is a kid who adds to our ability up front,” said Heinze. “He plays a good, solid two-way game. That is why Bentley took him. They appreciate what he does in the offensive end and the value he brings in the defensive end.”

Also looking to contribute this season will be Devin Smith (North Grafton, MA) and Connor Cunningham (Ashurn, VA).

“We have seen the kids through the spring and summer showcases, but obviously it’s different when you get into the regular season,” said Heinze. “

DEFENSE
A key question mark for Heinze and his staff revolves around a defensive unit that is brimming with potential but lacking in experience at the junior level. This will be a new challenge given that the Warriors were one of the strongest defensive teams last season. The VJW squad returns only two of eight defensemen from last season.

moles_marcus.jpg“We will be very competitive in the league, but how high we end up is going to depend on how our defense comes along during the early part of the season,” said Heinze. “Up front we are pretty confident, but we will need our defense to step up in order for us to be successful.”

One player who will need to take a lead role along the blue line will be Marcus Moles (Lake Placid, NY), who returns for his second EJHL season. The 6'2", 198-pound defenseman played in 35 games during the 2010-2011 season and will be looked upon for his leadership.

“Last year was a development year for him and maybe a transition year where he started to understand what junior hockey is all about,” said Heinze. “By the end of the season, you could see that he was getting used to the pace and speed and playing more consistently. He has worked hard during the off season to get into better shape and to develop more speed and quickness. He also has some skill offensively which will help our transition game.”

Another formidable figure on the blue line will be Brett Mason (Rowley, MA), who played in 43 games last year and was the second highest point producer among defensemen. The lefty finished with 18 points, including three power-play tallies.

“He is in his third year and has lots of experience,” said Heinze. “Offensively he has good skills and has worked our power play for about a year now. He can find the net from the defensive position and distributes the puck well. He is a good, solid skater offensively and defensively and he decided to do one more year of junior hockey which was a nice development for us to get a guy like that back.”

Another Albany Academy - Conor Riley (Massena, NY) will hopefully jump right into the lineup.

“He has a good overall game and does a good job on both ends of the ice,” said Heinze. “He has the skating ability to jump into the play and sees the ice well. He is a real solid talent that could have a great year this season.”

As with any young crew, Heinze will also look to some “unknowns” to help. Two top talents from Sweden were brought aboard after the coaching staff studied them on tape. One such player is defenseman Wiking Westlund (Sweden).

“We understand that he is a very solid defenseman who will have some Division I and II interest,” said Heinze.

Filling out the defensive corps and vying for playing time will be Ben Balsama (NJ), Kevin Brennan (Warren, NJ), Paul Wrenn (Charlestown, MA) and Christian Kader (North Reading, MA)... the younger brother of former VJW star Tom Kader who went on to play at Colby College.

GOALTENDING
Battling for the top spot in net will be another product from Sweden - Fabian Sivnert (Sweden) - and up-and-comer Noah Klagg (Bryn Mawr, PA).

“Fabian has played internationally at a high level and we feel that he will transition well into our league,” said Heinze.

While Sivnert has a bit more playing experience, Klagg brings energy and youth as he will be one of the youngest netminders in the league this season. He led his Comcast U-18 team to the Midget Nationals, so Heinze feels confident that he will be able to raise the level of his play as the season wears on.

“Overall he could be a good prospect,” said Heinze. “We will see how quickly he adjusts to junior play, but we think that he will push Fabian for that number one spot.”


INDEX
Good As Gold - By Mike Lynch
It's OK Ray - By Mike Lynch
Blackwell Prepares for 2012 National Junior Evaluation Camp
Sam Kurker & Brendan Collier Selected in 2012 Entry Draft
Not Your Average Tree Stump - By Mike Lynch
2012 Warrior Classic To Feature Elite Prospects Teams
Chris Kreider Shines On, Breaks Records With the Rangers
VJW Players Perform Well to Finish 2nd at Merrimack Valley Cup
2012 Eastern Junior Hockey League Spring Showcase
VJW Summer Discounts at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning
14 VJW Players Selected For 2012 USA Hockey Development Camp
The Crown Was Too Heavy - By Mike Lynch
VJW Prepares For Inaugural Season in the Elite Prospects League
Chris Kreider Nets Game Winner in Game 6 For the Rangers
VJW Junior A Players Announce College Plans
2012-13 VJW Midget Coaches Announced
Chris Kreider Signs Deal With New York Rangers
Purple Passion - By Mike Lynch
2012 USA Hockey National Championships - Summary
Warrior Shawn Moody Selected to NH U-17 Festival Team
Tryout Reminder - Junior & Midget Dates and Times Are Posted
Three VJW Teams Prepare for 2012 National Championships
Warriors Take Home Three EJHL End-of-Season Awards
VJW '00 Elites Capture 2012 NEHL Championship Title
March Gladness - By Mike Lynch
VJW '99 Elites & '99 Selects Heading to USA Hockey Nationals
VJW Junior A Season Comes to an End in EJHL Quarterfinals
VJW Welcomes Stop It Goaltending for 2012-13 Season
Valentine's Day - By Mike Lynch
VJW Netminder Fabian Sivnert Accepts Scholarship to Bemidji State
VJW Junior A Team Advances to EJHL Quarterfinals... Again!
Save the Date - 2012 VJW Tournament Dates Released
Yes You Can - By Mike Lynch
Warriors Announce the Introduction of FULL SEASON U-16 Team
Former VJW Players Battle For Boston's Hockey Bragging Rights
VJW Teams Support Great Causes on the Frog Pond in Boston
Former VJW Star Sam Kurker Continues Dream Year
VJW Junior A Defenseman Conor Riley Heading to Maine
Josh Woody Named EJHL Offensive Player of the Week
VJW '99 Selects Find Time for Hockey & Fun Outside
Warriors Represented in NHL Central Scouting's Midterm Rankings
VJW Accepting Coaches Applications for 2012-2013 Season
VJW Junior A Forward Mark Meads Commits to Bentley University
Scenes From Around Town - VJW Mite Minors
VJW Netminder Sivnert Named EJHL Defensive Player of the Week
Former VJW Star Colin Blackwell Featured in Hometown Paper
Skate On! - By Mike Lynch
North Team Loses, but VJW Players Shine at EJHL All-Star Game
VJW '99 Selects Lead the Winning Charge During MLK Weekend
Four VJW Players Selected for the 2012 EJHL All-Star Game
VJW Teams Compete Well at the 2012 JWK Tournament
VJW '01 Selects Continue to Roll in Holiday Tournament Play
VJW '03 Selects Skate to Victory During the Holiday Break
VJW '00 Elites Face Off in 2K Super Series Tournament
Men of Steele - By Mike Lynch
Six And Counting for the Red Hot VJW Junior A's
VJW '00 Selects Take Time to Give Back to Toys For Tots
Colin Blackwell Feeling Right At Home in Cambridge
VJW Junior As Extend Winning Streak to Four Games
VJW '97 Elite Players Prepare for High School Challenges
Warriors Sweep Glades to Move Into Third in Northern Division
VJW '01 Selects Win Big at Thanksgiving Tournament
Occupy Anti-Hazing - By Mike Lynch
VJW '00 Selects Capture Bronze at 2011 CAN/AM Tournament
VJW Teams Take Home Titles, Impress at Warrior Thanksgiving Tournament
Teams Prepare for 2011 Warrior Thanksgiving Tournament
VJW Teams Come Together For A Great Cause
VJW '97 Elites Win States; Are National Bound Again
Family Affair - By Mike Lynch
VJW Teams Bring Home Gold, Three Bronzes at 2011 CAN/AM Tournament
VJW Junior Squads Perform Well at the 2011 Warrior Classic
2011 Warrior Classic Underway in Haverhill
VJW Mite Minors Enjoy a "Special" Visit
VJW '03 Selects Look Strong Heading Into CAN/AM Tournament
VJW Junior As Split Weekend Series With Apple Core
Barrier Buster - By Mike Lynch
Four VJW Squads Fare Well at 2011 Bauer International Challenge
VJW Junior As Extend Win Streak to Four Games
Three VJW Players Earn New England Hockey League Weekly Honors
Fenway Follies - By Mike Lynch
Trevor Braun Delivers Again; Leads Junior As to Win over Monarchs
Two Big Wins Lift VJW '97 Elites to the No. 2 Spot In the Nation
Warriors Skate to Big 7-5 Victory Over the Jersey Hitmen
Warriors Put A Little Bit of "Pink" In Their Step
VJW 03 Selects Enjoy Hockey Northeast Debut
VJW Teams Impress Early During NEHL Qualifying
Sep 23, 11
VJW Junior A Team Ready For New Challenges
No Light At The End Of This Tunnel - By Mike Lynch
Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning Center Comes to Haverhill
Happy New Year By Mike Lynch
VJW '97 Elites Ready For Another Memorable Season
Defying the Odds: 2011 Warrior National Showcase Is a Hit
Ring the Bell for Keegan - By Mike Lynch
Al Always Gave His All - By Mike Lynch
2011 Warrior August National Showcase Comes to Haverhill in August
Summer of Stanley - By Mike Lynch
Former Warrior Colin Blackwell Selected In 2011 NHL Entry Draft
Welcome Home Stanley! - By Mike Lynch
Come One, Come All to the 2011 VJW Golf Classic
VJW '97 Elites Enjoy Impressive Spring Hockey Festival Performance