Less than six months ago, two Valley Jr Warriors teams captured 2011 New England Hockey League (NEHL) titles.
Fast forward to the new season and it appears that history may repeat itself in 2012.. and then some.
Following the first three weeks of qualifying in the NEHL, three Warriors teams are undefeated and the program’s eight teams have posted a combined 45 wins and just seven losses.
Those Warriors teams are taking part in an exciting Qualifying Jamboree
that will establish the divisions for the upcoming season. This year’s
season will feature an American and National Division and it is enjoying
the addition of three new programs - Boston Advantage, Boch Blazers and
the East Coast Wizards.
Stealing the spotlight during these early stages are the VJW 97 Elites,
01 Elites and 03 Elites (shown right) which are a combined 18-0-1. In
addition, the VJW 99 Elites are an impressive 6-0-1, while the 98 Elites
and 02 Elites are both 5-1-0.
One team enjoying this special time is the VJW 03 Elites, which staged a
memorable victory last spring when they captured an NEHL title despite
playing teams that were nearly all one year older.
It appears that Head Coach Jack Blaeser and his fellow coaches
have the team ready for another great run this season. They are
currently the only team in their division that is undefeated and have
outscored their opponents by a 75-to-13 margin. Perhaps most impressive
is the fact that the Warriors have posted four shutouts despite not
having a true and regular goalie on the roster.
“We are really excited about the season and the kids have already
come together as a team,” said Blaeser. “We have added some new players
who fit right in.”
New player Colin Van Stry from Winchester seems to agree.
"My experience joining the Warriors has been awesome!"
The squad began the new season with three straight shutouts during the
first weekend of play. During that stretch of games, the Warriors
allowed just seven total shots. Three more victories the following
weekend led them to a showdown with the only other undefeated team in
the league - 03 Boston Advantage. Unlike its past contests, this game
was a fierce battle as the Warriors gave up three quick goals and found
themselves trailing 0-3 with 1:22 left in the first period.
But this young team embraced its motto of “never give up” and fought
back with with four straight goals and eventually an 8-6 win for their
seventh straight win. It brought back sweet memories of its 2011
championship run where they stormed back from early deficits in both the
semifinals and finals en route to eventual victories.
Most importantly, this young team clearly loves to play together... something the VJW coaches have stressed from day one.
"I really love playing on this team,” said defenseman Dominik Cignetti “I really like my teammates, and we have a lot of fun together.”
Teammate Drew Blackwell concurs.
"I really like playing with these guys. Everybody passes the puck, everybody works hard, and we're having lots of fun."
That type of camaraderie and team work - coupled with the obvious skill
from top to bottom of the roster - will certainly be key once the NEHL
divisions have been set and the schedule finalized.
Regardless of the wins and losses, this team will be one to watch. See roster below.
to follow all eight VJW teams in exciting NEHL action, and be sure to
check back to the VJW web site often for more stories on these - as well
as the other teams competing in the inaugural Hockey Northeast season.