VJW '97 Elites Win States; Are National Bound Again
97elites_medals.jpgTo say that it has been a whirlwind two weeks for the VJW ’97 Elites would be an understatement.

The talented group of 20 players returned home a week from Sunday after advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2011 Bauer International Invitational in Chicago, Illinois.

Days later, the Warriors took to the ice once again to compete for the U-14 Tier 1 State Championship. Despite weary legs, the team prevailed in dominating fashion. They outscored their opponents by a 40-to-1 margin and earned a trip to USA Hockey Nationals for the second time in three years. 

“We played 10 games in the last two weekends,” said Steve MacAdams, head coach of the VJW ’97 Elites. “It was a lot of traveling but it was fun. They are all looking forward to Nationals, but it has been really nice seeing the kids improve from where we started in August to where we are now.”

That journey has been something to marvel at, for sure.

Ranked seventh in the country according to www.myhockeyrankings.com. the Warriors have been nearly unstoppable in league and non-league play. The squad has posted a 6-1 record in New England Hockey League (NEHL) action and was victorious at the 2011 Warrior National Showcase held back in August.

In Chicago, the Warriors knocked off two strong Canadian teams before notching its third victory against Westchester Express. In the quarterfinals where the teams played just two periods, the Warriors ran into Compuware 97 which is ranked fifth in the nation.

"We didn’t play our best out there in any of the games but we got off to a slow start against Compuware,” said MacAdams. “They started off quick and jumped on us and it was 3-1 after the first period. We controlled the whole second period but just ran out of time without that third period. They are always a good team, but we were evenly matched.”

Upon their arrival home, the Warrior players had a few days to return to school, practice and prepare for the Massachusetts State Championship. Peaking at the right time, the Warriors rolled past the 495 Stars and the Northstar Selects by identical scores of 12-0. They then went on to defeat the Greater Boston Junior Bruins and the Springfield Rifles to set up a championship showdown with another NEHL team - the East Coast Wizards.

In that final game, the Warriors continued their strong play with a 6-0 victory to claim their ticket to Buffalo in April.

“We knew at the beginning of the season that it was a national year so it was something that has kept them focused,” said MacAdams, who led this team to the semifinals of the 2010 USA Hockey Tier I National Championship. “It is not just about Nationals and winning. Our goal has been trying to prepare them for high school and to develop them and get them to be better players.”

The VJW ’97 Elites will play one final league game - on Saturday against the Monarchs 97's - before the players go their separate ways to compete for their high school hockey teams. They will come back together in March in order to prepare for Nationals.

Congratulations to all!!

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