Four VJW Players Selected for the 2012 EJHL All-Star Game
 Trevor Braun Conor Riley
 Fabian Sivnert Brett Mason
The Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL) just announced that the 2012 EJHL All-Star Game will be held on Monday, January 16 at the Tri-Town Ice Arena in Hooksett, NH.

Highlighting this year’s North Roster are four standout players from the VJW’s Junior A team -  Trevor Braun (Windham, ME), Brett Mason (Rowley, MA), Conor Riley (Massena, NY) and netminder Fabian Sivnert (Hollviken, Sweden). John Jackson (Bixby, OK) was also named as an alternate.

Having five players recognized by the league was no surprise given the Warriors performance thus far during the 2011-2012 season. The team just came out of the holiday break and knocked off the Northern Division leading Junior Bruins on Wednesday (its first league game since December 18) by a score of 2-1 to extend its winning streak to seven games. That impressive streak dates back to December 2. The Warriors have now won 19 games and stand just five points out of second place in their division.

The most recent league victory was especially pleasing to Head Coach/General Manager Andy Heinze after his squad suffered a loss and tie at the EJHL Winter Showcase held last weekend.

“We have put together a pretty good run,” said Heinze, a two-time EJHL Coach of the Year. “I didn’t think we were ready to play the Showcase, but I was pleased with how they responded when we got back to league play. We defended very well and had solid goaltending from Sivnert as we always do from him.”

It was also no surprise that three out of the four All-Star selections figured into the team’s first goal against the Junior Bruins on Wednesday. Braun, the team’s leading scorer with 19 goals and 17 assists, scored at the 17:09 mark of the first period off assists from Riley and Mason.

“He does everything well,” said Heinze of Braun. “He is a strong player, he shoots the puck well and he knows how to play defense too. He is a good two-way player who is going to have a good college career.”

This year also marks the second straight year that Braun has been selected to the EJHL All-Star team.  During his team’s recent winning streak, Braun has scored at least one point in six of the seven games for a total of 12 points.

“It always helps coming back for a second year because you know what you are in for in terms of the pace and overall level of play,” said Heinze, who noted that Braun has been looking at a wide range of schools including McGill and Yale. “He is a great player and I think that he is a Division I caliber kid who is being looked at by a lot of schools.”

Complementing Braun’s experience up front has been the strong play of Riley along the blueline. Riley, a former Albany Academy standout, has taken over a lead role on special teams and has become one of the top defensemen in the league. In fact, he was named the EJHL Defensive Player of the Week heading into the holiday break after he dished out a season-high five assists in his team’s 8-2 win over Capital District.

“One thing that separates him from a lot of the guys in the league is his skating,” said Heinze of Riley who leads the team in +/-. “I honestly don’t remember seeing him lose a battle for a puck in the corner yet this year. He has the ability to really compete hard on pucks physically or with his quick hands.”

What makes Riley’s emergence as one of the top defensemen in the league even more amazing is the fact that he transitioned to the position less than two years ago.

“His game could really take off,” said Heinze. “He is probably the best defenseman we have had here.”

Joining Riley along the blueline is Mason who is another player who made the move from forward to defense almost seamlessly. The 6-2, 190 pound blueliner joins Riley on the power play and has been another critical piece of the VJW puzzle this season.

“Both players have the ability to create offensively as well as make good decisions,” said Heinze. “Brett has really settled in nicely for us. He sees the ice and moves the puck well. He also keeps it simple for him when he needs to.”

Sivnert is another first-year player who has been a welcome surprise to the VJW coaching staff. Heading into this season, Heinze had only seen the Swedish netminder on video and was hoping that his experience in tough leagues abroad would translate well here in the States. He got his answer rather quickly.

“I was hoping he would be that good but you never know,” said Heinze. “What we realized quickly was that he really gets the position. He mentally reads shooters and the play well and technically does a good job with angles... he limits the opportunities for the shooters and his numbers are showing that.”

To Heinze’s point, Sivnert has emerged as one of the most consistent netminders in the league. He currently stands second in the league - in three categories - with 14 victories, a 2.25 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. In 20 games, Sivnert has made 562 saves and has logged more than 1,100 minutes between the pipes.

“He is consistent and takes care of rebounds and helps direct the defense,” said Heinze. “He is also very calm and doesn’t get distracted.”

Rounding out the VJW representatives on the EJHL All Star roster is Jackson, who is enjoying his second year (first full season) with the Warriors. In 30 games, Jackson has amassed seven goals and 18 assists.

“It has been a fun team to be around,” said Heinze. “Winning helps, but it’s nice to have a bunch of kids who are working hard and trying to get better.”

Since the road to the finish is only halfway complete, Heinze isn’t ready to put this team up against some of the program's best but he certainly likes what he sees so far.

“We had some great years with guys like [former Merrimack College standout Joe Cucci],” said Heinze. “It’s a long season that goes by quickly, but they are taking it to heart both on and off the ice and are trying to be better both on and off the ice. That has been very rewarding.”

Before those five players represent the VJW at the 2012 EJHL All-Star Showcase, however, the Warriors will look to continue the winning streak when they face off against Rochester on Friday and Bay State on Saturday.

To view the entire EJHL All-Star roster, click here.
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