Defense & Goaltending Key for Junior A Team Heading into 2013
vjw_goalie.jpgMuch attention has been placed on the trio of Bay State stars – Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading, MA), Devin Tringale (Medford, MA) and Brendan Collier (Charlestown, MA) – who have contributed 72 of the team’s point thus far and are three of the team’s top four scorers.

While quick to give them their due praise, Head Coach Andy Heinze makes it clear that they are receiving strong support from the team’s less heralded defense and goaltending duo.

“Our profile players deserve the attention that they have received but our defense is where we are steady and have improved,” said Heinze, whose team stands at 19-10-0 heading into the winter break. “We are not giving up a lot on the back end and that has helped us to be successful.”

To Heinze’s point, the Warriors stand in second place in the Northern Division and are enjoying a four-game winning streak. It marks the fourth time this season that the team had put together a winning streak of four games or more.

“We have had our struggles scoring goals at times this season,” said Heinze. “But we were able to stay in games because of our defense and goaltending.”

After losing EJHL Goaltender of the Year Fabian Sivnert, Heinze looked to the first-year tandem of Brendan Leahy (Reading, MA) and Marcus Born (Kumia, Sweden) to fill the void and he has not been disappointed.

Both netminders have been consistently in the top 10 in the league in goals-against-average and Leahy led – for most of the early part of the season – in overall wins. He currently stands seventh overall with nine wins despite being sidelined since November 29 with a broken rib.

“For a while we had two goaltenders who were in the top five in both GAA and save percentage and that is a real testament to how well the defense has been playing,” said Heinze, who hopes to see Leahy back in action after the New Year. “Brendan is bigger and covers more of the net well. He controls his rebounds and is very calm in net and doesn’t get rattled.”

While Leahy has been sidelined, the Swedish-native Born has shouldered his share of time between the pipes. During his team’s latest four-game winning streak, Born recorded 120 saves.

“We figured that Marcus was going to be solid because we received good information from our scouts in Sweden,” said Heinze. “Marcus is an athletic kid who has really played well and can handle the puck outside of the crease. He is also good with his angles and squares up well.”

Standing in front of the netminding tandem is a defensive group that is a healthy blend of experienced returners and dynamic newcomers. Marcus Moles (Lake Placid, NY) and Brett Mason (Rowley, MA) have established themselves as team leaders along the blueline, while Jake Schechter (Naples, FL) has quickly attracted the attention of several Division 1 powerhouses.

“We rely on Marcus and Brett because they know what we like and what we expect of them,” said Heinze. “Schechter was a huge addition for us. He came from the USHL but came here because he was more comfortable with the EJHL’s up-tempo and skill-game setting.”

Perry Holcombe (Cummings, GA)
and Gus Harmes (Pelham, NY) have also played a dominating role, especially offensively. The pair has posted 16 and 13 points, respectively, to lead all Warrior defensemen.

“Perry Holcombe is good with the puck and does a good job of controlling our end and buying time and space,” said Heinze. “And Gus Harmes is a versatile player who is very physical and has a real offensive dimension.”

Providing even more depth for the Warriors has been the addition of Blake Barnes (Broken Arrow, OK), Andrew McAvoy (Mechanicville, NY) and Kollin Schultz (Williamsville, NY).

 “There is no question that we have been successful because of this group of players,” said Heinze, whose team stands second in the league in penalty kill percentage (88%). “The experienced defensemen are leading the way and the newcomers are improving with each and every game.”

The Warriors will next be in action on Wednesday, January 9th when they host the Boston Bandits at the Haverhill Valley Forum. Spectators are encouraged to attend and cheer the team on to victory.
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