Haverhill, MA- The Valley Jr. Warriors picked up where they left off the first week of play by posting two strong victories at the Junior Bruins Shootout to stand atop the Northern Division standings. It marks the program’s best start in recent memory.
“I was pleased with how we continued to battle and do the little things that put us in a position to win,” said head coach Andy Heinze, a three-time EJHL Coach of the Year. “I am especially happy with how our newer guys have been able to acclimate to the speed of the game so early in the season.”
Although many of the newcomers have notable regional and national experience, there is always a transition period when they enter the junior hockey environment and face off against bigger, faster and stronger players. To combat that, Heinze and his coaching staff have stressed the importance of off-season training for all of his players. In fact, beginning this spring the Warriors signed on with Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning to work with the players year round.
“It was a priority for our players to work hard during the off season so that we could be strong out of the gate,” said Heinze. “Our program is committed to providing the players with the opportunity, but it is their job to take advantage of it. You can see how much they have added to their overall strength and they have been able to step right in and make an impact.”
Helping the Warriors early on have been three new faces – Devin Tringale, Ryan Fitzgerald and Brendan Collier– who have garnered much league attention. The trio has accounted for a combined 15 points in four games and has figured in on seven of the team’s 12 goals.
Fitzgerald currently leads the team with 1 goal and 5 assists, while Tringale has a team-high 3 goals to go along with 2 assists. Collier is currently tied with three of his teammates with four points.
Following the first week of play, Tringale and Fitzgerald – along with Gus Harms – were honored by being named the EJHL Players of the Week.
It is no surprise that the trio is making an immediate impact. After all, Fitzgerald and Collier were linemates at Malden Catholic and all three have been training for years at the Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning Center.
“Those three guys have a comfort level that is certainly helping them out on the ice,” said Heinze. “We have so many guys contributing right now that it takes pressure off a particular player or line.”
During the Boston Jr Bruins Shootout, Collier posted three points while Tringale and Fitzgerald added two points apiece in a 3-1 win over the Jersey Hitmen and a 2-0 decision against the Bay State Breakers. In four games, the Warriors have outscored their opponents by a 12-to-5 margin.
“You can’t get much better than that,” said Heinze of his team’s fast start. “We have had good starts in the past, but it has been a while since we have been 4-0 in this league because it is so competitive.”
Complementing the Warriors’ offensive production was the strong play – once again – of the Warriors’ defensive crew and their goalie tandem of Brendan Leahy and Marcus Born. While Born picked up his first league victory - a shutout - against the Breakers, Leahy has been outstanding between the pipes. He leads the league with three wins, has amassed 112 saves and boasts a 1.67 goals against average and a .957 save percentage.
“We felt really good about our two goalies this year but you never know until they get into the net and face a shot from these talented league players,” said Heinze. “We had a very good feeling about Brendan and had been interested in him for years. He is a competitive kid, and our coaching staff feels that both he and Marcus have a lot of upside.”
Despite standing atop the Northern Division after two solid weeks of play, Heinze realizes that this is just the start of a long season that is bound to bring new challenges and obstacles.
“I was happy with our overall team focus on solid team defense,” said Heinze. “We are getting good back checking and doing a great job on face offs. But as good as we have done to start, as a coach I always see what needs to be worked on and what we need to do as a team to improve. We are happy where we are at but we are certainly not complacent whatsoever.”
-Courtesy of Valley Jr. Warriors