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16U Valley Jr. Warriors of Mass. Are Ready for Next Step

By Sean Smyth - Special to USAHockey.com, 03/26/14, 3:30PM MDT

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This isn’t unchartered territory for players on the Valley Jr. Warriors’ Tier I 16-and-Under team. They’ve been to a pair of national tournaments in the last four years, reaching the final eight in each trip.

The 2013-14 Massachusetts champions are eyeing a new level of success in their next trip to the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier I Youth National Championships, which take place April 2-6 in Green Bay, Wis.

The Warriors, based north of Boston, went 25-2-1 during their fall season, capturing the state title Nov. 10, 2013, with a 5-0 win against the Boston Jr. Blazers. In the semifinals, they avenged an early season loss by beating the Cape Cod Whalers, 5-2.

Among the team’s other accomplishments were capturing the Mass. Selects Midget 16U league championship and winning the Chowder Cup tournament in the fall. They roared through the Chowder Cup field, going 6-0 in tournament play and outscoring opponents 32-4.

The Warriors feature nine players from Austin Prep School, which finished as runners-up in the top tier of the Massachusetts high school hockey playoffs this season.

The Warriors have a strong nucleus that has been together for the better part of a decade, coach Steve MacAdams said.

“We don’t have a particular superstar,” he said. “It’s definitely a team from the goal on out, to the D to the forwards.

“There’s no star player; it’s guys who like each other and have been together a long time.”

The no-star ethos was evidenced by the stat sheet: the Warriors had four players in the top 16 of Mass. Selects league scoring table, including

Eric MacAdams, who tied for the league lead with 23 points in 12 games. Jake McKenelley tied for fourth with 20 points, Brent Hill tied for 14th with 14 points, and Cam Russo tied for 16th with 13 points.

The Warriors also have two goalies who both offer excellent credentials. Elijah Harris went 5-2-1 with a 0.50 goals-against average, and Mike Pagliuca went 9-0-0 with a 0.75 GAA.

This will be different from past trips to nationals, when much of the attention was focused on former teammates Noah Hanifin, Colin White and Casey Fitzgerald, who all went on to play at the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“Those three guys were always the guys people were talking about and looking at,” MacAdams said. “The guys now that are still here, it’s more of an accomplishment for them to be there and get there, and [they’re] opening eyes for other people to look at them.”

Despite those changes, the majority of the players have been together since they were about 8 years old, MacAdams said. That experience should be helpful as the group makes its third appearance at a national tournament.

“The chemistry on and off the ice is very good,” he said.

In their first national tournament appearance, in 2010, the Warriors lost to Chicago Mission in the 12U semifinals. Two years later, the 14U squad lost to Shattuck-St. Mary’s of Minnesota in a shootout in the quarterfinals.

The season has been dedicated to the grandfather of player Ryan McDonough, Billy. Billy McDonough passed away during the season.

“He was like a grandfather to all of the kids,” MacAdams said. “He’d help them out if they needed rides. He was there for them for everything — hockey-wise, school-wise, personal life.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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