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Mid Fairfield Claims New England Tier I 14U Title

By Mike Madera - Special to, 03/16/15, 10:00PM MDT


The Junior Rangers win thanks to a balanced approach

The key to success for any team is the ability to mesh as a unit and to develop and use the depth of a squad to its fullest.

The Mid Fairfield Junior Rangers, in winning the New England District Youth Tier I 14U regional title this weekend and securing a berth in the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships, seem to have the formula down.

With players from Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, the team has not only formed a cohesive unit, but every player is rotated in regularly.

The Junior Rangers have two goalies, Alex Contey and Cam Fernandez, who split time equally, and three lines that play equal minutes. The benefits, according to Mid Fairfield coach Bob Crawford, are immense.

“The team is very balanced,” Crawford said. “I have been working with this group of kids for five years now. We may add a couple of kids every year to make us stronger. They fit in with the team. We play a fast tempo, a high-tempo type of game.”

“We split the games 50-50 in goal. Both guys play very well. We roll all three lines out there in all situations. All of our players can play in all situations: five on five, power play, penalty kill. We use everybody. If a guy gets injured, everybody is prepared to play.”

Success also comes from stability in a coaching staff as Crawford, for example, has been with this group for five years and has been involved in the program for 10 years. The Junior Rangers have that dedication throughout the program, from the mite level on up.

“There are a lot of coaches in the program,” Crawford said. “They are committed to the kids. We focus at a young age on skill development. We stress skill development. We try to develop their skills to the highest level so they can continue to play at a top level.”

“We develop a certain culture with our focus on how to play the game. We play a style of game where our system put together focuses on stick handling and shooting the puck, moving the puck and skating. The kids respond to the system. We are very deep as a team.”

Mid Fairfield also has access to a new facility in Stamford, Conn., The Rinks at Chelsea Piers. The use of this facility allows the team to get its work in year round.

“It is a beautiful facility,” Crawford said. “We are a year-round program. We work on and off ice as well as do dry land work. We work on the basics. There are no substitutes for the basics.”

Those basics combined with hard work have helped this year’s squad immensely as 10 players are playing in an upcoming USA Hockey festival in Portland, Maine, and a handful of others are doing the same in New York.

Heading into the New England District championships, the Junior Rangers and the Connecticut Wolfpack were the favorites to reach the title game. Neither team disappointed.

Playing a near flawless tournament, Mid Fairfield used a combination of talent, hard work and depth to take home the title. Behind a pair of goals from Adam Samuelsson, Mid Fairfield beat the Wolfpack 4-1.

The Junior Rangers did not allow a goal in the tournament until the second period of the title game. Mid Fairfield used a run of 21-0 to win its opening three games.

The Junior Rangers faced their first bit of adversity in the title game and adjusted nicely. Mid Fairfield took a 1-0 lead with 9 minutes, 33 seconds left in the opening period when Jacques Bouquot and Charles Shaffer set up Samuelsson.

However, the Wolfpack finally cracked the armor of the Junior Rangers soon after.

When Billy Dobensky scored off an assist from Christopher Guyette with 15:01 to go in the second, the Wolfpack became the first team in the tournament to score on the Junior Rangers.

The game remained even until the third period, when Samuelsson scored his second of the game off assists from Shaffer and Josh Cohen with 11:43 left.

That was all Fernandez needed. Using a solid defense in front of him, the Mid Fairfield goaltender kept the Wolfpack off the scoreboard in the final period, before Bouquot scored into an empty net with 1:07 remaining to seal the title.

Both Fernandez of Mid Fairfield and Steven Turner of the Wolfpack played well in goal for their respective teams.

The first meeting of the two teams in the tournament took place in the initial game. Mid Fairfield set the tone of the weekend right from the start.

Josh Cohen scored twice, defenseman Daniel Long added two assists and another defenseman, Samuelsson, added a goal and an assist. Cohen gave his team a 1-0 lead with 5:47 left in the opening period and capped the scoring in the 4-0 victory with a goal off assists from Samuelsson and Bouquot with 1:54 left in the second.

“He has gotten better every year,” Crawford said of Cohen. “He is committed out there. He knows what the coaches want. He is very coachable.”

In between Cohen’s goals, Mid Fairfield inched away from the Wolfpack as Shaffer and Samuelsson scored less than seven minutes apart in the second period for a 3-0 advantage.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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