To be a regular season champion in a league that featured six teams all with a reasonable shot at winning the title takes basically everything a team has.
The old saying goes that â€œDefense Wins Championships,â€ and the Northern Cyclones have proven that true by posting a measly 2.23 team goals against average in the 2012-13 season. That was .04 off the top defensive squad, the Walpole Express (2.19). However, the Cyclones did lead the league in goals for, with 170 through 43 games.
The Cyclones appeared as if they would certainly end the season with the best goalie. J.J. Solloway led the league in minutes played (1862:27) and goals-against average (2.02) and he was fifth in save percentage (.926).
Solloway was named Goaltender of the Week in the Atlantic Junior League on three different occasions this season.
â€œThereâ€™s no doubt in my mind heâ€™s the best goalie in the league,â€ said Cyclones general manager/head coach Bill Flanagan. â€œHeâ€™s currently trying to make a decision between a number of Division 3 schools.â€
Flanagan said an intense summer of workouts, private goalie sessions with University of New Hampshire goalie coach Michael Buckley and additional preparation have paid off for the â€™92 from Derry, N.H.
â€œDoing the work in the off-season, he got stronger. He has basically paid his dues at this level, and he is reaping the benefit,â€ Flanagan added.
While praising his man between the pipes, Flanagan said that any recognition for Solloway has to go hand-in-hand with kudos to the defense corps in front of him.
Flanagan said that Tony Crow, Grant Gallo, Jonathan Houk, Devin Welch, Dalton Carter, Ty Zampitella and L.J. Fellows were troopers in quickly learning the elite-level junior game.
â€œThose guys were all first-year junior guys, and became pretty tough to score on,â€ said Flanagan. â€œThey all had the natural talent, but to start out they werenâ€™t consistent. Now, theyâ€™re more consistent.â€
There werenâ€™t necessarily set pairings made out the seven-man crew. Rather, Flanagan and his staff would give whoever was most deserving the most ice time.
â€œWhoeverâ€™s playing well will play a little more. Youâ€™ve got to be on them. If a guyâ€™s not playing well, Iâ€™m not afraid to go down to five, and weâ€™re also not afraid to put all seven out there in a game.â€
This group of eight (including Solloway) helped the Cyclones win their first AJHL regular season championship since 2010 and third overall.
Tryouts for the 2013-14 Northern Cyclones will take place April 12-14 at Cyclones Arena in Hudson, N.H. To register, go online to www.northerncyclones.com.
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