Eastern Hockey League,EHL,Connecticut Jr. Nighthawks,USA Junior Hockey

Eastern Hockey League: Tough defense keeps Valley Jr. Warriors in division title hunt

The revolving door to the top of the Boston Division in the Eastern Hockey League has turned a lot this season.

By Joshua Boyd

The Valley Jr. Warriors (27-17-3) hope to stop it from spinning. With two games remaining in February, they held a lead – albeit a slim four-point lead – on the Division title. The Warriors, the Boston Jr. Rangers and Walpole Express have been in a three-team race for most of the season for the title, which would at its very least be a good spur for playoff success.

General manager/head coach Andy Heinze was happy to see his team playing some of its best defensive hockey towards the end of the regular season.Valley Jr. Warriors,Eastern Junior Hockey League,Ryan Fitzgerald

“Coming back from Christmas break, the players remained pretty focused. We’re playing with a lot of confidence now and really playing some consistent hockey,” said Heinze, enjoying a 5-3 month with two games remaining.

His team was averaging 2.65 goals against per game, fifth best in the league as of Feb. 22.

“We’re not giving up a whole lot of goals. Any time you’re limiting a team to three and under, you’ll do well,” said Heinze. “Our forwards do a nice job of supporting the defense and also creating some offense in transition.”

On the goaltending side, Sean Lincoln (’96) has also been a key to the overall team defense. The Orange County, Calif., resident’s .939 save percentage is good for fourth in the Eastern Hockey League.

In front of Lincoln, the Warriors had to reshuffle after the loss of returning ’96 blueliner Evan Nyhus to a season-ending injury. Brody McDougal (’97) stepped in and “he’s done well,” as has 19U Elite promotion Kevin Rodgers, a ’97 from Haverhill, Mass., also home to the Warriors. The core four of Matt Robinson, Eric Strait, Lucas Andersson and Ford Hatchett have been working hard since Day 1 for the Warriors.

Offensively, every forward with at least 18 games played has double digits in points – 15 of them altogether. Six of those players hit double digits in goals this year.

“Our scoring is spread out. We don’t have one line carrying us,” said Heinze.

The team’s leading scorer, Paul Boutoussov (another Californian) has been a leader in many ways – goals (19), assists (22, tied with Matt Henderson), points (41) and penalty minutes (70).

“He has been really consistent for us,” Heinze added.

He joins Garrett Cintoli (29 points in 42 games) as captains this year.

“They have done a good job on and off the ice, bringing the group together and making sure everything runs smoothly,” added Heinze.

 

Read past Eastern Hockey League articles in our archives:

Connecticut Nighthawks’ Schoen excited to move on to SUNY-Geneseo

Red-hot New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs coach sees room for improvement

Our January 2017 cover feature, “Staying True to the Mission Statement”