VJW Junior A Players College League Awards & Announce Future Plans
fitzgerald_400.jpgThe season may have ended for the Valley Jr Warriors during the semifinal round of the EJHL Playoffs, but there is still a distinctive buzz around Haverhill. Not only do members of the Warriors continue commit to top Division I and III schools, but one of their own received top league recognition.

Earlier this month, Ryan Fitzgerald (shown right) - the high-flying forward who will take his talents to Boston College next fall - was named the EJHL Rookie of the Year and then just this week Gus Harms announced that he has committed to Northeastern University.

"Our goal is to help these players get to the next level and we are thrilled that they are getting the opportunity to play at the next level,"
said Andy Heinze, the VJW head coach/general manager. "They all worked hard, so it's nice to see them get the recognition from the league and college coaches."

Harms becomes the second Warrior from this year's team to commit to Northeastern. He follows in the footsteps of
Jake Schechter, who announced his intentions of playing for the Huskies back in January. The 6-1, 200-pound Harms played in 48 games this season and posted 23 points.

"It's a real testament to their hard work and dedication," said Heinze.

This latest accomplishment for Fitzgerald is particularly impressive given that he played in just 32 of his team’s 46 games and posted 17 goals and 19 assists.

“It shows how much respect he has from the players and coaches in this league,” said Heinze. “Fitzy was out quite a bit because he was playing for the national team and in high-end tournaments and we supported that. The team is important, but you don’t want to hold these kids back.”

harmes_gus_630x400.jpgFitzgerald is one of the many VJW players who has deep roots with the Warrior program. His younger brother Casey Fitzgerald plays for the VJW ’97 Elites and was part of a Malden Catholic team that won its third consecutive Super 8 title. The comfort level that the family had with Heinze and the VJW program was one of the reasons why Fitzgerald chose to stay close to home this past season.

“There is a real trust factor and the bottom line is that the parents understand that we support the kids first and foremost,” said Heinze, a three-time EJHL Coach of the Year. “It isn’t just about wins and losses for us. While we all want to win, it is about overall development and preparing the players for the next level.”

Prospective players also appreciate the fact that Heinze is the only EJHL coach who has collegiate-level playing and coaching experience. He still holds the Merrimack College school record for most games played (144) and ranks 10th on Merrimack’s all-time scoring list with 166 points. He also spent nine years as an assistant coach with his alma mater.

“We strongly feel that if you do a good job the kids will want to be here and will be proud to be a Warrior,” said Heinze.

That type of commitment was seen down the stretch as the Warriors finished the season by winning 11 of its last 12 games. Heinze was especially happy with the play of Albee Daley, John Needham, Joe Lappin and Chris Tracy who all emerged as impact players.

Daley underwent major knee surgery seven games into last season. He made the decision to return to the Warriors this year and peaked at the right time.

“Albee came back from Christmas break and you could tell that he felt better about his knee,” said Heinze. “His mindset was about playing and enjoying the game rather than on where he would play in college. That served him very well and now he is getting some good looks.”

Tracy joined the team late in the year and helped to fill the void left when
Schechter suffered a season-ending injury.

“The addition of Chris made us deeper and stronger,” said Heinze.

Needham - much like Fitzgerald - spent his time playing and watching his younger brother compete for the Warriors. In fact, Needham’s mother Regina was watching John compete in the EJHL semifinals while his brother Craig was leading the VJW ’99 Elites to a New England Hockey League Championship title.

“Needham is a guy who can play in any situation,” said Heinze. “He is a physical kid who can move the puck well. He is still getting stronger and will be a really good college player.”

Lappin, meanwhile, was tabbed by Heinze as the player who was most improved this season. He not only has roots in the Warrior program, but his family legacy is matched by few. His father Pete is the career scoring leader at St. Lawrence University and three of his three uncles also spent their collegiate hockey careers at St. Lawrence before playing professional hockey.

And then there is his other uncle - Dave Sacco - who was a standout player at Boston University and currently a coach in the VJW organization.

“He just played great down the stretch,” said Heinze of Lappin. “He was a midget player coming into the season and he was a real factor for us down the stretch and into the playoffs. He is very consistent and I foresee some Division I opportunities for him to follow in the footsteps of his father and his uncles.”

While those players consider their options for next fall, here is a rundown on the college commitments from other members of the 2012-13 VJW Junior A squad.

  • Ryan Fitzgerald - Boston College
  • Devin Tringale - Harvard University
  • Brendan Collier - Boston University
  • Nick Leonard - St. Anselm College
  • Julian Fialkow - Colgate University
  • Jake Schechter - Northeastern University
  • Gus Harmes - Northeastern University
  • Ryan Badger - University of Maine
  • Jake Kulevich - Colgate University
  • Joe Scarfo - Curry College
  • Marcus Moles - SUNY-Fredonia

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