March 4, 2010
Take 4th Title in 5 Years
MARLBORO, MA-The Junior Bruins (Empire) took home the regular season title on Saturday as they beat the South Shore Kings by a 17-5 score. The B's, on a tear for months, have a 32 game winning streak going (31-0-1) and it turns out they needed every single one of those 63 points in order to push past Applecore.
The team is now the #1 seed throughout playoffs as well as the #1 seed at USA Hockey Nationals from the Empire League. After taking last year off the crown is back on the Bruins and that brings an automatic bid to nationals, the #1 seed at nationals from the Empire league and it means the B’s are the top seed throughout Empire playoffs.
This has the makings of a historic season for the Bruins; it certainly has been through the regular season. The Bruins had one of their most dominant teams and performances in the eight year history of this team (more on that below). Their 37-2-1 record now brings the B’s Empire regular season record to 182-16-10-3 over the last five years.
This team has the chance to be, perhaps, the best team in the program’s history at the Empire/Midget AAA level. While there have been many teams that could stake that claim, it may be the 2005-2006 Junior Bruins and the 2006-2007 teams that stand at the top. The 05-06 team was a wagon and could have as many as seven D-1 players from that team and another five to six who are playing at the D-3 level when all is said and done. Steve Moses (UNH), Dave Boehm (U-Mass Amherst), Mike Cichy (North Dakota), John Henrion (UNH) and Matt Zarbo (committed to Clarkson) are all currently in college or will be next year. That 2005-2006 also won the regular season title, were finalists at playoffs title and went to nationals. They led the league in goals for (283); goals against (114) as well as leading in power play and penalty kill percentage. That team had a 59-20-4 record, went 40-3-1 in league play. They average scoring 6.43 goals per game and giving up an average of 2.59 in league play. It was in this season that Stevie Moses broke the team point record with a staggering 71goals-77assists-148pts line.
The next season, 06-07, had some holdovers from the prior season and may end up with 10 members playing at the D-1 level (8 are already at that level or have made commitments). This team had a 52-9-1 overall record, 35-3-1 in league play, won the regular season title, playoff title and went to nationals. They averaged 5.75 goals per game and 1.93 goals against in league play. Their goal differential of 168 led the league and the B’s had three of the top ten scorers’ in the league (Derek Arnold, Steve Morra and John Henrion). Connor Knapp set a league record, tied this year by Colin Stevens, for goals against average of 1.66. Knapp also set a record for wins in a season with 22 (broken this year by Stevens).
This team is turning out future collegians as well. Frankie Vatrano (Boston College), Stevie Miller (Cornell) and Colin Stevens (who already has 3-4 offers) have already or soon will make commitments and there should be 5-7 more who will end up at the D-1 level from this team.
The B’s, en route to their league title, accomplished the following:
- Best Record (37-2-2)
- Only team to be undefeated at home (17-0-1)
- Led the league in penalty killing (91.8%)
- Second in power play (25.4%)
- Set league record for goals scored in a season (313); Only team to break 300 goal mark
- Only team to have more than one player in top ten in league scoring (Bruins had four with Vatrano, Morgan, Luczyk and Learned all in top 10)
- Vatrano led the league in scoring with 79 points/37 games (missed four league games)
- Zach Luczyk led the league in goals scored with 43/40 games (missed one league game)
- Second in the league with 18 short handed goals
- Learned led the eague in points per game averge with 2.27 points per game
- Led the league with the fewest penalty minutes (15.00 min average/game)
- Stevens led league in GAA (1.66); tied league record
- Stevens set league record for wins (23)
- Stevens led the league in save percentage (.937%)
- Stevens led the league in shutouts (6)
- Led the league in goals scored (313)
- Led the league in assists (458)
- Led the league in points (771)
- Led the league in shots on goal (1966)
- Second in the league in shots allowed (963)
- Led the league in goals per game average (7.63)
- Led the league in goals against per game average (1.88)
- Perfect record of 34-0-0 when leading after two periods
- Perfect record in one goal games
- Vatrano led league in assist per game streak with 13 games
- League record of non-losses streak (32). Streak is current, last league loss was September 30, 2009
- Youngest team in the league
Winning the league this year was no small feat and it came down to needing every single point. While Applecore, due to weather, did not play their last two games with Elmira it is safe to assume they would easily win those games and finish the season just one point behind the Bruins. Had the B’s earned one fewer point and been tied with Applecore, the title would have gone to them as they held the first two tie breakers.
Some close calls all proved necessary in handful of games this year. All the way back in early October it was a Charles Bando goal that earned a come from behind tie with the Bridgewater Bandits in Marlboro when the teams skated to a 5-5 tie. Just a few weeks later the Springfield Pics were a goal away from sending the game to OT before Frankie Vatrano scored and empty netter to put the game away and secure the two points needed for a win. In early December it was a Brian Morgan goal with less than five minutes to go to beat the South Shore Kings by a 2-1 score. Perhaps the most pivotal, and most dramatic point earned, was when the B’s pulled their goalie in Hooksett, NH playing the Monarchs who held a 2-1 lead with under a minute to play. With the extra attacker on, Vatrano took a shot from just over the blue line that found the back of the net and earned the point. The final close call came just weeks ago as the Pics forced the Bruins into overtime. Not only did the B’s need a tying goal in the final ten minutes of play but they needed the extra point in OT and got it when Cody Learned scored on a partial breakaway.
“This team has a chance to be a special group for us based on what they do over the next month,” coach Chris Masters commented. “Prior years teams have set the bar high, but this team has been so good the last few months, if they can keep it going, they have a good shot at continuing their success. The tough part is that there are a handful of teams just like us this year in the league and getting through playoffs will not be easy and the teams at nationals will be that much tougher.”
“As our teams normally do, we get better as the year progresses. Our team is so young that we spend the first few months getting caught up to speed with the league and making the adjustment to the strength and pace of play. This team has had great leadership from captains Sean McLaughlin and Cody Learned, as well as out other vets, that we have been able to consistently execute our game plan and get good results for a few months now.”
The team begins their playoff title defense on Friday as they take on the South Shore Kings in Haverhill, MA.
2009-2010 Empire Junior Hockey League Regular Season Champions