MARLBORO, MA - The 2013-2014 16U team enters the middle portion of the season after a solid 29-8-3 start. This year’s team is led by returning 97’s Taylor Slade, Justin Miller, Matt Hall, Dan Bates as well as returning ’98 Johnny DeRoche and ’99 Cam Burke.
Head Coach, Topher Bevis, discusses:“The ‘core’ represent the players that were with us on the inaugural team last year. These players went through a lot of development and believed in the Junior Bruins and are now seeing the benefits on the ice.”
This year, the returning core is leading the way as the B’s sit atop the USPHL North Division, as well as earning a trip to the Massachusetts State Championship game in November.
Offensively the Bruins are led by ’98 forward DeRoche, who recently accepted a full scholarship at Quinnipiac, who is as crafty as they come with the puck and Burke.
“Cam is a special player because he is able to play with and without the puck at top speed. He has matured physically this year, does not shy away from contact in all three zones. He is becoming a complete player in front our eyes. Not to mention he has a cannon for a shot,” Bevis continued.
Big ’98 Vlad Vulkanov, ’98 Sergey Bezrukov, ’98 Ilya Putintsev and ’97 Justin Miller are off to great starts production wise. ’97’s Boucher, Fowler, and Wagner have provide speed and grit all season long, with Boucher producing some big goals on the power play. Physically, the Bruins are led by big strong forwards, ’97 Justin Stassi and ’98 Chad Soule as well as, buzz-type, ’97 Cooper Fowler.
On the back end, the B’s are led by the smooth skating Defenseman, Taylor Slade. Slade leads all Dmen with a 9-20-29 line and a +23 rating. Slade provides an offensive side to his game that has taken his game to another level. “Taylor came to us last year as a very solid stay at home defenseman. Our development model allows for our younger players to learn and grow as players. Defenseman in today’s game need to be able to handle the puck and create offense when the time is right. Taylor has learned that part of the game and is now one of the top defenseman in the USPHL because of it,” Bevis added.
‘97s Dan Bates and Matt Hall provide a strong defensive game that has helped the B’s produce one of the top team defense numbers in the league to date. Also on the back end, ’98 Lucas Niezelski has a ranginess to his game that has seen him produce good numbers in the first half. Niezelski is 3rd in the USPHL in defenseman scoring with a 3-9-12 line, and is 2nd on the B’s overall amongst dmen with a 5-17-22 line and a +15 rating. The D Corps are led physically by Brendan Casey and Eli Haller. ’98 Max Kahn also adds a level of poise and smarts to group.
“Casey is one of those types that loves to hit. Anytime, anywhere he is always looking for that hit that changes the game. Having a player that can change a game with a big hit but who also doesn’t run all over the ice to do it is a good weapon to have.”
In net, the Bruins can’t seem to miss with either ’97 Adam Mercer or ’99 Keith Petruzzelli. Mercer provides a quickness and intensity that has helped backstop the team to big wins. While Petruzzelli adds a calmness and steadiness that players love to play in front of.
As the Bruins enter the 2nd half of the year, the team will look to continue it’s development model as well as developing a consistency to their game that will help them in March.
Bevis explains,“We have certainly had a lot of success, in terms of wins, to start the year. But the boys understand that the most important games are still to come. This time of year, we really begin to develop an identity that we can use as a standard of play. It is typically this time of year that we also see major gains in players’ development and confidence. The staff is excited to see who is going to step up their game to the next level.”
The team’s success was at center stage during the Mass State tournament. The B’s were tone of only two full season teams that qualified for the tournament and was the only one that advanced to the semi finals. The other three teams were all split season all star teams comprised of players that play for their high school teams in the winter. The B’s took down the Neponset Valley River Rats in the semi finals, in overtime, advancing to the championship game against Valley. In the finals, Valley was just to mu ch for the B’s, and they will represent Massachusetts at the national tournament in April.
“It really says a lot about how talented the players are, how hard they have worked and the job Topher has done with them over the last few months,” Chris Masters commented. “When you go into a tournament and play what are, essentially, all star teams and can you can advance to the finals it means that the months of hard work, practice and development these kids have gotten it paying dividends. We are also giving up about a year in average age to some of the teams we play and certainly to the ones at the state tournament. Our team about half 97′s and the rest of the team is a year or two younger and the teams we saw at the state tournament, like Valley, were almost exclusively 97′s. So, when you play a talented team like Valley, who are also bigger and more mature it makes it a tough game to win. We are thrilled how the team and players are performing and are excited to see their continued development over the rest of the season as they march towards the USPHL playoffs.”
The 16’s will continue with their USPHL schedule Friday night against Syracuse at home.