MARLBORO, MA - When the Bruins added new teams to the program this season it caused some existing teams to be repositioned. One of
those teams was the group led by coach Chris Masters.
That team, formerly the Junior Bruins (Empire), is now the program’s U18 team competing in the USEHL and playing a more traditional U18 schedule. There were a lot of question marks heading into the season, as there always is. Each season there is substantial turnover with players graduating to the programs EJHL team and this past year was no exception.
Who would fill the holes in the lineup with the departure of a couple of 100 point scorers, a starting goalie and key defensemen? With a tougher schedule lying ahead, a new league and the prospect of entering the state tournament for the first time there was some uncertainty as to how quickly the team would come together and what results that would produce.
Added to that the Bruins boast one of, if not the youngest, U18 teams in the country. Traditional U18 teams are 1994′s and 1995 birth years. The B’s? There are no 1994′s, so the team could be considered a U17 team. The U18′s have an equal balance of 1995′s and 1996′s on the team in addition to a 1997. With the makeup of the team comprised of players that young the entire team is eligible to return and play U18 again next year. There is not a team in the country, certainly not one ranked as high as the B’s, that could boast the same.
In the teams first 28 games they have raced out to a 19-5-4 record and that is good enough for a top 5 ranking. The website mrhockeyrankings.com uses a mathematical formula that takes into account strength of schedule, won/loss record, etc. While not a perfect system it is regarded as the most accurate there is.
“What is most impressive to me is how we are winning,” coach Masters commented. “Virtually every game we play we are younger, smaller and less experienced than the other team so we can’t afford to be sloppy defensively, get pushed around and we need to make sure that we control the tempo of the game and have the puck on our stick a lot.”
“The players have done a great job of playing well in our own end, blocking shots and using our speed to transition up ice and play in their end. This may also be as hard working a team as we have had. They are relentless on the puck, on the back check and it makes them tough to play against. It also doesn’t hurt that we may have as strong a goalie tandem since the duo of Connor Knapp (Miami-Ohio) and Clay Witt (Northeastern) played for us.”
The team has averaged scoring only 3.39 goals per game but have only given up only 42 goals in their 28 games good for a miniscule 1.50 goals against average. That includes 9 shutouts and 5 other games only giving up one goal. The most amazing stat in their first 28 games is that they have never given up more than 3 goals. In the teams five losses, three were in over time and the other two were essentially one losses (both 3-1 scores but the third goal in each game was an empty netter).
Last week the B’s were named as the #3 seed in the state tournament (November 9-11 @ Foxboro) which says a lot for the youngest team entered. The team, in just seven short weeks since the start of the season has come a long way. The team got out to a 4-3-2 start but has since gone 13-3-1. “We see this each year with our team. You take young, talented players, push them and they will get better in a hurry. We can see the teams development and, more importantly, the individual development of the players. I am excited at what the team and players will look like at the end of the season.”
“Playing against talented older teams and players game in and game out speaks volumes for the talent level of our team and players as well as their competitive intensity. They are outworking and beating teams that they are underdogs, and sometimes significant underdogs, against,” coach Dan Tatar commented.
The U18′s have a busy four weeks ahead of them and their schedule doesn’t let up. Next weekend is the CT. Prep Showcase followed by the Beantown Fall Classic, then at the Chicago Fury tournament and finally the Massachusetts State Championships.