By Bill Keefe
Eastern Junior Hockey League officials have to be happy about the circuit’s continued uptick in its ability to attract and develop talent. Jimmy Vesey, Charlie Coyle and Brian Dumoulin are recent examples of players who chose the EJHL and became early-round NHL picks in the last four drafts.
|Right winger Brendan Collier (Charlestown, Mass.) is committed to Boston University. (Dave Arnold Photography)|
This year, though, the EJHL coaches may have liked to see some of the new talent less concentrated.
Three of the league’s top newcomers — all committed to Beanpot schools, one already drafted and two prospects for the next draft — all landed with the Valley Junior Warriors. And to start the season, Brendan Collier, Ryan Fitzgerald and Devin Tringale all were on the same line as the Warriors opened 5-0.
Collier (Charlestown, Mass.) is the right winger selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in the seventh round of this year’s NHL draft and committed to Boston University for next season. Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.) is the center, committed to Boston College for next year and was just tabbed a potential mid-round 2013 pick by NHL Central Scouting. Tringale (Medford, Mass.) is the left winger, committed to Harvard for next year and was just tabbed a potential late-round pick in his second year of eligibility.
Fitzgerald and Tringale were slated to play in the inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Sept. 29 in Buffalo.
While certainly appreciative of the talent infusion, Junior Warriors coach and general manager Andy Heinze (North Andover, Mass.) is equally pleased with the trio’s intangibles and off-ice qualities.
“The best thing about these kids is they want to learn,” Heinze said. “They’re itching to get additional stuff.
“They’re great team guys. It’s not all about them. We have a great locker room with a bunch of kids going in the right direction.”
While all three have great offensive skills, it’s some of the effort areas that earn respect.
“They all grind in the corners,” Heinze said. “They are all diligent defensively. Certainly there is stuff to work on and learn, but they’re just competitive, competitive kids that have an unbelievable will to win along with the talent they have.
“If anything, they encourage guys on the team. We won 2-0 today and they had both goals, but it doesn’t matter who scores. Everyone is fired up. Guys are talking. ‘Nice hit.’ ‘Nice pass.’ Kids are buying into it and working hard.”
|Devin Tringale (Medford, Mass.) is committed to Harvard. (Dave Arnold Photography)|
Each of the trio had options on where to play this season, including the USHL, other EJHL teams or Canadian junior A or major junior if they were so inclined. Collier and Tringale graduated from Malden Catholic and Lawrence Academy, respectively, while Fitzgerald elected to bypass his senior year at MC.
Collier and Fitzgerald had the MC tie and Fitzgerald’s family has Charlestown roots as well. Collier and Tringale played for the Middlesex Islanders growing up. All three played on a line together last fall for the GBL Bruins. Playing together this season was a goal they shared. All three also were committed to staying local. Each player said their committed colleges more or less left the decision on where to play to them.
“Andy is a great guy and an awesome coach,” Tringale said. “Being able to play for him had a big role in it. Staying local vs. gong to the USHL was attractive to me personally and working out with Mike Boyle was also a key factor. I’ve been working out with him for four or five summers now and being able to stay with him was awesome. We knew a bunch of guys were coming to the team and with the returners, we knew we were going to have a good year.”t
In starting the season well, the team’s chemistry has come together quickly. Among the early wins were victories over perennial contenders, including the Jersey Hitmen and South Shore Kings.
“Both of those teams are phenomenal,” Collier said. “They were tough games and I’m sure we’ll see them again, but it showed how talented and hard working of a group we are.
“(Fitzgerald, Tringale and I) didn’t want to separate ourselves from the group. Right away, we got to know the returning guys and have them show us some of the ropes. We became a team the first week. You can already tell this team has something good brewing.”
Said Fitzgerald, “The team camaraderie is a big thing. So far, we haven’t lost and I think it’s because of how close we are.”
Meanwhile, on the ice, the trio has been adjusting to teams’ depth and the level of play compared to the preps and high school.
“It’s a lot more physical,” Collier said. “There’s a lot more clutching and grabbing in the corners. It’s more chippy. It’s a big step from high school.”
This season, they are together in the blue and gold of the Junior Warriors. They will remain friends for many years to come, the next four years notwithstanding.
“Once the puck drops in the Beanpot, none of us are friends anymore,” Tringale said.
This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.