The New England Patriots, New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Penguins are among the few teams we expect to see near the top of their respective leagues when their seasons come to an end, year in and year out. The same can be said about the Boston Junior Bruins in the Eastern Junior Hockey League.
Each season, the Junior Bruins are strong contenders in the quest for the Dineen Cup, emblematic of the league’s playoff champion. This season is proving to be no different. Boston is currently in first place in the EJHL’s Northern Division with a four-point lead over the Islanders Hockey Club (Tyngsboro, Mass.).
In years past, the Junior Bruins have become known for employing some of the most offensively dynamic players in junior hockey. This season, however, the scoring is spread throughout the lineup. The team’s top scorer, Paul Russell (Andover, Mass.), is 47th in league scoring with 27 points. A total of 32 Junior B’s have registered at least one point on the season.
While a coach likes to see the scoring wealth spread around, he always needs one player he can rely on night after night. In coach Peter Masters’ case that player is Granite Bay, California native and goaltender Sean Lawrence. Lawrence has been the model of consistency. The 18-year-old EJHL rookie has amassed 14 victories against nine losses. Lawrence’s win total is seventh best in the circuit, while his 2.68 goals-against average is ninth among the league’s puck-stoppers. He also carries a save percentage of .916, which has the Golden Stater 13th in the EJHL.
How did a goaltender that grew up in California become the No. 1 netminder on a team in Massachusetts?
“Actually, I moved away from home when I was 14,” Lawrence said. “My goalie coach said I’d get more exposure if I moved, so I left to play for the Russell Stover U16s in Kansas City, Kansas. I played there for two years then moved to Dallas to play for the Dallas Stars U18 club for the following two years then I played in some summer tournament games for Peter (Masters) last summer. He liked how I played and here I am with the Junior Bruins.”
Lawrence has found the transition from midget (U18) hockey to junior to be a smooth one with Boston.
“Moving up to the EJHL hasn’t been a huge step,” he said. “The game is faster and you have to adjust to that but it’s been a good experience. Peter expects you to give 100 percent in every game and practice. He expects the team to win every game, which I like. We all get along and we’re winning so that makes it easier for a goaltender.”
Colleges have been showing interest in the 5-foot-11 netminder due to his quickness in the crease and positionally-sound game. Lawrence constantly challenges shooters and plays with a crease-full of confidence.
“I want to play at a Division 1 school whether it’s next year or the year after,” he said. “My advisor has been talking to a few schools.”
While it is common for players to leave home to play junior hockey, 3,000 miles is about as long distance as it gets. However, Lawrence’s parents, Jerry and Cynthia, make it a point to come east to see their son play.
“They would try to come once per month to see me play,” Lawrence said, “but now my mom makes the trip once every three months.”
If the Junior Bruins’ wealth of past success and their current spot atop the league standings are any indication of what’s to come, Lawrence’s parents better to plan to be here in mid-March if they don’t want to miss their son’s bid to backstop his team to glory.
Game of the Week
Last weekend, the Islanders Hockey Club defeated the Boston Jr. Bruins for the third time in three tries this season. The most recent win moved the Islanders to within four points of BJB for the top spot in the division. The teams will face off again this Wednesday at the New England Sports Center in Marlboro, Massachusetts.
The two clubs have played three classic, hard-hitting games. There is no reason to believe that the fourth tilt will not follow suit.
1) Islanders Hockey Club (25-9-0-1-1)
2) Boston Jr. Bruins (27-9-0-2-0)
3) Northern Cyclones (25-7-2-2)
4) Valley Jr. Warriors (24-14-0-0-1)
5) Springfield Jr. Pics (22-16-0-1-2)
6) Boston Jr. Rangers (19-7-8-2)
7) Walpole Express (23-9-2-0)
8) South Shore Kings (21-14-0-3-0)
9) Connecticut Wolfpack (22-10-2-1)
10) Bay State Breakers (20-16-0-1-2)
11) New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (18-18-0-0-2)
12) Boston Bandits (16-17-0-1-2)
13) Laconia Leafs (8-22-6-0)
14) Portland Jr. Pirates (10-28-0-1-0)
15) Connecticut Oilers (10-23-03-1)