December 20, 2013

Juniors Journal: Vesey hoping to follow in big footsteps

By Shawn Hutcheon

South Shore Kings forward Nolan Vesey will soon be headed to Maine after a very successful high school and junior career. There, he hopes to emulate the careers of his father, Jim Sr., and brother, Jim Jr.

High school is often described as “the best years of your life” but for hockey players, those years are more like a stepping stone to achieving lifelong dreams.

South Shore Kings forward Nolan Vesey used his high school years to begin building what is quickly becoming an outstanding hockey resume.

As a senior at Austin Prep School (Reading, Mass.), he led his team to a Division IA championship game appearance in March. Just seven days after high school season ended, Vesey played a key role in the USA Hockey 18-Under (midget) Tier I National Championships for the Massachusetts state champion Neponset Valley River Rats (a team that this writer served as an assistant coach). The tournament was held in Pittsburgh and Vesey and his River Rats teammates returned to the Bay State as national champions.

“Nolan was our youngest player but he ended the season as one of our leading scorers and was outstanding at Nationals,” River Rats head coach Jon Hutcheon said. “He’s deceptively fast, very good with the puck and very strong. He has a true passion for the game and was pleasure to coach. He has a great future ahead of him.”

With all that Vesey has achieved, he ranks the trip to Pittsburgh at the top of the list.

“Winning the national championship with the River Rats was the best experience of my life.”

This season, the star forward achieved the dream when he committed to the University of Maine after being recruited by several Division I colleges.

“The recruiting process was a lot of fun,” said Vesey. “I talk to Maine’s assistant coaches every couple of weeks now and they’re happy with my progress.”

With the stress of going through the recruiting process in the past, the North Reading, Mass., native is leading the United States Premier Hockey League in scoring with 19 goals and 26 assists totalling 45 points in 34 games

“I play on a line with Beau Starrett (Bellingham, Mass.) and Joe Lappin. Beau’s committed to Cornell and Joe’s a really good player so I’m hoping the best for him” Vesey said. “It was a big jump from high school to junior hockey. It’s a faster pace and more physical. Every player in the league is a good player.”

Vesey also comes from a hockey family – his father, Jim Sr., played in the NHL with St. Louis and the Bruins, and his older brother, Jim Jr., is a star sophomore at Harvard, as well as a gold medalist with Team USA at the 2012 World Junior Championships.

Game of the Week

Jersey Hitmen vs. South Shore Kings, Sunday, Dec. 22

All eyes will be on this one between the third-place Jersey Hitmen and second-place South Shore Kings, to be held at 1 p.m. at the Foxborough (Mass.) Sports Center. The clubs met on Sept. 20, with the Hitmen taking a 5-1 victory. With five points separating the two clubs in the standings, there’s plenty on the line.

NE Junior Power Rankings

1. Boston Junior Bruins (23-3-2-1) – And the Junior Bruins go rolling along. The leaders of the United States Premier Hockey League have won eight of their last 10 contests. Goaltender Sean Lawrence (20-3-1-1), a Quinnipiac recruit, continues his dominance over the league.

2. South Shore Kings (23-8-2-1) – The Kings are tied for first place with the Junior Bruins in the USPHL standings.

Maine recruit Nolan Vesey (N. Reading, Mass.) leads the league in scoring with 45 points on 19 goals and 26 assists in 34 games.

3. New Hampshire Junior Monarchs (22-4-1-0) – An 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games has propelled the Monarchs to a seven-point lead over the Northern Cyclones in the Eastern Hockey League’s North Division. Goaltender Brendan Cain leads the league with a 1.95 goals against average.

4. Islanders Hockey Club (16-12-2-0) – Winners of five of their last ten contests, including victories over the Jersey Hitmen and South Shore, the Islanders are in fifth place in the USPHL. Goaltender Alex Morin’s 2.22 goals against average is third best among the league’s goalies.

5. Northern Cyclones (19-7-0-0) – Winning six of their last 10 games has given the Cyclones, second in the EHL’s Northern Division, an eight point lead over the Boston Bandits, however, two recent losses to the Jr. Monarchs has seen Northern slide seven points behind New Hampshire. Cyclones forward Kevin Valenti leads the EHL in scoring with 51 points in 26 games.

6) Connecticut Oilers (15-7-1-1) – The Oilers are in first place in the EHL’s Central Division but they are beginning to look over their collective shoulders as they are just four points ahead of the Boston Bandits. Goaltender Nick Nugnes (W. Barnstable, Mass.) is ninth in the league with a 2.57 goals against average.

7. Boston Bandits (13-8-3-1) – After losing only three of their last 10 contests, the Bandits, residing in second place in the Central Division of the EHL, are just four points out of first place. Freddy Gerard is leading Boston in scoring with 27 points in 25 games.

8. Bay State Breakers (7-15-4-3) – Although they reside in seventh place in the USPHL, Bay State pulled off an upset victory Sunday by defeating the Jersey Hitmen. The Breakers hope to build on that victory this week versus the Connecticut Yankees this week. Sotiri Athanasopoulos continues to lead his club 19 points.

9. Connecticut Yankees (8-21-1-0) –Yankee goaltenders Steve Thulin (UConn) and Bruce Racine (Colgate) have committed to Division I universities.

10. Hartford Junior Wolfpack (9-10-2-2) – Winners of five of their last 10 games, the ‘Pack is in fifth place in the EHL’s Central Division and just five points behind the fourth-place New York Bobcats. The two clubs face off this weekend in a two-game series in New York. Forward Dylan Vander Esch is the top point producer for Hartford with 19 points in 22 games.

11. Portland Junior Pirates (8-21-2-1) – After enduring a 15-game losing streak, Portland has won three of their last five USPHL tilts. They look to begin a long winning streak this weekend versus New York’s P.A.L Junior Islanders. Forward Jordan Haskell is the club’s top scorer with 20 points.

12. Valley Junior Warriors (9-11-1-5) – After losing both games last weekend, the Junior Warriorsdrops three places in our rankings. They are in fourth place in the EHL’s North Division. They will make a three day tour of the Central Division this weekend and face off against New York Apple Core, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and the New York Bobcats. Shane Tracy (Bedford, N.H.) is tops on the team with 22 points.

13. Boston Jr. Rangers (10-12-2-2) – Winning their only game last week did not help the Junior Rangers move out of last place in the EHL’s North Division. Like Valley, Boston will travel south to take on the same teams as the Warriors. Forward Tyler Theodoulou has amassed 30 points in 26 games.

14. Walpole Express (8-14-3-1) – The last place club in the EHL’s Central Division, Walpole has won twice in its last 10 tilts. Despite the team’s misfortunes, forward Frankie Cefalu has registered 29 points in 24 games.  

Twitter: @ShawnHutcheon