In the not so distant future, Boston University-bound Brendan Collier (Charlestown), Harvard-bound Devin Tringale (Medford), and Boston College-bound Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading) will be rivals in the Beanpot.
For now, they are enjoying their time together skating the first line for the Valley Junior Warriors. But subtle reminders of their impending rivalries are common.
“It will be weird playing as rivals,” said Collier. “We don’t really talk about it much except to jab at each other from time to time. For now we’re just enjoying our time together on the ice.”
None of the three are strangers to winning, or strangers to each other, having most recently played together with the Greater Boston Junior Bruins just one year ago.
For Tringale and Collier, the ties stem from playing together since they were in the Charlestown Youth Hockey program, as well as with the Middlesex Islanders.
Collier and Fitzgerald were part of one of the most lethal scoring attacks in the state the past three seasons at Malden Catholic, winning back-to-back Super 8 state championships. Tringale played at MC as a freshman, but then transferred to Lawrence Academy, where he played four seasons, capping it with a New England prep school title as a senior.
Now the trio are together in the Eastern Junior Hockey League in an effort to improve their games prior to making the leap to major Division 1 programs.
“To play with them is amazing,” said Tringale. “They are both great players and have excellent chemistry on the ice. It is awesome to be playing with those two and I think we’ve done a pretty good job out there so far.”
The Valley Junior Warriors, based at Valley Forum in Haverhill and coached by Andy Heinze, are way station for many players looking to increase their visibility and draft stock, or prime for a jump to the next level.
Players are granted an opportunity to hone their skills against elite talent while dealing with hockey as more than just an after-school activity.
“The transition [from high school] has gone pretty smooth,” said the 6-foot, 193-pound Tringale. “Things were a little more physical at first and all of the teams in the league have more depth. But Coach Heinze and all the vets on the team have helped a ton.”
They wouldn’t have it any other way either.
The ultimate goal for Tringale, Fitzgerald, and Collier is to become professional hockey players, and this puts them that much closer to that goal. It also will make them more formidable as they take on roles for some of the best college hockey teams in the nation.
“Each one brings certain attributes to the game. They have a sense of what each other can do and where each other is on the ice at all times. They can all finish and find the back of the net and they can all make plays.
“Devin has real good speed and his strength and size are a big plus. Brendan and Ryan find each other so well out there, and Devin too, and they are capable of beating Ds up ice.”
Tringale said “it will be special when we suit up against each other. I know we won’t take it easy on each other out there.”
The chasm between the high school game and college is vast, and the Eastern Junior Hockey League is a conduit for players of this caliber.
“It is way faster and much more physical,” said the 5-9, 183-pound Collier. “Every play feels like someone is trying to kill you. There is more clutching and grabbing and it’s a lot tougher than high school.”
Through 20 games, the Warriors were just two points behind the first-place Marlborough-based Junior Bruins in the EJHL’s Northern Division, with a 14-6-0 record.
Tringale leads the pack with a team-high 18 points (10 goals, 8 assists), while Collier (7 goals, 9 assists) trails him by only two points. The 5-9, 170-pound Fitzgerald, meanwhile, has tallied 13 points (3 goals, 11 assists) in just 11 games, and opened eyes after he captured MVP honors at the inaugural USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in October.
Not that they were not already opened, given his pedigree (his father, Tom, played 15 seasons in the NHL) and his skill level starting at an early age.
With the three of them on the ice together for the Valley Junior Warriors, there is always a great chance that something special might happen.
“We have a really good team,” said Collier. “We have a lot of skilled players and great coaches, so it’s great just being to play with all of them.”
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