ESPN Boston MIAA hockey tourney picks

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
6:04
PM ET
The MIAA boys' and girls' tournaments have kicked off across the state, and with snow pushing back some of the competition today, we’re taking the time to dissect the brackets and weigh in with our predictions for the postseason.

BOYS' TOURNAMENTS:
SUPER 8 - DIVISION 1A:
Favorite: Malden Catholic (15-1-4).

Dark horses: St. Mary’s of Lynn (18-1-3), St. John’s Prep (13-5-2), Hingham (16-4-2), BC High (10-5-5).

Overview: Once again, this is MC’s tournament to lose. The Lancers have been No. 1 in our poll from box to wire and they’ll be playing with ailing coach Chris Serino in mind. However, St. Mary’s, Prep and BC High will be tough outs, particularly if any of the respective teams goaltenders (Bailey MacBurnie, David Letarte and Peter Cronin catch fire. The Harbormen might be our darkhorse, however. That team has been sneaking up on the competition since Day One.

The pick: Crossovers: MC, St. Mary’s, Prep, Hingham; Championship: MC over Prep.

DIVISION 1:
Favorites: North – Burlington (14-1-6), Westford Academy (13-4-4); South – Needham (14-6-1), Marshfield (18-2-2).

Dark horses: North – Woburn (12-5-4), Reading (10-4-6); South – Norwood (14-3-4).

Overview: Otherwise known as the Super 8 consolation brackets, play-in game losers Burlington and Needham return to their respective brackets with chips on their shoulders. However, the teams with most to prove might be a pair of squads who were left off the Super 8 table in both Westford Academy and defending D1 champions Marshfield. The highlight to the tournament could a potential North semifinal between the aforementioned Red Devils and Woburn, who’ve had the Tanners’ number twice this season. Also look out for another potential semifinal with a league rivalry to it with Norwood on Needham’s side of the bracket.

The pick: North final – Burlington over Andover, South final – Marshfield over Needham; Final – Burlington over Marshfield.

DIVISION 2:
Favorites: North – Lynnfield (17-3-1), Boston Latin (14-2-4); South – Franklin (16-2-3), Canton (15-2-3).

Dark horses: North – Wilmington (11-4-5), Winthrop (12-6-2), Saugus (11-6-3); South – Coyle-Cassidy (8-11-1).

Overview: We feel that the Div. 2 North boys’ hockey bracket might be the most competitive in the state, regardless of sport. Again, the Northeast Conference is well represented with both Saugus and Winthrop scoring first-round “upset” wins. The tournament will still run though No. 1 and 2 seeds Lynnfield and Boston Latin, however. The South is dominated by three Hockomock League squads (Canton, Franklin and Mansfield) who’ve seen plenty of each other throughout the season. But always look out for the battle-tested squad from Coyle, which sports a sub-.500 record, but has done so against a host of Super 8 teams.

The pick: North final – Boston Latin over Danvers; South final – Canton over Franklin; Final – Boston Latin over Canton.

DIVISION 3:
Favorites: North – Bedford (16-4-0), Lowell Catholic (13-5-2); South – Medfield (16-3-1), Pembroke (15-4-3); Central – Hudson (18-1-1); West – Longmeadow (10-6-4).

Dark horses: Marlborough (13-5-2), Shawsheen (12-5-3), Swampscott (8-8-4), Westfield (14-4-2).

Overview: The state’s biggest field of teams lies in Division 3, where some of the perennial favorites are back at it and among the top-seeded teams. Perhaps the story of the year has been Bedford, which earns the No. 1 seed in the North. The South bracket is likely to be decided in the fourth matchup of the season between South Shore rivals Pembroke and Scituate. Hudson claimed top-billing in Central, while in the West, the road still runs through power Longmeadow, but Westfield eyes a return trip to the Garden ice.

The pick: EMass final: Pembroke over Lowell Catholic; Central/WMass final – Hudson over Westfield; Final – Pembroke over Hudson.

GIRLS’ TOURNAMENTS
DIVISION 1:
Favorites: Acton-Boxborough (17-1-2), Westford Academy (16-2-2), St. Mary’s of Lynn (18-3-1), Woburn (15-3-2).

Dark horses: Arlington Catholic (16-3-1), Braintree (13-5-2), Hingham (14-6-1).

Overview: Last year’s Division 1 runners-up Acton-Boxborough emerge at the No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament, riding 8th-grade goaltender Cali Loblundo and top-scorer Kati Goguen once again. Westford Academy pulled the No. 2 seed, but could have its hands full with defending champion Hingham lying in the reeds at No. 10. Of course, this was also supposed to be the year that St. Mary’s of Lynn was written off as a legitimate contender, but Frank Pagliuca has pulled off perhaps his best-ever coaching job (according to those who know) and has the Spartans primed for another run into late March.

The pick: Semifinals – Acton-Boxborough over Woburn and St. Mary’s over Hingham; Final – St. Mary’s over A-B.

DIVISION 2:
Favorites: Duxbury (18-0-1), Walpole (15-2-3), Belmont (14-4-2).

Dark horses: Canton (13-7-0), Fontbonne Academy (11-8-1), Westwood (14-5-1).

Overview: The best in the state thus far may have resided in Division 2, as defending champion Duxbury ran the table and was the state’s only unbeaten squad. Walpole has also been among the most consistent teams in the state, running over Bay State opponents with a mix of high-octane offense and steady defensive play. The story of the year — ever since their stunning December upset of Woburn — has been Belmont. The MIAA’s oldest girls’ hockey program has returned to prominence after the squad went winless just three years ago.

The pick: Semifinals – Duxbury over Belmont, Walpole over Westwood; Final – Duxbury over Walpole.

Scott Barboza

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
Scott Barboza joined ESPNBoston.com as a high schools editor/reporter in May 2010. He spent the previous three seasons working in the New England Patriots media relations department after a stint at the Taunton Daily Gazette, where he covered everything from Little League baseball to the Boston Red Sox.

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