- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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There are less than 48 hours remaining before the puck drops on the real Super 8 on Sunday at Merrimack College.
So we’re taking this opportunity to break down the final eight:
1. Malden Catholic (15-1-4)
Marquee wins: Pretty much all of them, minus the Lancers’ one loss to New Jersey powerhouse Delbarton.
Players to watch: F Brendan Collier (22-34-56); F Ryan Fitzgerald (26-14-40); F Mike Iovanna (14-23-37); F Tyler Sifferlen (9-14-23); F Ara Nazarian (10-16-26); D Casey Fitzgerald (1-15-16); D Colin MacGillivray (2-8-10); Brendan White (2-16-18).
The skinny: As in the last couple of years, this year’s Super 8 is viewed as the Lancers’ tournament to lose. Again, they have the best line in the state with Collier, Ryan Fitzgerald and Iovanna saddling into Mike Vecchione’s former spot. But MC’s true strength is depth. Sifferlen and Nazarian would occupy a spot on mostly any team’s top line. Super frosh and BC commit Casey Fitzgerald has filled Conor Evangelista’s role dutifully as a puck-moving defenseman.
X-factor: Goaltending. Connor Maloney watched last year’s Super 8 from the BC High bench behind Peter Cronin. Now, it’s his time to shine.
2. St. Mary’s of Lynn (18-1-3)
Marquee wins: Malden Catholic (Kasabuski Tournament tie); Hingham (5-1); Cathedral (3-2).
Players to watch: F Bobby Mullins (9-20-29); F Jarrod Fitzpatrick (14-7-21); F Cam O’Neill (14-15-29); F Brendan Mageary (13-11-24); F Tim Aylward (10-10-20); D Nikko Markham (6-12-18); D Bryan Wilkins (1-7-8); G Bailey MacBurnie (1.30 GAA, 94.1 save %).
The skinny: So what were the Spartans to do without perennial league all-star Donald Hesse as their backbone? Well, Mark Lee found a more-than-legitimate starter in MacBurnie, a sophomore, who’s played well along with a defensive corps led by Markham. Fitzpatrick has been another revelation in his first season with the Spartans. St. Mary’s has greater scoring depth than in year’s past. And they’re young, as freshman Eric MacAdams (4-14-18) has impressed seeing top-line action.
X-factor: How do the Spartans react in a tight game. In last year’s Super 8 play-in stab, and the Div. 1 tournaments of year’s past, one-goal games have come back to haunt them. If they can sweat out a couple of close decisions in this tournament, they might find themselves at the Garden.
3. St. John’s Prep (13-5-2)
Marquee wins: BC High (3-1); Hingham (2-1); Central Catholic (4-0).
Players to watch: F Sam Kurker (26-26-52); F Brian Pinho (14-20-34); F Tyler Bird (9-5-14), F Andrew Brandano (8-6-14); D Nick Pandalena (6-10-16); D Brent Murray (0-4-4); G David Letarte (2.02 GAA, 91.5 save %).
The skinny: We still haven’t gotten over last year’s championship game; it was simply amazing hockey. There’s no Colin Blackwell, but Kurker (BU commit) has really blossomed this season and has taken this team on his back the way his former linemate did last year. Pinho and Bird, along with Kurker, are a formidable first line to skate against, and are strong in all three zones. Pandalena is a mountain of a defenseman, but beyond him, the Eagles blue line was green entering the season. Murray has elevated his play to comprise a formidable top pairing.
X-factor: Letarte. I believe we said this last year as well. When the senior is on his game, he can be airtight.
4. Hingham (16-4-2)
Marquee wins: Marshfield (6-2); Catholic Memorial (3-2); St. John’s of Shrewsbury (4-0).
Players to watch: F James Gordon (21-17-38); F Matt Brazel (11-20-31); F Matt Hughes (13-11-24); F Ryan Linehan (8-12-20); F Patrick Mannion (6-12-18); F Sam D’Antuono (6-19-25); D Nolan Driscoll (2-7-9); G John Grenier (1.88 GAA, 90.1 save %).
The skinny: If this team had a motto, it would be “lacking experience, but not young.” During the Harbormen’s most recent Super 8 runs, a good portion of this year’s roster watched from way down the bench, or up in the gallery. But this team has collectively raised its game and is benefitted by great coaching. Gordon’s 20-goal season has been a pleasant surprise and Brazel is one worth watching for the next two years. The real revelation has been Grenier between the pipes. The Xaverian transfer is among the statewide leaders in goals against average.
X-factor: Grenier. He doesn’t fit the current mold of a big, butterfly goaltender. Instead, he relies on aggressively challenging the shooter and cutting down angles. We’ll see how it matches up with the precision passing games of MC and St. John’s (S) in pool play games.
5. BC High (10-5-5)
Marquee wins: St. John’s (twice); Prep (5-3); Cathedral (3-0).
Players to watch: F Matt Sullivan (9-15-24); F Tom Besinger (10-15-25); F Bartley Regan (7-6-13); F Steve DeForge (6-13-19); D Brian Furey (3-6-9); D Sam Topham (1-9-10); G Peter Cronin (2.00 GAA; 91.5 save %).
The skinny: Cronin lead this team to the crossover round last year, falling just short of an upset of MC. He was the revelation of last year’s tournament and, as usual, the Eagles will look to their goaltender to continue his strong play. Besinger might be the shiftiest forward in the tournament not named Kevin Emmerling. He’s not big, but he sure can skate. Furey has done a nice job leading a young Eagles blue-line corps this season. ‘Moe’ Regan has produced some dirty goals and has thrived in his role as a power forward, coming off his EMass D1 Super Bowl win.
X-factor: Sullivan. The Eagles’ soft-spoken leader is a lead-by-example type, but thrives in big-game atmospheres. Wouldn’t be surprised at all if he’s a player we’re talking about months after the tournament.
6. Springfield Cathedral (10-6-6)
Marquee wins: BC High (4-3); Needham (1-0); CM (3-1).
Players to watch: F Frank Crinella (13-15-28); F Thomas Quinlan (11-5-16); F Peter Crinella (5-8-13); F Brendan Ashe (7-7-14); D Matt Foley (0-12-12); G John Liquori (2.40 GAA, 88.9 save %).
The skinny: The Panthers cracked the top six this year after getting bounced in a play-in game last year. This is a team that isn’t very flashy, but is consistently tough to play against, playing a brand of hockey that can be frustrating to opponents. Sophomore John Liquori has been steady, taking over for old stalwart Zac Rondeau. Liquori is the benefactor of a sound defensive squad that likes to play the body and takes care of its defensive assignments with diligence.
X-factor: Frank Crinella is perhaps the most talented player in the state who receives the least amount of deserved credit. This tournament could be a statement for him.
7. Central Catholic (13-3-5)
Marquee wins: Burlington (6-4, play-in game).
Players to watch: F Ryan Daigle (8-15-23); F Mike Kelleher (10-7-17); F Lloyd Hayes (15-8-23); F Alex Lester (7-9-16); F Zack Cote (10-4-14); D Jake Donahue (3-4-7); G Kyle Williams (2.13 GAA, 91.1 save %).
The skinny: Stop me if you’re heard this one before, but the Raiders again used a spirited second-half push after a slow start to get back into the top tournament. If they continue the fast and physical brand of hockey they played against Burlington, the Raiders will provide a tough test. Kelleher’s natural hat trick is a big boost to Central’s chances going forward; if he gets going, he’s one of the most potent pure scorers in the state.
X-factor: Williams. Shocking, right? As the goaltender goes, so goes the Raiders. And it’s no coincidence that Central played its best while last year’s ESPN Boston All-State netminder was at his finest.
8. St. John’s of Shrewsbury (15-4-3)
Marquee wins: Needham (5-4, play-in game).
Players to watch: F Kevin Emmerling (25-28-53); F Vin D’Amato (23-14-37); F Jay Duquette (11-22-33); F Hunter Burdick (6-9-15); D Nick Rutigliano (1-10-11).
The skinny: Akin to Central Catholic, the Pioneers took perhaps their biggest win of the season on Monday. In that shootout with Needham, they showed why they can go toe-to-toe with any team across the state with the top line of Emmerling, D’Amato and Duquette running and gunning …
X-factor: … but then there’s the defense. The Pioneers are going to need to tighten up in their own end. If they allow their three future opponents to enter the zone as they allowed the Rockets to run in the third period, there could be some lop-sided scores.
3dMike Scandura, Special to ESPNBoston.com
8dBrendan C. Hall
9dBrendan C. Hall
10dMike Scandura, Special to ESPNBoston.com
11dBrendan C. Hall