- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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We’re hours away from dropping the puck in the postseason with tonight’s Super Eight play-in games.
But we took a little time to sort out the Super Eight field, providing a primer on the teams.
Take a peek:
1. Malden Catholic (16-2-2)
Marquee wins: Lancers had wins over five of the 10 Super Eight teams and that doesn’t even include what might have been their most impressive win, an early season triumph over New Jersey powerhouse Delbarton.
Players to watch: F Mike Vecchione, F Ryan Fitzgerald, F Brendan Collier, D Connor Evangelista, F Nick Roberto.
The skinny: Wire to wire, unquestionably the top-ranked team in the state. As in the last couple of seasons, the Lancers enter the Super Eight with lofty expectations and seemingly nothing short of a title will satisfy. MC’s depth reaches far beyond its top line of three Division 1 college recruits (Collier, Fitzgerald and Vecchione) and its team speed and passing ability are without parallel. Not only can they score, they can defend as well, led by top defensive pairing of Evangelista and Colin MacGillivray.
X-factor: It’s funny how the postseason seems to shave away certain goals into missed chances and oftentimes it due to a hot netminder. So if those once plentiful goals start to ebb away, it will be left to senior goaltender Pat Young to shine. Young is capable between the pipes and he might just show that he’s been the most overlooked element to MC’s success.
2. St. John’s Prep (14-5-1)
Marquee wins: As the runners up in the Catholic Conference, the Eagles nabbed a pair of league wins against both BC High and Catholic Memorial, but it might have been Prep’s win against the Knights on Friday that showed they can truly be a threat in the Super Eight. Playing against a CM team with nothing to lose and everything to gain, the Eagles ratcheted up the D in a playoff-like atmosphere.
Players to watch: F Colin Blackwell, F Shane Eiserman, F Sam Kurker, G David Letarte, D Joe Currie.
The skinny: Outside of MC, the Eagles have the deepest collection of eye-popping offensive talent. Blackwell, a Harvard commit, is equally adept as a playmaker as he is a sniper. Eiserman is wise and mature beyond his years as a freshman while Kurker provides grit and a nice scoring complement. The blue line was the perceived weakness of the squad, but they’ve come a long way with Currie providing veteran leadership, in addition to Scott Derrickson who played a strong second half.
X-factor: Kurker. When the junior winger gets hot, he’s hard to stop and creates a dynamism to Prep’s offense.
3. BC High (13-4-3)
Marquee wins: The Eagles finished strong, winning their final six games in addition to the Cape Cod Classic tournament to end the season. Their 5-4 shootout with Catholic Memorial was also a classic, as usual. Does a tie against Malden Catholic count as well? Sure.
Players to watch: F Mike Cashman, F Terence Durkin, F Andrew White, D Jack Buckley, D Brendan O’Malley.
The skinny: The Eagles play with plenty of speed, a point of emphasis for first-year head coach John Flaherty when assembling this year’s varsity roster, and the young roster has gelled together quickly. More than anything, BC High has taken play to their opponents. They’re aggressive on the forecheck and know how to use their speed to their advantage.
X-factor: Experience. The Eagles haven’t been to the postseason since 2008, so a good portion of their roster hasn’t experienced playoff hockey. How long will it take them to acclimate? A period? A shift? “Hopefully, not even that,” Flaherty said. “At the end of the day, it’s just another hockey game. It’s not different from any others.”
4. Weymouth (17-3-2)
Marquee wins: The Wildcats’ 5-2 win over fellow Super Eight entrant and longtime rival Hingham at Pilgrim was about as good as it gets for the Weymouth seniors who’d never beaten the Harbormen before. “It’s a monkey they’ve wanted to get off their backs,” head coach Matt Cataldo told ESPN Boston after the game.
Players to watch: F Tyler Piacentini, F Riley Flanagan, G Brian Brady, F/D Trevor King, D Andy Sheridan.
The skinny: When are people finally going to stop saying that Piancentini is too small to play on the big stage? He can flat out score. Hey, it worked for Nathan Gerbe, right? Not only does Weymouth have scoring punch, they’re well suited for a long postseason run with Brady, a senior, in nets. Outside of MC, the Wildcats were perhaps the state’s most consistent team from start to finish and that means something coming in a year of great parity.
X-factor: King has played on the blue line and stepped up front to play center as well this season. Whether it’s moving the puck out of his own end, or stepping in to win a faceoff, versatility always comes in handy this time of year.
5. Hingham (13-5-4)
Marquee wins: It might not look as impressive as their upset over Malden Catholic on paper, but the Harbormen’s 5-3 win over St. Mary’s of Lynn on Feb. 5 got them going. After upsetting the Lancers, Hingham went through a tough 0-3-1 stretch before turning things around with a comeback win that had the intensity of Super Eight matchup.
Players to watch: F Tim Driscoll, D Alex Pompeo, F Matt Hughes, F Austin O’Connor, D Steven Bellew.
The skinny: Let’s call spades a spade: the Harbormen are the defending champions, so that has to count for something. Simply put, they’ve been there and done that, so nerves won’t be an issue. Although there was a good amount of turnover from last year’s roster, a few of their stalwarts remain in Holy Cross commit Driscoll and Pompeo, who is among the best defensemen in the state. They are terrific building blocks to a Super Eight champion-caliber squad.
X-factor: Derek McInnis was superb during last year’s run to the title, but head coach Tony Messina likes to roll his goaltenders and senior Kevin Granatino has been solid in the second half of the season. That gives the Harbormen perhaps the greatest depth in goal in the tournament.
6. Needham (12-6-4)
Marquee wins: Where would the Rockets have been without their 3-2 win over Weymouth on Feb. 9? It was a season-turner. Their 4-3 win over Springfield Cathedral was their raison d’être to the tournament.
Players to watch: D Chris Joyce, F Tom Coleman, F Jeff Rosata, D Scott Atkinson.
The skinny: Who’d have thought the Rockets would end up with the sixth seed after (literally) being left off the table in the first round of Super Eight voting. Of course, head coach Bill Guisti has built Needham into one of the state’s premier public school programs and is evidenced by their tough out-of-conference schedule which includes several Catholic Conference teams. So the Rockets are used to playing the best. Joyce is in the conversation when it comes to the state’s best defensemen and we’ve always loved the jam Needham’s forward play with. They’re truly a tough team to play.
X-factor: Akin to the Harbormen, it will be interesting to see how Needham’s goaltending tandem of Evan MacDonald and Connor Murray shapes up. They’re both talented and capable of carrying the load.
7. Woburn (17-3-1)
Marquee wins: Life in the Middlesex League night in and night out is no easy thing, so we take the fact that the Tanners were 14-2-0 against league competition as a marquee accomplishment.
Players to watch: F Casey Shea, F Alex Holland, F Daniel Holland, F Eddie Aprile, D Brian Dulong.
The skinny: We had the Tanners pegged for the top six, which means they would have avoided playing Cathedral in tonight’s play-in game. But so is life and Woburn enters the tournament as one of the most consistent teams throughout the season …
X-factor: … However, the Tanners haven’t played much in the way of their out-of-conference schedule (a Their 6-0 thumping at the hands of St. John’s Prep was a good harbinger.
8. Central Catholic (16-5-1)
Marquee wins: It was early, but the Raiders’ 4-3 win over St. John’s Prep is about as good as it gets.
Players to watch: F Tommy Evangelista, G Kyle Williams, F Nick Pelrine, F/D Nick Leonard, D Ricky Sheehan.
The skinny: The Raiders looked like they might have been on the bubble with fellow DCL/MVC co-champion Billerica coming down the last couple weeks of the season, but Central showed what they are capable of with a huge 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Weymouth on the next to last day of the season. If that team shows up, the Raiders will be extremely dangerous. Evangelista is simply fun to watch.
X-factor: Williams is that type of goaltender who is capable of stealing games for his team.
9. St. Mary’s of Lynn (14-5-3)
Marquee wins: The Spartans had some tough luck in their out-of-conference schedule and had just a 7-5-3 record against fellow playoff teams. However, they were simply dominant in the Catholic Central (7-0-3), allowing just 12 goals in 10 games.
Players to watch: G Donald Hesse, D Cam Kennedy, F Bobby Mullins, F Christopher Surrette, F Tim Aylward.
The skinny: There’s no bones about why the Spartans are in the fold and that is their defense, which all starts in net with Hesse. Among the elite netminders in the state, Hesse is a game-changer and showed in last year’s Division 1 North tournament that he’s capable of putting a team on his back. Kennedy is an underrated blue-liner who is equally adept leading the breakout from his own end as he is clearing out the crease.
X-factor: It comes down to the ability for the Spartans to get those mucking-type goals in key situations and then shutting teams down.
10. Springfield Cathedral (12-9-1)
Marquee wins: All but one of the Panthers’ games was against a playoff opponent, so they’re battled tested and held their own against teams that were considered for the Super Eight, going 4-4-0.
Players to watch: G Zac Rondeau, D Sean Kavanagh, F Frank Crinella, F Dante Christofori.
The skinny: The Panthers always seem to find a way into the Super Eight field and play one of the toughest schedules in the state. They might not be as talented as their previous Super Eight predecessors, but they play good defense in front of Rondeau, who is capable of stealing games on his own.
X-factor: Kavanagh is one of the great hidden jewels in the state.
6dMike Scandura, Special to ESPNBoston.com
11dBrendan C. Hall
12dBrendan C. Hall
13dMike Scandura, Special to ESPNBoston.com
14dBrendan C. Hall