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Saturday, February 23, 2013
Analysis: Little drama around Super 8 vote

By Scott Barboza

FRANKLIN, Mass. – The proceedings at the annual Super 8 hockey tournament seeding meeting are usually rife with drama.

While many teams remained on the bubble entering the final week of the season, this year’s meeting, held Saturday morning at MIAA headquarters in Franklin, went down with relatively little agitation.

Nine teams selected for the 10-team field flew through the initial vote (click HERE for full field), nominated with unanimous votes. Only Hingham had to sweat it out to the second round with a 6-1 vote in the first round.

Although the meeting went down swimmingly, here are a couple of thoughts from this morning and the look ahead:

BATTLE FOR SIX
In the Super 8 game, the magic number is six. At No. 6, you’re safe and don’t have to tread the win-or-go-home play-in games.

The No. 6 seed also provided the greatest debate on Saturday, with two Catholic Conference rivals battling head-to-head in the court of public opinion.

Catholic Memorial (12-5-2 for MIAA purposes, 3-5-0 Catholic Conference) and two-time defending tournament champion Malden Catholic (11-6-3, 1-5-2) were the two teams in question after St. John’s Prep, Springfield Cathedral, BC High, Austin Prep and Reading settled into the Top 5 seeds.

At that point, Knights head coach Bill Hanson and MC bench boss John McLean took to the stand to advocate for their teams. Both made compelling arguments.

Yet, went the issue went to a second vote, CM prevailed with a 4-3 decision, with the deciding vote casted by former Knights athletic director Jim O’Connor.

While the Lancers might have been the hottest team in the state during the final two weeks of the season, pitching shutouts in four of their final six tilts and a six-game winning streak, Hanson pointed to his team’s hot play of late.

“If we don’t win that game yesterday against Xaverian, that’s huge,” he said. “Then, we wouldn’t have finished in third [in the Catholic Conference], which I think contributed to us ending up where we did.”

Meanwhile, McLean took a different perspective, with the Lancers’ chance to parlay their momentum directly into postseason play.

“I want to play Monday,” said McLean, who guided the Lancers to their second Super 8 title in his first season behind the bench last year. “I want to keep going, so I’m OK with the decision. I don’t think sitting a week helps us. The kids are hot, they’re hungry.”

MC enters Monday night’s play-in game against Catholic Central Large champion Archbishop Williams (8 p.m., Stoneham Arena) as the No. 10 seed.

However, should the Lancers advance past the Bishops, they might just be the most dangerous team in the field.

“Do I think that’s our team that finished that way in the final six games? Yeah,” McLean said. “I think we became a team after Central Catholic [a 4-0 win]. I think they all figured out that they had to work. Nothing was going to be given to us.”

The Knights gaining the sixth seed also added another wrinkle to the Super 8’s first-round matchups. CM will face archrival BC High in the first round of the tournament, adding to the buzz.

When the tournament rules were adjusted to feature a best-of-three, Hockey East-style tournament for the first time this season, such a must-see TV appointment is another reason why the state’s premiere tournament just got that much better.

SECOND LIFE
On the flip side of the teams who are entering the tournament on a tear, there is the case of No. 9 seed Hingham.

The Harbormen, perennial Super 8 entrants, experienced three long bus rides from Falmouth last week, striking out in the ‘W’ column in three crucial games at the Cape Cod Classic. And, as a consequence, Hingham had to sit and wonder if they could still back into the 10-team field.

“The last several games we didn’t finish well,” Harbormen head coach Tony Messina said Saturday. “I think the kids were pressing. I think they were thinking that this is the game we make a statement, and the games kept going by, and it became frustrating.”

Hingham took its frustrations out against South Shore rival Marshfield in their season finale Friday in a 10-1 thrashing before anxiously awaiting their fate at the meeting.

However, things were fairly elementary for the Harbormen making the field. Even though they failed to gain entry on the preliminary nomination vote (there was one vote against Hingham), only two other teams were brought up for consideration at the table. Duxbury, which tied and then beat Hingham in a shootout on Cape Cod, went down in a 1-6 vote against. Bay State champion Braintree didn’t fare much better, with a 2-5 decision.

After no other teams were entered into consideration, Hingham was in.

“We almost have a second life here to show what we can do,” Messina said. “We had a great game against Marshfield yesterday, I guess the goals came a little bit late, but you could just sense a relief.”

Now, the Harbormen can refocus on what comes next.

“We’re looking forward to try to do something in the tournament,” Messina added. “The goal isn’t just to get here, it’s to win the games.”

Hingham plays DCL/MVC champion Central Catholic in the first play-in game in Stoneham on Monday. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.