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Wednesday, February 27, 2013
MIAA hockey tourney breakdown and picks

By Scott Barboza

DIVISION 1A – SUPER 8

Favorites: St. John’s Prep (17-2-1), Springfield Cathedral (16-1-4).

Sleepers: Austin Prep (13-1-6), Malden Catholic (12-6-3).

Overview: There are compelling elements to all of the Super 8’s first-round matchups: how can you beat a BC High vs. Catholic Memorial three-gamer to start after all? But we want to take a moment to give a little attention to our dark horses. If Austin Prep plays as it did on the Cape last week, there might not be a team in the state that can skate with them. Meanwhile, forget anything that you might have seen from Malden Catholic in January, this is a renewed team and the Lancers have a three-peat in their sight.

The pick: St. John’s Prep over Malden Catholic.

DIVISION 1 NORTH

Favorites: Chelmsford (14-3-4), Winchester (14-5-3).

Sleepers: Arlington Catholic (11-6-4), Burlington (10-6-5), Waltham (12-8-2).

Overview: The field no doubt took comfort watching both Central Catholic and Malden Catholic play their way into the Super 8 Monday night. Chelmsford and Winchester enter as the top two seeds and the front-runners after receiving some Super 8 consideration. The key game in the sectional could come in Arlington Catholic’s quarterfinal duel with Waltham. If Hawks goaltender Nick Russo showed anything at the Cape Cod Classic it’s that he can single-handedly steal games. That makes Waltham a tough out. Let’s not forget about the defending state champions, however. Burlington built in the second half and enters the tournament with momentum.

The pick: Winchester over Burlington.

DIVISION 1 SOUTH

Favorites: Archbishop Williams (12-4-4), Braintree (17-4-1), Hingham (13-7-2).

Sleepers: Duxbury (14-3-5), Framingham (14-7-0), Xaverian (8-7-5).

Overview: The field became more crowded with the return of Archies and Hingham following their play-in game losses. It will be interesting to see how both of those teams rebound after Monday’s performances. The highlight of the bracket has to be a Cape Cod grudge match between Barnstable and Falmouth in the first round. But also worth keeping tabs on is the matchup between Duxbury and Xaverian on the other side of the bracket.

The pick: Hingham over Duxbury.

DIVISION 2 NORTH

Favorites: Beverly (18-1-1), Wilmington (16-3-2).

Sleepers: Watertown (10-9-2), Winthrop (10-5-5).

Overview: Perhaps the state’s most competitive tournament, the bracket was already busted in its first night with Concord-Carlisle and Watertown working upsets over Newburyport and Tewksbury, respectively, on Monday. Top-seeded Beverly will have a challenge right out of the chute with a first-round tilt against Northeast Conference rival Danvers.

The pick: Wilmington over Beverly.

DIVISION 2 SOUTH

Favorite: Canton (15-3-2).

Sleepers: Coyle-Cassidy (14-5-1), Franklin (14-6-2).

Overview: As usual, the sectional could be called the Hockomock League invitational with seven of the 15 seeded teams hailing from the conference. While Canton enters as the No. 1 seed, the question follows league rival Franklin and whether the Panthers can make yet another run to the Garden ice.

The pick: Franklin over Coyle-Cassidy.

DIVISION 3 NORTH

Favorite: Lowell (14-2-4), Marblehead (17-5-0).

Sleepers: Bedford (9-8-3), Shawsheen (13-6-1).

Overview: Although Marblehead enters as the No. 2 seed, we view the Magicians as the favorites with a talented two-headed monster in goal with Harry Young and Myles Barry. Watch out for Bedford, however, as the Bucs might just have the best player in the tournament in senior forward Anthony Lespasio (20-18-38). Top-seeded Lowell will prove a tough out playing a stingy defense in front of All-Conference goaltender Mike Doucette.

The pick: Marblehead over Bedford.

DIVISION 3 SOUTH

Favorites: Medfield (18-1-1), Medway (15-2-3).

Sleepers: Abington (15-3-4), Blue Hills (13-3-4), Dartmouth (9-8-4).

Overview: While everyone anticipates a third meeting of the season between Tri-Valley League rivals Medfield and Medway, this is a deep pool this year. One of the tournament favorites, Rockland, already saw its season come to an end thanks to a preliminary round loss to Dartmouth, so expect some upsets.

The pick: Medway over Medfield.

DIVISION 3 CENTRAL

Favorites: Groton-Dunstable (15-1-4).

Sleeper: Shrewsbury (15-4-1).

Overview: Groton-Dunstable, the defending Division 3A champion, takes its show to primetime and was the most consistent team in the section, drawing the top seed. However, the Crusaders could draw a semi-final tilt with Marlborough, the only that dealt G-D a loss on the season.

The pick: Groton-Dunstable over Wachusett.

DIVISION 3 WEST

Favorite: Westfield (14-2-2).

Overview: There are five teams playing in the Division 3 West field, so we have a one-in-five chance in picking the winner in the sectional. That team is Westfield.

The pick: Westfield over East Longmeadow.

DIVISION 3A CENTRAL

Favorite:  Worcester (16-2-2).

Sleepers: Oakmont (11-5-4).

Overview: Although Worcester earned the No. 1 seed, they’ll surely face a tough semi-final tilt against the winner of Northbridge and Oakmont’s first-round game. Either of those teams could be primed for an upset

The pick: Oakmont over Nashoba.

DIVISION 3A WEST

Favorites: Agawam (15-3-2).

Sleepers: Wahconah (14-5-1).

Overview: Agawam enters as the top seed, but it’s Wahconah, which has grabbed all the headlines this year with its high-scoring attack. With three of the top 10 scorers in the state, the Indians could be primed to claim the title.

The pick: Wahconah over South Hadley.

GIRLS’ HOCKEY

DIVISION 1

Favorites: Woburn (17-0-3), St. Mary’s of Lynn (15-3-4), Arlington Catholic (13-4-2).

Sleepers: Reading (14-4-2), Hingham (13-6-3).

Overview: Again, the question entering the tournament surrounds No. 1 Woburn and whether this might finally be the Tanners’ year. Woburn occupied the No. 1 spot in our Top 25 poll for most of the regular season, but there’s no clear path the Garden. The Tanners could face any of St. Mary’s, Hingham, or stingy Austin Prep in a semi-final tilt. Defending state champion Arlington Catholic could be primed for another Garden appearance coming out of the other side of the bracket.

The pick: Woburn over Arlington Catholic.

DIVISION 2

Favorites: Duxbury (18-1-2), Falmouth (16-1-2).

Sleepers: Fontbonne Academy (11-7-2), Westwood (11-6-3).

Overview: While everybody anticipates a rematch of last year’s Division 2 title game between Duxbury and Falmouth (and after the team’s regular-season meetings, why would you not?), the bottom half of the brackets could be wide open. No. 4 seed Canton figures to have a wide-open road to a semi-finals appearance, but look for Fontbonne, Sandwich and/or Westwood make a run against No. 3 seed Wellesley on the other side.

The pick: Duxbury over Falmouth.