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Thursday, December 12, 2013
Austin Prep enters season as boys' hockey No. 1

By Scott Barboza

For the first time in site history, a team other than Malden Catholic occupies the top spot in our preseason statewide MIAA boys' hockey Top 25 poll.

Last year's Super 8 runner-up Austin Prep takes the top spot to start the 2013-14 season, with the three-time defending champions, Malden Catholic, in the rearview mirror at No. 2

For the full poll, click HERE.

Here's a few observations from our first poll:

Super 8 Projecting?: It might be way too early to start thinking about the Super 8 tournament (although we've already given you a glimpse at our projections), but it's never really too early to predict, right?

You can read through the tea leaves on our Top 8, but let's not forget the tournament starts as a 10-team field. From Nos. 9-12, there's a cluster of three Catholic Conference teams likely to be in the fray. Xaverian (No. 9) might be the surprise of the group, but a potent offense led by Antonio Marini should have the Hawks in the hunt. Catholic Memorial and St. John's Prep are among the group -- both teams made the crossover round in last year's Super 8 -- but are filling some top-line minutes after graduations.

Let's not forget about No. 11 Marshfield, however. The Rams were included in last year's initial tournament Watch List and have made a Division 1 championship game appearance in two of the last three years. With six of their top nine forwards from last season returning, the Rams will find the back of the net, in addition to having a solid starter between the pipes in Connor Lemieux.

 Where the champions stack up: In the state's Div. 1 and 2 levels, repeat champions hailing from the Middlesex League, enter our poll once again.

Burlington, winners of back-to-back D1 state titles, returns at No. 21. Meanwhile, two-time defending D2 champion Wilmington begins the year at No. 15. However, the Wildcats are guaranteed not to capture a three-peat, as they are among a host of teams, statewide, changing divisions this season. Wilmington joins the Middlesex League's Div. 1 teams this season.

Breakdown by conference:
Catholic Conference - 5
Catholic Central - 4
Middlesex - 4
Catholic West - 2
Hockomock - 2
MVC/DCL - 2
Atlantic Coast - 1
Bay State - 1
Independent - 1
Northeastern - 1
Patriot - 1
Quinn - 1