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Saturday, April 2, 2011
Season-ending MIAA hockey notebook

By Scott Barboza

You couldn’t tell it was the state’s biggest stage.

On the final day of pool play of the Super Eight tournament, Needham and Woburn faced off with a smattering of parents and friends in the stands. The atmosphere was closer to that of a preseason scrimmage than what you might expect to find at a playoff tilt in the one of the nation’s most regarded high school hockey tournaments.

Alas, the Rockets and Tanners had come away winless in their first two Super Eight matchups, rendering their final date mere formality. With no chance at advancing in the tournament, the only thing on the line was pride.

The game finished in a tie.

“It’s a tough spot to be in,” Needham head coach Bill Guisti said.

That’s why Guisti — whose Rockets have been placed in a similar unenviable position in their last three D1A tournament berths — is putting his weight behind an alternate format.

Akin to the Hockey East tournament, Guisti believes a best-of-three format would better suit Massachusetts’ marquee tournament, eliminating the need for meaningless third games. The teams would be power-seeded one through eight, as is practiced now. The winners of the four series would then advance to the crossover round.

Guisti also thinks the plan would provide a secondary benefit to the higher-seeded teams, having only to play one lower-seeded opponent.

“It would create another incentive for those top-rated teams,” Guisti said. “The number one seed would get that eighth seed that’s coming off a play-in game, and that goes for the second-seeded team, too.

“Plus, you have to think you’ll get a good series out of those four versus five games. Think if we had it in place this year, with Hingham and Weymouth playing a three-game series. The rink would be packed for all three games, if they went that far. That would be great to see.”

The MIAA might also see the benefit, lifting the burden of having to pay on-ice officials and coordinating support staffs required in staging otherwise meaningless playoff games.

Guisti has gone about enlisting support for the proposal, including Hingham’s Tony Messina, who he said was supportive of the idea.

The next step is bringing the proposal to the hockey committee meeting and opening an official debate on the measure.

“I think there will be support for this,” Guisti added. “I think it makes sense because it wouldn’t add any time to the tournament, you’d be playing the same amount of games potentially, while getting rid of some games that don’t need to be played.”

RAMS RISE AGAIN
When Marshfield came back to earn its first state title since 2006, fending off North champion Wakefield in the Division 1 title game at the Garden, it was an emotional ending to a gut-wrenching day.

The Rams lost a top-line winger and an emotional leader when junior Chris Perry went down in a heap along the penalty box boards. While fighting off a Warrior checker for a loose puck along the kick plate, Perry’s own skate clipped the back of his right thigh, creating a deep gash of about 12 inches. The blade cut through muscle straight to the bone, stopping just a quarter of an inch shy of his femoral artery.

The scene was grizzly, but the on-site doctor, team trainers, paramedics, officials and players all did their part to expedite help getting out to the wounded Ram, saving precious seconds while he bled on the ice.

After being rushed to Mass General Hospital, Perry underwent emergency surgery. By the time all the action at the Garden wrapped up, he was resting comfortably.

“In about four weeks, he should be able to walk normally,” Marshfield head coach Dan Connolly said. “Then, he’ll be able to start rehab. Thankfully, there was no nerve damage.”

Perry was able to hobble his way to the stage to accept his state championship medal on Sunday, when Marshfield held a team banquet. He’ll miss the upcoming lacrosse season, but Perry will be back in time when the puck drops on the 2011-12 season.

PAIN DOESN’T MATTER
With such a prolific offense, it was oftentimes easy to overlook Super Eight champion Malden Catholic’s defensive efforts, like in the third period of the Lancers’ first-round win over an upset-minded Central Catholic squad. MC also skated that third period without one of its top defensemen, senior Paul Wrenn, who left the game after suffering a separated shoulder.

“I knew something was wrong,” Wrenn said, after the Lancers skated away with the Super Eight crown at the Garden. “Thankfully, there was a whistle right after that, so I skated off the ice. I don’t know what I would’ve been able to do if the play kept going.”

Although the Charlestown native missed the rest of the game, he was back in action to play out the string. Wrenn was with the Lancers during their Super Eight run during his freshman year. He transferred to Dexter for sophomore year, but returned to MC to see things through along with Mike Vecchione and Pat Young, who had also experienced the empty feeling of falling short in their first year.

“You can’t regret anything,” Young said before the Super Eight final, “you have to leave everything out there and play like there’s no tomorrow. Paul’s [Wrenn] definitely did that for us, playing with a separated shoulder.”

After all, there’s plenty of time for rehab after the season.

“You kind of forget the pain after a little while,” Wrenn said, with his championship medal hanging around his neck. “This was definitely worth it.”