Boston High School: Brandon Payzant

Super 8 semi: Austin Prep 2, BC High 1 (SO)

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
4:07
AM ET


LOWELL, Mass. — J.J. Layton’s goal in the eighth round of the shootout propelled No. 4 see Austin Prep past No. 1 BC High, 2-1, in Thursday’s semifinal, setting up a rematch of last year’s final in the Super 8 championship game at the TD Garden on Sunday.

“I thought it was a tremendous high school hockey game. It was like a heavyweight fight, back-and-forth. It was an even hockey game. I’m happy we ended up with the better end of the stick in the shootout,” said Austin Prep head coach Louis Finnochiaro.

Austin Prep had a few ups-and-downs throughout the regular season, compounded by injuries to key players, but the Cougars appear to be hitting their stride.

“We had a big time effort from everybody from start to finish. We haven’t had that all year. We played three complete periods of hockey. We had everything going tonight,” stated Finnochiaro.

The Cougars will have the chance to knock No. 2 Malden Catholic, 3-1 winners over No. 3 Springfield Cathedral in the other semifinal Thursday, off its perch. The Lancers defeated Austin Prep, 3-2, to win their third straight Super 8 crown last March.

“I’m proud of our kids to get back to the final two years in a row. That’s an accomplishment itself. Obviously our goal is to go there, not hoping to win but expecting to win. Hopefully we can have some redemption back there in the finals. Our goal is to win this thing,” stated Finnochiaro.



Layton delivers in shootout: J.J. Layton has become known for his heavy hits and solid play in the defensive zone, but his offensive prowess was the difference in the eighth round of the shootout.

The big blue liner barreled in on the BC High net before quickly wristing a shot that sailed past the blocker of goaltender Brandon Payzant.

“Usually shootouts don’t go that far so I wasn’t even planning on going in,” Layton said. “Everyone told me to shoot. I came in slow and took the shot and it ended up going in. I’m still in shock right now.”

Layton showed he is a tough customer by playing through some dehydration issues in the third period. His foot cramped up, causing him to limp off the ice midway through the final period of regulation.

“He was a little dehydrated and started to cramp up a little. We got him some fluids. He always puts in a big time effort. It was appropriate for him to get the final goal in the shootout to win the game for us,” explained Finnochiaro.

Bobo Carpenter and Eric MacAdams were the other scorers for Austin Prep in the shootout, scoring in the second and fifth rounds, respectively.

Clutch performer: MacAdams broke through with the game’s first goal at the 10:54 mark of the second period. The sophomore winger busted up the right side, beating a BC High defender and cutting in on goal before lifting a shot above the shoulder of Payzant for the 1-0 lead.

“We were trying to get odd-man rushes the whole game,” MacAdams said. “[Cam Russo] fed me a good pass. I always try to get it to the net instead of swooping it around. Try to get a penalty or a scoring chance. Luckily it went in.”

MacAdams came up clutch again in the shootout with his Cougars on the verge of elimination. Going in the bottom of the fifth round with his team needing a goal to stay alive, his deke beat Payzant wide.

“There was a lot of pressure,” Finocchiaro said. “Finishing that up was phenomenal to keep us in and to get to sudden death. He kept his composure and did a nice job.”

Not including the shootout tally, MacAdams has tallied three goals and added an assist over the past two games.

Transition game: Down 1-0 after two periods and needing some momentum, the Eagles struck quickly in the third period, evening the score in just 29 seconds.

As it has so often this season, BC High executed a transition play to perfection. Defenseman Trevor Davis used the boards to get the puck from behind his own goal line to Steve DeForge in the neutral zone. DeForge passed it up to Patrick Riley who beat Austin Prep goaltender Elijah Harris to his five-hole.

“It gave us momentum for the whole period,” BC High head coach John Flaherty said. “We had some chances, but didn’t get the bounces. I’m proud of the fact that we came out and responded the way we did in the third. We gave ourselves a chance to win.”

“Giving that up, it was big for them. The momentum changed a little bit. We were able to withstand it and finish up [regulation] in a tie,” said Finnochiaro.

Goaltenders duel: There was a sequence in the final minute where Carpenter had a swat at a rebound from point blank and BC High sophomore Kayser Raei had a golden opportunity in the slot just a few seconds later.

Neither puck found the net as two of the best goaltenders in the state stood tall and answered each other’s big saves.

“That’s a big time save, he comes up special in the playoffs,” said Finnochiaro when asked about his goaltender’s huge save in the final minute.

Harris, who had a terrific tournament as a sophomore last season, saved his best for the playoffs again this year.

“He’s a great goaltender,” Finocchiaro said. “He played well for us in the first series against Central and played well again tonight. He gave us a solid three periods tonight and he’s tough to beat in the shootout,”

His teammates were quick to talk up their backstop as well.

“He’s amazing,” Layton said of Harris. He’s the best goalie in the state. When he’s behind you playing well everything just seems to flow.”

Payzant was equally superb at the other end, making some terrific stops.

“Brandon has been great all year,” Flaherty said. “He gets overshadowed because of the systems we play, but we relied on him today. We don’t have a chance to tie it in the third if he wasn’t as good as he was in the first two periods.”

Flaherty proud: BC High’s terrific season came to an end in heartbreaking fashion, but there is still much to be proud of for Flaherty and his team, especially the seven seniors.

Co-captains Steve DeForge and Sam Topham were the two goal scorers for the Eagles in the shootout. DeForge, who also had an assist in the game, seemed to always come up with clutch goals throughout his high school career.

“We’ll look back on this and realize we had a good year,” Flaherty said. “Wins and losses, trophies and titles, I don’t need those to tell me how great the kids in that locker room are.”

Super 8: No. 1 BC High 4, No. 8 Xaverian 0

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
12:54
AM ET


LOWELL, Mass. -- BC High had that killer instinct that all good teams have as it scored three times in a span of just over three minutes late in the first period, en route to a 4-0 win over Xaverian on Wednesday night at the Tsongas Center.

The Eagles swept the Hawks in the best-of-three series and will advance to next Wednesday’s Super 8 semifinals, where they will face the winner of Austin Prep and Central Catholic.

“We’re very excited to be moving on to the semifinals. We’re very happy with the outcome and to be moving on,” said BC High head coach John Flaherty.

It will be third trip to the Super 8 semifinals in four seasons for the Eagles.

“It’s an honor,” said Flaherty when asked about the significance of the accomplishment. “It’s a credit to the guys in that locker room. The leadership that we have and their ability to speak to experience to what it takes at this time of the season is invaluable.”

Eagles jump-start: BC High’s game plan was simple in hopes of avoiding a similar start to Sunday, which saw Xaverian take a 1-0 lead to the locker room after the first period.

“We knew we had to get pucks to the net, and we got some bounces,” Flaherty said. “A few turnovers bounced right onto guys’ sticks and into the back of the net.”

BC High junior Connor Noonan started the onslaught at the 10:20 mark of the first period when he cut in towards Xaverian goaltender Aidan Murphy before chipping the puck high and beating the freshman goaltender to the near post.

“That goal was a real nice one, it got us going,” said Flaherty.

Two of the Eagles senior leaders started a beautiful passing sequence to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead at the 12:58 mark. Defenseman Sam Topham gave a pass to Steve DeForge who quickly slid it across to junior Jake Lemanski for the finish into a wide-open net.

Just 42 seconds later a turnover led to another BC High strike and a 3-0 lead heading to the first intermission. Noonan forced the turnover and quickly got the puck to Aidan Foley who went five-hole for the score.

“We earned our chances, but we got some good bounces and we capitalized on them,” said Flaherty.

“We were playing OK in the first period, but then got off our game and panicked a little,” Xaverian head coach Dave Spinale said. “When [BC High] smells an opportunity, they cash in.”

Shutout man: In his first year as the starter for the Eagles, Brandon Payzant earned his seventh shutout of the season on Wednesday night. The sophomore stopped all 28 shots he faced to shut the door on Xaverian.

“Brandon Payzant was the best player on the ice tonight,” Flaherty said. “He kept his end of the bargain by not giving up any. When we had breakdowns, Brandon stood tall and made the saves he’s capable of making.”

He added, “We relied too much on him for my liking, but he did a great job. That’s what Brandon is capable of doing. We know that and we’re comfortable with that.”

The past two games were Payzant’s introduction to playoff hockey.

“You need your goalie to be tested in order for him to build his confidence. He played in two big stages and he played very well at both,” said Flaherty.

Payzant learned from one of the best last season. As a freshman, he sat behind senior Peter Cronin, who now plays junior hockey with the South Shore Kings in the USPHL.

“He was a great mentor to me last year, he taught me a lot,” said Payzant of the Bowdoin recruit.

“I felt pretty good coming into these quarterfinal games. I had a lot of confidence,” he added.

Topham’s blue line: Topham, a co-captain and senior defenseman, has been an integral part of the leadership core that has sparked BC High’s success this season.

He scored the only goal of the final two periods when he used his hands to find the back of the net when the puck came right to him in the slot.

“Sam Topham sees the ice really well and skates well,” said Flaherty. “When he’s using his feet, he’s putting himself in position to be an impact player on the offensive side of the puck.”

Topham isn’t just an offensive defenseman. He’s also been one of the better shutdown defenders in high school hockey this season.

“His skates are great enough that he can defend,” Flahety said. “He calmed the play down, he settled pucks down and he made good decisions. He made some real good passes coming out of the zone.”

Topham credits assistant coach and defensive guru Bob Roche with his team’s attention to detail and discipline in the defensive zone.

“Roche is a really nit-picky coach,” Topham said. “He keeps us on our toes and makes sure we fix our mistakes. We got a little too cute in the second period, but he just told us to keep it simple and to get it up on the glass and out of the zone.”

Xaverian still proud: Although Spinale was certainly disappointed with his team’s end to the season, the coach took some pride in hanging with the top team in the state for much of the series.

“We talked about it in the locker room after the game,” Spinale said. “For 42 minutes we were pretty tough and competitive. We didn’t quit down 4-0. I thought we had some good chances. I didn’t feel like the ice was tilted.”

Spinale was particularly proud of his senior class that brought the program back to the Super 8 for the first time since 2010.

“Our senior class had a four-win season as sophomores, but they stuck together,” Spinale said. “They put the program back on the map. They got us back into this tournament which was one of their goals.”

He added, “I’m really proud of them and thrilled that they enjoyed it.”

Super 8 tournament primer and picks

March, 2, 2014
Mar 2
2:06
AM ET
There are less than 24 hours remaining before the puck drops on the Super 8 tournament Sunday at TD Garden.

So we’re taking this opportunity to break down the final eight. We’re taking a look at the head-to-head breakdowns for each series first-round, best-of-three series, along with predictions:

Series: No. 1 BC High (14-2-4) vs. No. 8 Xaverian (12-3-6)

Players to watch: BC High – F Steve DeForge, F Patrick Kramer, F Jake Lemanski, D Billy Roche, D Ryan Shea, D Sam Topham, D Trevor Davis, G Brandon Payzant; Xaverian – F Jon Beniers, F Andrew Durkin, F Antonio Marini, F Connor McCarthy, F Tim Sweeney, D Ricky Smith, G Aidan Murphy.

Previous meetings: 2-2 tie, Jan. 4; BC High, 5-1, Jan. 22.

The skinny: The top-seed Eagles take on their Catholic Conference rival Hawks, who endured a double-overtime classic against Archbishop Williams to slide in as the No. 8 seed. Xaverian will have to take a page from the playbook of Duxbury – which handed BC High a loss in its season finale at the Buddy Ferreira Classic – playing a tight-checking game through the neutral zone to stick with the Eagles’ slick transition game. Murphy has shown flashes of brilliance in his freshman campaign and the Hawks will have to rely on him and a big series from All-State hopeful Marini if they want to keep up with BC High.

X-factor: Payzant. The Eagles’ sophomore netminder has performed admirably in his first season taking the reigns from All-Stater Peter Cronin. But until a goaltender sees his first rubber in the playoffs, the book is still out.

Prediction: BC High in two.

Series: No. 2 Malden Catholic (16-4-0) vs. No. 7 Catholic Memorial (10-7-4)

Players to watch: MC – F Matt Filipe, F Ara Nazarian, F Tyler Sifferlen, F Jake Witkowski, D John McLean, D Nick Rolli, G Alex Reissis; CM – F Aaron Clancy, F Anthony Panaggio, F Mike Stathopoulos, D Frank Cosolito, D Tim Weinstein, G Brandon Collett.

Previous meetings: CM, 3-2, Jan. 25; MC, 11-0, Feb. 14.

The skinny: Once again the Lancers went on a February run, going 7-1-0 in February, despite a loss to Cathedral in the teams’ season finale at the Panthers vacation week tournament. Meanwhile, on the flip side, the Knights back their way into the tournament, having been blanked in the final month of the season, as CM didn’t win a game until Monday’s play-in game victory over Braintree in a one-goal game. However, as one-sided the matchup between Catholic Conference rivals might seem, CM does have the blueprint on how to take down MC, evidenced in the Knights’ 3-2 win in the teams’ first meeting at Walter Brown. In that game, CM was able to harass the Lancers breakout with an aggressive forecheck. In order to skate with MC, the Knights will have to repeat that performance or risk having their first-round series resemble more of the teams’ second meeting.

X-factor: Filipe. The Northeastern commit has provided a strong presence throughout the season on the Lancers’ second unit. While teams have a difficult enough time contending with MC’s vaunted top line, with Filipe and the second unit rolling, the Lancers’ attack is that much more difficult to match up with, defensively.

Prediction: MC in two.

Series: No. 3 Springfield Cathedral (15-2-5) vs. No. 6 Duxbury (16-2-3)

Players to watch: Cathedral – F Peter Crinella, F Johnny Leonard, F D.J. Petruzzelli, F Riley Prattson, D Dan Petrick, G John Liquori, G Keith Petruzzelli; Duxbury – F Nick Marrocco, F Matt Murphy, F Shayne O’Brien, F Trevor O’Brien, F Matt Saia, D Shawn Errasti, D Tyler Powers, G Tucker Kelly.

Previous meetings: N/A.

The skinny: In perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the first round, the high-flying Panthers offensive juggernaut squares off against a sound, defensive-minded squad from Duxbury. Cathedral enters the tournament ranked among the statewide leaders in just about every statistical category and host two of the top scorers in the state in Crinella (28-26-54) and D.J. Petruzzelli (21-32-53). Meanwhile, the Dragons played their best hockey down the stretch, beating BC High in the Buddy Ferreira Classic final to punch their Super 8 ticket. John Blake’s group excels with countering the team’s speed through the neutral zone, so the Panthers could be in for some tough sledding.

X-factor: Crinella. A contender for the Mr. Hockey award this season, the Holy Cross commit is capable of taking games over – something to be said on a roster full of Division 1 commits. This could be his coming out party on a statewide scope.

Prediction: Cathedral in three.

Series: No. 4 Austin Prep (13-4-4) vs. No. 5 Central Catholic (16-3-3)

Players to watch: AP – F Bobo Carpenter, F Eric MacAdams, F Jake McKennelley, D Andrew Cross, D J.J. Layton, G Elijah Harris; Central – F Zach Cote, F Richie Greenberg, F Lloyd Hayes, F Alex Lester, F Eric Robbins, F Corey Webber, D Conrad Jepson, D Cam Smith, G Colin Soucy.

Previous meetings: Central, 4-1, Jan. 1; AP, 3-2, Feb. 3.

The skinny: In a rarity with non-league opponents, the teams faced off twice during the regular season and, somewhat predictably, split the series. The teams are near carbon copies of each with a mix of top-flight offensive skill, depth and quality goaltending. AP, a Super 8 finalist last year, is a bit of an unknown commodity this season, as the Cougars lost multitudes of man games to injury through the year. In fact, AP didn’t even practice with its full fold of players until February, so we likely haven’t seen the Cougars’ attack at its fullest potential. Meanwhile, the Raiders can consistently roll three lines, with little drop off from the first to the third. So this one will be about as close as you can find.

X-factor: The goaltending. Both Harris and Soucy made names for themselves at last year’s Super 8. Regarded as two of the top goaltenders in the state, both offenses will be hard-pressed to find room to shoot.

Prediction: AP in three.

Recap: No. 17 Duxbury 5, No. 2 BC High 2

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
3:33
AM ET


FALMOUTH, Mass. – Earlier this season, Duxbury hockey head coach John Blake mused about when his team might get its due as the best public school in Massachusetts this year.

For those who might have doubted the Dragons previously, that certainly changed Thursday night.

Duxbury – hungry to earn a berth in the Super 8 tournament – dispatched No. 2 BC High, 5-2, with a concerted attention to team defense, playing the body and an MVP-worthy performance from senior forward Shayne O’Brien in the championship game at the Buddy Ferreira Classic.

“To beat a club like BC High, you almost have to have a perfect game,” Blake said. “I thought we were about as close to perfect as we could be.”

The Dragons (15-2-3) scored on three of their first six shots on goal and frustrated the Eagles’ slick-skating transition game through center ice throughout.

As important to Duxbury’s opportunistic nature in the attack zone, the Dragons were able to limit BC High’s scoring chances on other half of the ice sheet. Through two periods, the Eagles (14-2-4) could muster just four shots on Dragons netminder Tucker Kelly.

“We knew they’re defensive is active, they like to stay in control of the puck,” O’Brien said. “We knew we had to get on them right away on the forecheck and our first guy was always in there as fast as he could, banging in the corner, getting in there fast to pick up the puck.”

With Duxbury’s tight-checking style, the Dragons met and exceeded the Eagles’ physical play in the early going, setting a tone for a 45-minute battle.

As BC High was continually rebuffed attempting to gain Duxbury’s blue line, the Dragons’ momentum swelled as they broke through for a power-play goal at 12:02 of the first. Trevor O’Brien beat Brandon Payzant stick side with a wrist shot from the slot.

Duxbury struck again before the period was out, as Shayne O’Brien tallied his first of two goals on the game. Shayne O’Brien, who was named the tournament’s MVP, showed a nose for the goal with wraparound shot at 13:58, sending Duxbury to the room with a two-goal cushion.

Shayne O’Brien scored his fifth goal of the tournament at the 9-minute mark of the second, with an assist from defenseman Shawn Errasti.

However, the stage was set for the Eagles to climb back into the game at the start of the third. Two minor penalties were assessed to Duxbury at the 15-minute mark of the second – a roughing penalty and an unsportsmanlike penalty given to the Dragons’ bench.

BC High immediately capitalized on its minute and 30 seconds of 5-on-3 advantage. Chris LaLiberte directed in a cross-ice pass from Jake Lemanski 25 seconds into the third.

The power play factored again when Duxbury reestablished its 3-goal lead at 7:26. Defenseman Tyler Powers’ slap from the point clanged in off the post to beat Payzant on an extended power play off a 4-minute major checking-from-behind penalty.

The Eagles were still alive, however, striking for a short-handed tally off the ensuing faceoff. Eight seconds following Powers’ strike, Lemanski scored, the beneficiary of a Steve DeForge neutral-zone takeaway, making it 4-2.

BC High had its best chance to add another with less than three minutes remaining, as the Eagles unloaded five shots on Kelly during their sixth power play of the game. Much of the power play was played 6-on-4, as BC High head coach John Flaherty lifted Payzant for an extra attacker with a little more than two minutes remaining.

Kelly made nine of his 13 saves in the third period.

“The third period was probably his best period of the year,” Blake said of his junior goaltender. “He knows in big games that he has to make big saves for us. He’s a kid that’s gotten more and more confident all year long, he’s played in big games all year long. He’s battle-tested and, today, he rose to the occasion.”

While the Duxbury penalty kill (Eagles were 1-for-6 on the PP) held, Powers capped a strong game – offensively and defensively – with an empty-net goal, his second.

Tighten your chin strap: Duxbury entered the game looking to play the body early and often.

“We thought to have chance tonight, we’d have to be the more physical team,” Blake said.

But there was a flip side to that.

“We had to take some penalties by playing physical,” Blake added.

To the point that it put the Dragons at a greater disadvantage, as top-pairing blue-liner Shawn Errasti was lost for a portion of the third period, after taking his fourth minor penalty of the game.

Down one of its top penalty killers and a minutes leader among defensemen, Duxbury’s blue-line corps passed their test in gut-check time.

But, greater than that, the Dragons’ defensive brilliance was to a man, as the defenseman created a wall along their own blue line, with the forwards hustling back to slow down the transition game from BC High’s fleet-footed defensemen.

“They knew they have to control their gaps and play them as fast they could so [BC High] couldn’t get their speed going,” Shayne O’Brien said of Duxbury’s defensemen. “We knew they had to control their and our backcheckers bust [it] back.”

A bigger loss?: While BC High wasn’t fighting for its Super 8 life on Thursday, a greater concern to the Eagles’ greater chances developed in the first period of play.

Sophomore forward and Merrimack commit Patrick Kramer (12-21-33) left the game after a late-first period shift, following an awkward looking hip check in the corner and another spill in front of the Eagles bench. He did not return.

Striding to the finish line: No team in the state improved its Super 8 chances in the final week-plus of the regular season more than the Dragons.

Coming away with three wins on the Cape virtually assures that the tournament’s field will host at least one public, after the Dragons ran the table.

“We want to be playing our best hockey, so we just put it together in the end,” Shayne O’Brien said.

Meanwhile, the Eagles ended their regular season with a negative thud. Vying for the top overall seed in the Super 8 tournament, BC High had a chance to sew up No. 1, particularly after Malden Catholic lost to Springfield Cathedral on Thursday at the Panthers’ annual tournament in West Springfield.

While the Catholic Conference champions still have an inside track to claiming the top seed at Saturday’s selection meeting, the Eagles missed an opportunity to leave no shadow of a doubt.

One for the publics: Aside the playoff-like atmosphere and a huge boost to the Dragons’ Super 8 hopes, Blake reflected on his team’s accomplishment as the champions of Falmouth’s vacation week tournament, now named after the Clippers’ longtime and recently retired bench boss. It also was Duxbury's first championship win at the event, formerly known as the Cape Cod Classic.

As a revered figure in state hockey circles, Buddy Ferreira served as leading figure to many young coaches, including Blake.

“I think it’s fitting that the first year the tournament’s named after Buddy Ferreira that a public school wins this,” Blake said. “Buddy was a mentor of mine when I first started coaching in Duxbury, having him and [Hingham’s] Garrett Reagan, rest his soul, they kind of took me under their wings and taught me about coaching, a lot about kids, a lot about the game of hockey. We wanted to win this one for Buddy Ferreira, too.”

Recap: No. 2 BC High 4, No. 12 St. John's (S) 4

February, 15, 2014
Feb 15
12:52
AM ET
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s no secret that these are desperate times for the St. John's Pioneers.

With the regular season down to a few precious days, St. John's is pulling out all the stops in an effort of convincing the powers that be within the Super 8 tournament selection committee that they should be one of the 10 teams represented later this month.

On Friday night, the 12th ranked Pioneers made a strong case for themselves after grinding out a 4-4 tie against No. 2 BC High at New England Sports Center.

"I'm very pleased with the effort tonight," said St. John's head coach Mike Mead, whose club has now recorded ties in its last four contests "This was a playoff-like game. It gets you tournament-ready and that is what this last week of the season does for us. I think this result will definitely open some eyes. We are a team that is playing very well at the right time of the season. We can control only what we can control. If we are meant to be in the Super 8 then great. But if we're not then we're not."

The Pioneers travel to Coyle-Cassidy Saturday night before hosting Xavier (Conn.) on Monday before wrapping up the regular season Wednesday at Xaverian.

St. John's (9-4-6), which is still postseason bound (Division 1 North tournament) even if the Super 8 does not come calling, knows it probably should have came away victorious on Friday.

Kevin Quinlivan's rebound score coming at 13:08 of the third period pushed the Pioneers in front, 4-3. With a little more than a minute to go, the Eagles pulled goaltender Brandon Payzant for the extra attacker. It paid off. With only 58 seconds remaining, junior Pat Kramer blasted a shot from just inside the blue line. The puck appeared to tip off the stick of teammate Tim Larocque and sneak through the leg pads of Pioneer goalie Mario Pizzeri for the equalizer.

Officials credited Kramer with the goal but Larocque had positioned perfectly in front of Pizzeri to redirect the shot.

Throughout the course of this contest, BC High (12-1-4) held a distinctive edge offensively, out-shooting St. John's 38-21. But due to Pizzeri's performance, the Eagles were not able to pull away.

"They did a better job taking care of the puck then we did," BC High head coach John Flaherty said. "We had more chances but we didn't capitalize. Mario is a very good goalie and we knew that coming in. We knew that team would come ready to work because they need to. They know what is at stake for them. We knew that and shame on us for not responding. I'm happy that we pulled the tie out but what led up to that needs to be fixed."

Every time BC High took the lead, St. John's always seemed to have an answer. The Eagles went up first at 7:33 of the opening frame after Larocque sent a saucer pass over to Aidan Foley in front of the St. John's crease. The senior flipped a shot over Pizzeri's left shoulder giving his club a 1-0 lead.

At times, the Pioneers appeared to be puck watching instead of attacking the Eagles once they moved inside the offensive zone. However, Pizzeri (34 saves) was there to bail his club out on numerous occasions.

With just over two minutes remaining in the opening period, St. John's finally started getting its offense to click. Garrett Lehan, skating inside the Eagle zone, let go of a shot that caromed off of Payzant's pads. Alertly, junior forward Dan Barlok was positioned perfectly to pick up the rebound and send it into the net, knotting the game at 1-1 heading into the first intermission.

BC High, a 5-2 winner over St. John's back on Jan. 29, continued its offensive prowess for much of the middle period. The objective was simple enough – shoot as many pucks towards Pizzeri as possible and try to create traffic in front. The Eagles did just that but could not get anything past the senior.

"That was one of the most enjoyable games that I've ever played in," Pizzeri said. "I think we are a different team than the first time we played them. Our goal coming into this game was to make a statement and show the rest of the state that we deserve to be in the Super 8 tournament. I think tonight we did just that."

At the 9:39 mark, and with St. John's short a man after a too many men on the ice penalty, BC High regained the lead following a blast by Kramer's from the perimeter. However, the Pioneers late period magic would arise once again.

Off an errant shot that landed behind the Eagles net, Payzant went back to retrieve it, unknowing to him, that a pair of St. John's forwards were closing in on him fast. After losing control of the puck, the sophomore tried in vain to retreat back inside his crease. But he was a little late in doing so as Mike McGillicuddy was able to lift a backhand an open left side of the net at 12:14 to even things at 2-2.

For as much offensive output that BC High was demonstrating throughout, the only thing that mattered was the scoreboard. The Pioneers knew they were being out-played, particularly inside the defensive zone. But heading into the locker room deadlocked after 30 minutes certainly had to be a confidence booster.

That feeling didn't last long though. Just 37 seconds into the third, forward Steve DeForge muscled his way between two St. John's defenders and, with bouncing puck dancing on his stick, he managed to tuck a shot underneath Pizzeri's right arm and give the lead back to the Eagles 3-2. Things remained that way until Quinlivan's rebound tally midway through the period. A few moments later, St. John's let a golden opportunity to pad the lead slip through its fingers after Barlok broke in alone on Payzant (17 saves).

Aiming for the left side the net, the junior's hard wrist shot, instead, rang off the left post. As fate would have it. That missed chance would come back to haunt the Pioneers once BC High came back to tie the game in the waning seconds to no fault of Pizzeri.

"As I've said before, Mario does everything he can for us," said Mead. "He's a great leader. We aren't going to win many games 8-0. We're going to win games 3-2, 4-3, et cetera. It all starts on how Mario plays for us.”

Recap: No. 3 Malden Catholic 3, No. 1 BC High 1

February, 9, 2014
Feb 9
1:04
AM ET
MALDEN, Mass. —The impressive season long unbeaten streak is over for the BC High Eagles and Malden Catholic’s Ara Nazarian had a lot do with it.

Nazarian scored the go ahead goal in the second period and the insurance goal in the third period as the No. 3 Lancers put an end to the No. 1 Eagles’ 14-game unbeaten streak by a score of 3-1 at the Valley Forum.

The UNH commit finished off a sweet move to his forehand early in the second period to give the Lancers a lead they would not relinquish.

“He is a high end talent kid and you expect that,” said Malden Catholic coach John McLean. “I thought he worked really hard tonight and he was focused. We gear up for these guys so we look forward to playing them. I wish we could play them more during the year.”

The Lancers opened the scoring in the first period when senior Patrick Wrenn finished off a nice cross-ice pass from Nick Botticelli for a 1-0 lead.

Momentum shifted as the Eagles came out flying in the second period and tied the game when Tim Larocque tipped home a point shot from Ryan Shea to tie the game.

Despite the go-ahead goal by Nazarian just under a minute later, the Eagles kept the pressure on, aided by three power play chances including an abbreviated two man advantage but they could not solve junior goalie Alex Reissis (26 saves).

Nazarian put the finishing touches on the win with just under three minutes left.

Jake Witkowski had the initial bid that Eagles goalie Brandon Payzant turned aside but the rebound fell to the stick of Nazarian, who had an easy finish into the open side that put the game away.

MC's win avenged the Lancers' 5-3 loss at UMass-Boston back on Jan. 7.

“We just needed to focus on the small plays at the blue lines,” said Nazarian. “In the past games we haven’t been putting in our effort at the blue lines and that is where we have been losing games. I don’t think they have had a game where they have been down 1-0 in a while so getting that first goal was key.”

Only small in stature: When MC goalie Alex Reissis emerged from the locker room, the team’s fireman hat — given to the game’s MVP — rested on his head.

Despite his small frame, Reissis played large for the Lancers, specifically during a 16-shot barrage from the surging Eagles in the second period.

“The defense played really well for me today and kept everything to the outside,” said Reissis. “We took a lot of penalties but the penalty kill played well again.”

There was no bigger save then with just over six minutes left in the game when a defensive turnover led to Eagles top scorer Steve DeForge bearing down on Reissis but the junior goalie calmly turned the bid aside.

“I think this is a big step for him in a real big game,” added McLean. “That was huge for his confidence but he played huge tonight.”

Recap: No. 1 BC High 5, No. 5 Xaverian 1

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
3:39
AM ET
DORCHESTER, Mass. – At the halfway point of the season, if any team is primed to knock Malden Catholic off its perch as the three-time Super 8 champions, it is the No. 1 BC High Eagles.

John Flaherty's team proved that again on Wednesday night with a convincing 5-1 victory over No. 5 Xaverian.

"We tied [Xaverian] a few weeks ago,” Flaherty said. “They worked hard and out worked us. We knew we were going to have to put a lot of shots on net in order to have success. The goal coming out was to be aggressive, use our speed and get a lot of pucks to the net.”

One of the region's top uncommitted defenseman got the Eagles on the board first with an absolute rocket from the blue line. Sophomore Ryan Shea one-timed a pass from Sam Topham into the back of the net at the 9:57 mark of the first period.

Recent Merrimack commit Pat Kramer picked up the secondary assist.

"It was a good pass by Sam Topham. It really got the team going," said Shea, a '97, who began to draw serious attention from college recruiters at this summer's various showcase events.

The Eagles headed to the second period still up 1-0 when Flaherty decided to turn up the pressure on Xaverian by implementing a strong forecheck.

"Our forwards are really fast,” Shea said. “Other team's defense have problems breaking the puck out with our forwards. Coach [Flaherty] really hopped on us in the second period and told us to get hard on the forecheck. We started sending two guys in and got a lot of turnovers and pucks on net.”

The result was three BC High strikes in the second period that was completely dominated by the Eagles.

Pat Riley scored one from the dirty area in traffic after he picked up a Topham rebound and lifted it right underneath the crossbar to beat Xaverian goaltender Aidan Murphy.

Midway through the second period BC High extended the lead to 3-0 on a quick goal right off a face-off. Riley drew the puck back to Steve DeForge who quickly threw it on goal. Murphy caught some of the puck, but couldn't corral it before finding the back of the net.

With just 1:07 to go in the second period Aidan Foley blocked a shot at his defensive blue line before going in two-on-one towards the Xaverian goal. He looked off his teammate before sliding a hard shot along the ice that beat Murphy to his five-hole.

"We have guys that can skate,” Flaherty said. “When we skate and use our gift of speed we can be effective on pressuring teams into making mistakes. Our purpose was to get on our skates and move. We wanted to pressure people and get to loose pucks. We did that better in the second period than we did in the first.”

Xaverian's Connor Murphy gave some life to the Hawks just over a minute into the third period when he took advantage of a BC High turnover to snipe one past Brandon Payzant.

Some nice passing by BC High concluded the scoring later in the final period. Ryan Doolin sent a nice pass between two defenders to Foley who roofed one.

BC High (9-0-2) returns to action on Saturday with a showdown against Springfield Cathedral.

Xaverian (6-2-4) also gets back to the ice on Saturday with a matchup against Catholic Conference rival St. John's Prep.


WILMINGTON, Mass. – It’s not about the finish, it’s about the start. Right?

No. 1 BC High took control of Saturday’s Catholic Conference clash with No. 9 St. John’s Prep from the get-go, scoring first little more than a minute in and running to a 2-0 advantage by the 5-minute mark.

Behind a pair of goals from senior captain Steve DeForge, BC High held on for a 4-2 win over Prep in the annual Derek Hines Memorial Game.

“It’s an honor to play in this game for Derek Hines and his family,” DeForge said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of it. When we come up here, we want to play for them as well, especially in my four years of coming up here, we’d never gotten a point.”

With the victory, BC High (8-0-2, 3-0-1 Catholic) has now earned a point in each of its first 10 games on the season.

Junior center Tim Larocque had BC High running out of the gate with a rebound putback of a Connor Noonan shot at 1:28. DeForge then followed with his first at 3:15, a power-play goal with assists from Ryan Shea and Sam Topham.

“It was a good win off the faceoff and the puck went back to Sam [Topham],” DeForge said, “he dished it back to me down low, passed it back to him and he gave a good D-to-D to [Ryan Shea]. He had a good line to me and I just put it home.”

However, St. John’s Prep (4-5-1, 0-4-1) got on the board just about a half-minute later with Jimmy Currier being the beneficiary of some slick transition play from Evan Leclerc and Nick Latham.

It remained a 1-goal game at the intermission, but BC High started the second period with fury as well. DeForge tallied his second, from Chris LaLiberte, just 40 seconds into the second.

“We just put ourselves in a hole all day by giving up, I think in the second period, another goal within the first minute,” Prep head coach Kristian Hanson said. “In the third period, [there was] a goal in the first minute. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t put a full game together – a lot of that credit goes to BC High.”

Yet, Prep was able to counter quickly again. Less than two minutes elapsed following DeForge’s second tally before Prep again cut the difference to a single goal. Latham earned his second point of the game with a power-play goal at 2:04, with Mark Etherington providing the assist.

But, according to script, BC High held serve, scoring for the third straight period in the first minute with Jake Lemanski potting his sixth goal of the season 59 seconds in.

Prep had a golden opportunity to claw closer once again, with 1:27 of 5-on-3 power-play around the 5-minute mark of the third. BC High’s defense tightened around goaltender Brandon Payzant (16 saves), allowing one shot-on-goal in the duration of the 2-man advantage.

“Now, you get out of there and you still have a two-goal lead,” BC High head coach John Flaherty said, “there was still a lot of time left on the clock, but you could have been tied or down at the end of a 5-on-3 like that.”

Honoring a hero: The true driving force behind Saturday’s matchup was the Lt. Derek Hines Soldiers Assistance Fund. The game marked the sixth year Prep has honored its fallen graduate, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005, while deployed with the Army’s 173rd Airborne Division.

Hines, who was a standout in his time with Prep hockey, graduated to the U.S. Military Academy, where he served as a graduate assistant with the hockey team while completing Ranger and Airborne school.

In his memory, the Assistance Fund was presented with a $6,500 donation, a $2,500 increase over last year’s gift.

Saturday marked the first time in BC High’s seniors’ time playing in the game that they emerged victorious, having lost in the three previous years.

St. John's Prep is 4-2-0 in the six years of the Hines game.

Midway point: With its 10th game in the books, BC High reached the halfway marker of its season.

The Eagles hold the No. 1 ranking in our statewide Top 25 poll and they’ve only dropped points to conference rival Xaverian and Rhode Island power Bishop Hendricken in a pair of ties.

Even with its resume to date, BC High is an essential shoo-in for the Super 8 tournament, but Flaherty isn’t about to look any further down the line.

“With our schedule, we can’t look at what we’ve accomplished, we have to look at what’s ahead of us.”

Recap: No. 3 BC High 5, No. 9 St. John's Prep 2

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
1:50
AM ET
BOSTON -- Senior Steve DeForge and junior Jake Lemanski each scored twice for the host BC High Eagles as John Flaherty’s team dispatched St. John’s Prep, 5-2, Thursday, in the Catholic Conference opener for both teams.

“It’s the first Catholic Conference game, so it’s big to get out of the gate with a win, especially against a very good team like St. John’s Prep.” said Flaherty. “They’ve got some big guys who can move, skate and move the puck so we’re happy with the two points,” added the coach.

With a team that has so many young players contributing big minutes it is important for the upperclassmen to play well. That’s what happened on Thursday afternoon, according to Flaherty.

“Leadership. [Steve DeForge and Jake Lemanski] are leaders of this team,” he said."Both of them step up when the game is on the line. Both of them are good puck shooters and that is what I expect of those two kids."

Flaherty continued, "DeForge is a captain and a senior. Jake is just a natural leader. He’s just one of those kids. He’s a junior, but he’s on point with his talking in the locker room."

It was a sloppy first period that saw the foes trade two goals each. DeForge scored his first goal of the night on the power play just 3:23 into the game on a laser of a wrist shot.

“I got the puck at the top of the point, just ripped it on net and hoped for the best. We had some traffic in front so luckily it went in. I didn’t know it went in at first,” said DeForge.

St. John’s answered back with two goals to take a 2-1 lead. Junior Teddy McNamara scored on a nice snap shot where he used the defenseman as a screen. The shot deflected off the defender’s stick and went high over BC High sophomore goaltender Brandon Payzant.

Mark Etherington took advantage of a scramble in front of the BC High goal that allowed him to pick up the puck between the circles and backhand one past Payzant for St. John’s only lead of the night.

Lemanski scored both of his two goals in the second frame when BC High was really able to take over control of the game. Junior center Patrick Kramer won the draw back to Lemanski who quickly roofed one past St. John’s netminder Anthony Selvitella.

“We’ve been practicing that play a lot. Pat was able to win it and get the puck back to me. I just wanted to get it off quick and get it through. Fortunately it did,” said Lemanski.

His second goal, with just seven seconds to play in the middle period, was created by some passing at the point and then patience by the Scituate native. Billy Roche fed the puck to fellow blue liner Trevor Davis who slid the puck down low to a waiting Lemanski who let the goaltender go down before lifting one short side.

“Roche walked the point and gave it to Trevor Davis, and I tried to get open to the side of the net. Trevor gave it to me, and I got it up as quick as possible. It was able to sneak by [Selvitella],” said Lemanski.

DeForge added an insurance tally in the third period as he flew down the left side before unleashing a wicked wrister that pegged the corner of the net before falling in.

Payzant, a sophomore, stopped 19 of 21 shots in his fourth career start. The two goals he gave up, the first of his high school career, were certainly not his fault.

“Neither of the goals were his fault. I wouldn’t expect him to have either of those, and he settled in and made the saves he’s supposed to make. That’s what he’s done all year for us,” said Flaherty of his first-year starting goaltender.

Payzant, a Somerville native, made several key stops in the second period with the score still close.

“That was huge. Those were big saves that allowed us to keep them from knocking on the door. We had some breakdowns, and Brandon was there to make those saves,” said Flaherty.

Notes: Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy and Boston University assistant coach Steve Greely were among the half dozen or so college coaches and scouts in attendance for the matinee game on the campus of UMass-Boston. … BC High looks to keep its undefeated record in tact Saturday night at Weymouth while St. John’s pays a visit to Woburn the same night. … BC High and St. John’s Prep will play their second game against each other on Jan. 18 in the Derek Hines Memorial Game at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington. Hines is a former captain at St. John’s who went on to play hockey at Army before tragically losing his life in the War on Terror in Afghanistan.

Hockey teams kick off season at Regan Summitt

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
1:42
AM ET
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- It is never easy replacing a legend, but that is the task which has been handed down to first-year St. John's (Shrewsbury) coach Mike Mead.

Mead's Pioneers, along with many of the state's other top-echelon programs, took part in Sunday's Fifth Annual Garrett Regan Hockey Summit at New England Sports Center. The event is named after the former 26-year Hingham High coach and Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Hall of Fame inductee who passed away in June 2008.

Mead, who was appointed to the position last September, takes over for Brian Murphy, who stood behind the St. John's bench for 29 seasons, posting an overall record of 392-217-63, including a pair of Division 1 state titles (1999, 2004) and a handful of Super 8 appearances.

Mead is no stranger to St. John's. He served as an assistant under Murphy for 16 years, leaving in 2007 to spend more time with his family. He is also head of the Math Department at the school.

"Brian is a great friend and was a great mentor," said Mead. "He kind of broke me in. When this opportunity happened I jumped at it. My kids are little older now so everything sort fell into the right place at the right time for me."

Mead exudes the fact that the Pioneers have a plethora of depth, including a freshman team with 25 members. "We have a lot of kids who came back and tried out," he said. "We have good numbers and good depth. I don't really know the kids yet so with our tryouts I did things by grade. I didn't do it with returning players. We did juniors and seniors one day and freshman and sophomores the next. What I have seen so far I have been pleasantly surprised."

St. John's will, again, be paced by senior defensemen Bryan Nelson (23 points last season), Connor McCann, senior forward Kevin Butler and senior goaltender Mario Pizzeri.

Mead is also counting on senior forward Chris Adams and junior forward Dan Barlock to make their presence felt.

"We'll try to be aggressive on the forecheck and having two men on the puck," Mead said. "The biggest thing for us will be on offense. I feel we are a strong defensive team. I'm going to need some of our seniors to put the puck into the net."

Lancers quest for four: Malden Catholic began its quest for a fourth consecutive Super 8 crown, taking on Springfield Cathedral, another Super 8 qualifier from a year ago.

The Lancers controlled the opening frame, building a 4-1 lead before the Panthers rallied for three unanswered tallies to earn a 4-4 tie in the 2-period scrimmage.

By most people's observations, MC is the prohibitive favorite to claim another Super 8 crown again this season.

Despite the losses of two of their most prolific players (Casey Fitzgerald and Mike Iovanna, who combined for 56 points a year ago), there is still plenty of talent to carry the Lancers again this season. Junior forward Ara Nazarian (26 goals, 24 assists) leads the way. Senior forward Tyler Sifferlen, junior forward Austin Goldstein, sophomore forwards Matt Filipe and Jake Witkowski along with defensemen John McLean, Nick Rolli are solid. As of now, Alex Reissis appears to be the front-runner between the pipes replacing departed Connor Maloney.

"We lost some major contributors but we have a good bunch of younger kids who have come in that should fill those spots fine," MC head coach John McLean said. "The issue is you cannot replace a Casey Fitzgerald (who joined the United States National Team Development Program). He was a special player but the guys that are going to play need to step up.

“As far as our expectations I just worry about the next game. We don't think about the Super 8. Right now we're rolling everyone and everyone is getting to play. When we work we're good and when we don't want to work then we're just average. All that matters is winning the last game of the year. Last year was a long learning curve for us. Hopefully our leaders this year will step it up and take us to the Garden again. We have a lot of good, young strong players. It's just a matter of them gaining the confidence to play at this level."

Against Springfield Cathedral, Sifferlen netted a pair of goals, with Goldstein and Rolli accounting for one apiece.

"I think we have a good group of young core guys on this team," said Nazarian, a UNH commit. "We have good leadership from our older guys. It's a good mix of young and older guys. I think things are looking good so far. There is one goal here and that's to win the whole thing. That is our mindset. We won last year so we know every team we play is going to give us their best so we need to give it our best every game. This is a whole new season so we're just focusing on winning it again and not look back on last year."

Raiders on the rebound: Having reached the third round of last year's Super 8 before falling to St. John's Prep, Central Catholic remains hopeful for another stab at the big dance. Raiders head coach Mike Jankowski is a main reason as to why this program has emerged as a driving force statewide.

With Central everything begins from the net outward. Senior goaltender Colin Soucy, arguably the best high school netminder in the state, will be relied on heavily to get the Raiders back into Super 8 contention.

"We've had a lot of success of late," Jankowski said. "The culture has changed here and we are getting kids coming back from juniors and prep schools and believing in this program and high school. We want kids to enjoy their high school experience here. The schedule we play keeps is very competitive and it keeps our kids engaged and maintains them playing at a high-level. There's nothing like high school hockey in terms of the relationships and friendships the kids build. It's an awesome brotherhood that all teams should experience."

For years, Central often flew under the radar, constantly being overshadowed by other programs. But due to their recent success, that is no longer the case. Jankowski wishes it was not like that but when you win consistently, you now have a target on your back.

"Now, instead of coming in as a dark horse which we like to ride, there is a new expectation level which has been set here but I think we're ready for it," he said. "Colin is back and what he did for us, especially at the end of last year, was remarkable. For the kids to have that confidence in him at his position just gives us that added advantage. The goalie position where it makes a difference in a team's won-loss record. Colin is just a great example of being a great character kid."

Panthers on the prowl: With the loss of two key contributors last year, Springfield Cathedral will be looking to its youthfulness to help them make a return visit to the Super 8. Gone are defenseman Matt Foley and forwards Artie Potter and Dominic Blad. But who returns should play a key role in the Panthers postseason hopes. It all starts with goalie John Liquori. The team's lone senior, Liquori played himself into a top-level talent a year ago. Forwards Peter Crinella (a Holy Cross commit), Johnny Leonard, D.J. Petruzzelli, Cole Foster, Zac Prattson and Riley Prattson will give Cathedral the ammo it needs on offense.

Defense will be a work in progress, but Bryce Peritz, Jordan Tetreault and Cam Griffin return.

Also make note on freshman goaltender Keith Petruzzelli over the next couple of years.

"We've got babies but they're all good," Panthers coach Brian Foley said. "Our first two lines are going to score goals. We had a great first week of practice and you noticed how much they improved in just one week. It'll be fun over time to see how these guys mature this year. I think this will be our most-offensive team that we've had ever. All of those kids did a lot of work on their strength and speed during the off-season. I also think our defense and goaltending will be outstanding as well."

BC High movin’ on: With the loss of all-everything goaltender Peter Cronin, all is not lost at BC High. Brandon Payzant, a sophomore, was Cronin's understudy a year ago and by the looks of things, he appears to be a quick learner after playing solid between the pipes today against St. Mary's of Lynn.

"Brandon was with us last year as a freshman," Eagles coach John Flaherty said. "Obviously he had a great kid to watch and learn from. Peter was great working with Brandon so he now has a year of experience under his belt in practice and being around these guys. Now he is able to get some game experience. He's a good athlete and someone who will be able to step in and carry the load for us. We are also carrying eight defense (spearheaded by Sam Topham) where we hope to find the right combinations in order to keep the puck out of our zone."

On offense, BC High will count on Patrick Kramer (25 points), Steve DeForge, Chris LaLiberte, Tim Larocque, Jake Lemanski and Connor Noonan to work the puck into opposing team's defensive zones.

"We have a lot of experience back," Flaherty added. "It is just now we need guys to play bigger roles for us. Overall we are returning seven defensemen, 11 forwards and one goaltender and most of them have been around for a few years and it is our hope this is the year they blossom."

Hawks a sleeper?: Don't rule out Xaverian as a potential candidate to do some big things this season. Reaching the Division 1 South quarterfinals last season, the Hawks should be a better unit this year in spite of the departures of Eddie Pratt (17 goals last year) and defenseman Mike Brennan. They are led by forwards Antonio Marini (35 points last year), Tim Sweeney (24 points) and Jake Farrell (14). Defensively, Rick Smith and Ryan Walsh will be keys in shutting down opposing offenses.

Shot in the arm for SMH: After spending last season at Brewster Academy, St. Mary's of Lynn head coach Mark Lee was overjoyed learning that goalie Bailey MacBurnie was returning for his senior year.

Two years ago, as a sophomore, MacBurnie secured a 1.38 goals-against-average in helping the Spartans earn a No. 2 seeding in the Super 8 Tournament. With him back in the crease, expect St. Mary's to make another solid postseason run.

"Bailey can certainly be a difference maker for us," Lee said. "I think with this team we are putting a lot of kids in a position to allow them to gain great experience because overall we are a young team. I think we'll get better as the season goes."

With another year under their respective belts, you can look for forwards Jordan Manthorne and Jon Powers, the only two players to reach double digits in scoring last season, to lead to carry this club offensively.

Burlington moves on from repeat: Defending back-to-back Division 1 state champion Burlington will count on its defense to help the Red Devils in their quest for a third state title.

"So far I'm happy with our progress even though it has only been a couple of days," said Burlington head coach and recently-inducted Mass. State Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Conceison. "We have a strong defense and some forward that are young so it will be a work in progress to get our offense going. This is kind of a similar team to last year in that our offense started to come together at the end of the year. It's going to take a while for our offense to gel. We lost some firepower on offense last year (losing C.J. Grinnell and Joe Bernardi) but our defense is back."

The Red Devils also lost goalie Derek DeCastro to graduation and hope to fill the void with senior Mike Guleserian.

The Hall calls: Longtime Hudson head coach Mike Nanartowich will be inducted into the Mass. State Coaches Hall of Fame in May, along with Murphy, Waltham head coach John Maguire and Stoughton front man Dan Mark. Two years removed from his Division 3 state championship triumph over Medway, Nanartowich, now in his 24th season, regards Shrewsbury as the favorite in Central Mass. this year.

The Colonials return a front line of Dan and Jack Quinlivan along with David Belbin. Last season the trio combined to score 125 points. However, never never rule out the possibility for the Hawks at making a serious charge by season's end.

"You still have to go out and show up for every single game," Nanartowich said. "Right now you have to give the edge to Shrewsbury because of the people that they are returning as well as Wachusett and its depth. But at this point, I just think Belbin and the Quinlivan brothers can be the most-dominant line in all of Central Mass. this year. How you take care of their speed and skill requires a lot of game planning. As for us, we will still go out and play everyone straight up like we always do."

In regards to going into the Hall of Fame, Nanartowich remains humble over the selection. He passes the credit over to the players and coaches he has worked with over the years as the reason for the honor.

"I'm going in with a bunch of great guys and guys who have won at a good level," he said. "For me, all that hard work of watching tape, going to various rinks to scout and those commitments you make in the off-season with your team has paid off in winning a state championship and now it has paid off in terms of being recognized by your peers."

Hawks longtime assistant coach Mike Correa added that the honor bestowed on Nanartowich is certainly well-deserved.

"There is probably no one who does more for his players or works harder at preparing kids, not only for the game but life lessons as well, than him," Correa said. "Winning the 2012 state championship is not the reason why he should be in the hall. It is all the dedication he has brought to all the kids who have played in this program over the years which stands out to me."

SPONSORED HEADLINES