Boston High School: Brendan O'Malley

10's a crowd: A Super 8 primer

February, 28, 2011
2/28/11
3:28
PM ET
We’re hours away from dropping the puck in the postseason with tonight’s Super Eight play-in games.

But we took a little time to sort out the Super Eight field, providing a primer on the teams.

Take a peek:

1. Malden Catholic (16-2-2)
Marquee wins: Lancers had wins over five of the 10 Super Eight teams and that doesn’t even include what might have been their most impressive win, an early season triumph over New Jersey powerhouse Delbarton.

Players to watch: F Mike Vecchione, F Ryan Fitzgerald, F Brendan Collier, D Connor Evangelista, F Nick Roberto.

The skinny: Wire to wire, unquestionably the top-ranked team in the state. As in the last couple of seasons, the Lancers enter the Super Eight with lofty expectations and seemingly nothing short of a title will satisfy. MC’s depth reaches far beyond its top line of three Division 1 college recruits (Collier, Fitzgerald and Vecchione) and its team speed and passing ability are without parallel. Not only can they score, they can defend as well, led by top defensive pairing of Evangelista and Colin MacGillivray.

X-factor: It’s funny how the postseason seems to shave away certain goals into missed chances and oftentimes it due to a hot netminder. So if those once plentiful goals start to ebb away, it will be left to senior goaltender Pat Young to shine. Young is capable between the pipes and he might just show that he’s been the most overlooked element to MC’s success.

2. St. John’s Prep (14-5-1)
Marquee wins: As the runners up in the Catholic Conference, the Eagles nabbed a pair of league wins against both BC High and Catholic Memorial, but it might have been Prep’s win against the Knights on Friday that showed they can truly be a threat in the Super Eight. Playing against a CM team with nothing to lose and everything to gain, the Eagles ratcheted up the D in a playoff-like atmosphere.

Players to watch: F Colin Blackwell, F Shane Eiserman, F Sam Kurker, G David Letarte, D Joe Currie.

The skinny: Outside of MC, the Eagles have the deepest collection of eye-popping offensive talent. Blackwell, a Harvard commit, is equally adept as a playmaker as he is a sniper. Eiserman is wise and mature beyond his years as a freshman while Kurker provides grit and a nice scoring complement. The blue line was the perceived weakness of the squad, but they’ve come a long way with Currie providing veteran leadership, in addition to Scott Derrickson who played a strong second half.

X-factor: Kurker. When the junior winger gets hot, he’s hard to stop and creates a dynamism to Prep’s offense.

3. BC High (13-4-3)
Marquee wins: The Eagles finished strong, winning their final six games in addition to the Cape Cod Classic tournament to end the season. Their 5-4 shootout with Catholic Memorial was also a classic, as usual. Does a tie against Malden Catholic count as well? Sure.

Players to watch: F Mike Cashman, F Terence Durkin, F Andrew White, D Jack Buckley, D Brendan O’Malley.

The skinny: The Eagles play with plenty of speed, a point of emphasis for first-year head coach John Flaherty when assembling this year’s varsity roster, and the young roster has gelled together quickly. More than anything, BC High has taken play to their opponents. They’re aggressive on the forecheck and know how to use their speed to their advantage.

X-factor: Experience. The Eagles haven’t been to the postseason since 2008, so a good portion of their roster hasn’t experienced playoff hockey. How long will it take them to acclimate? A period? A shift? “Hopefully, not even that,” Flaherty said. “At the end of the day, it’s just another hockey game. It’s not different from any others.”

4. Weymouth (17-3-2)
Marquee wins: The Wildcats’ 5-2 win over fellow Super Eight entrant and longtime rival Hingham at Pilgrim was about as good as it gets for the Weymouth seniors who’d never beaten the Harbormen before. “It’s a monkey they’ve wanted to get off their backs,” head coach Matt Cataldo told ESPN Boston after the game.

Players to watch: F Tyler Piacentini, F Riley Flanagan, G Brian Brady, F/D Trevor King, D Andy Sheridan.

The skinny: When are people finally going to stop saying that Piancentini is too small to play on the big stage? He can flat out score. Hey, it worked for Nathan Gerbe, right? Not only does Weymouth have scoring punch, they’re well suited for a long postseason run with Brady, a senior, in nets. Outside of MC, the Wildcats were perhaps the state’s most consistent team from start to finish and that means something coming in a year of great parity.

X-factor: King has played on the blue line and stepped up front to play center as well this season. Whether it’s moving the puck out of his own end, or stepping in to win a faceoff, versatility always comes in handy this time of year.

5. Hingham (13-5-4)
Marquee wins: It might not look as impressive as their upset over Malden Catholic on paper, but the Harbormen’s 5-3 win over St. Mary’s of Lynn on Feb. 5 got them going. After upsetting the Lancers, Hingham went through a tough 0-3-1 stretch before turning things around with a comeback win that had the intensity of Super Eight matchup.

Players to watch: F Tim Driscoll, D Alex Pompeo, F Matt Hughes, F Austin O’Connor, D Steven Bellew.

The skinny: Let’s call spades a spade: the Harbormen are the defending champions, so that has to count for something. Simply put, they’ve been there and done that, so nerves won’t be an issue. Although there was a good amount of turnover from last year’s roster, a few of their stalwarts remain in Holy Cross commit Driscoll and Pompeo, who is among the best defensemen in the state. They are terrific building blocks to a Super Eight champion-caliber squad.

X-factor: Derek McInnis was superb during last year’s run to the title, but head coach Tony Messina likes to roll his goaltenders and senior Kevin Granatino has been solid in the second half of the season. That gives the Harbormen perhaps the greatest depth in goal in the tournament.

6. Needham (12-6-4)
Marquee wins: Where would the Rockets have been without their 3-2 win over Weymouth on Feb. 9? It was a season-turner. Their 4-3 win over Springfield Cathedral was their raison d’Ítre to the tournament.

Players to watch: D Chris Joyce, F Tom Coleman, F Jeff Rosata, D Scott Atkinson.

The skinny: Who’d have thought the Rockets would end up with the sixth seed after (literally) being left off the table in the first round of Super Eight voting. Of course, head coach Bill Guisti has built Needham into one of the state’s premier public school programs and is evidenced by their tough out-of-conference schedule which includes several Catholic Conference teams. So the Rockets are used to playing the best. Joyce is in the conversation when it comes to the state’s best defensemen and we’ve always loved the jam Needham’s forward play with. They’re truly a tough team to play.

X-factor: Akin to the Harbormen, it will be interesting to see how Needham’s goaltending tandem of Evan MacDonald and Connor Murray shapes up. They’re both talented and capable of carrying the load.

7. Woburn (17-3-1)
Marquee wins: Life in the Middlesex League night in and night out is no easy thing, so we take the fact that the Tanners were 14-2-0 against league competition as a marquee accomplishment.

Players to watch: F Casey Shea, F Alex Holland, F Daniel Holland, F Eddie Aprile, D Brian Dulong.

The skinny: We had the Tanners pegged for the top six, which means they would have avoided playing Cathedral in tonight’s play-in game. But so is life and Woburn enters the tournament as one of the most consistent teams throughout the season …

X-factor: … However, the Tanners haven’t played much in the way of their out-of-conference schedule (a Their 6-0 thumping at the hands of St. John’s Prep was a good harbinger.

8. Central Catholic (16-5-1)
Marquee wins: It was early, but the Raiders’ 4-3 win over St. John’s Prep is about as good as it gets.

Players to watch: F Tommy Evangelista, G Kyle Williams, F Nick Pelrine, F/D Nick Leonard, D Ricky Sheehan.

The skinny: The Raiders looked like they might have been on the bubble with fellow DCL/MVC co-champion Billerica coming down the last couple weeks of the season, but Central showed what they are capable of with a huge 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Weymouth on the next to last day of the season. If that team shows up, the Raiders will be extremely dangerous. Evangelista is simply fun to watch.

X-factor: Williams is that type of goaltender who is capable of stealing games for his team.

9. St. Mary’s of Lynn (14-5-3)
Marquee wins: The Spartans had some tough luck in their out-of-conference schedule and had just a 7-5-3 record against fellow playoff teams. However, they were simply dominant in the Catholic Central (7-0-3), allowing just 12 goals in 10 games.

Players to watch: G Donald Hesse, D Cam Kennedy, F Bobby Mullins, F Christopher Surrette, F Tim Aylward.

The skinny: There’s no bones about why the Spartans are in the fold and that is their defense, which all starts in net with Hesse. Among the elite netminders in the state, Hesse is a game-changer and showed in last year’s Division 1 North tournament that he’s capable of putting a team on his back. Kennedy is an underrated blue-liner who is equally adept leading the breakout from his own end as he is clearing out the crease.

X-factor: It comes down to the ability for the Spartans to get those mucking-type goals in key situations and then shutting teams down.

10. Springfield Cathedral (12-9-1)
Marquee wins: All but one of the Panthers’ games was against a playoff opponent, so they’re battled tested and held their own against teams that were considered for the Super Eight, going 4-4-0.

Players to watch: G Zac Rondeau, D Sean Kavanagh, F Frank Crinella, F Dante Christofori.

The skinny: The Panthers always seem to find a way into the Super Eight field and play one of the toughest schedules in the state. They might not be as talented as their previous Super Eight predecessors, but they play good defense in front of Rondeau, who is capable of stealing games on his own.

X-factor: Kavanagh is one of the great hidden jewels in the state.

Second round sizzles at Cape Cod Classic

February, 22, 2011
2/22/11
1:44
AM ET


FALMOUTH, Mass. -- The most highly anticipated matchup in Monday’s second round of the Cape Cod Classic came in the form of two Super Eight “Watch List” teams facing off.

Both No. 5 BC High and No. 22 Austin Prep entered the game with a sense of urgency, matching each other stride for stride in an up-and-down first period at Falmouth Ice Arena. Yet, the Cougars were unable to match their intensity with their result on the scoreboard as Eagles netminder Peter Cronin turned aside 17 shots for his second straight shutout of the tournament and, coupled with a balanced scoring attack, BC High took an important 4-0 win.

Following a 5-0 blanking of Super Eight lister Hingham on Saturday, the Eagles are sitting pretty with a game to go.

“Peter [Cronin] is playing very well and he’s a good goalie,” BC High head coach John Flaherty said. “I was allow him to see the shots, he’s going to make the saves. The last couple of games he’s made it look easy for him, not that it’s been easy for him, but he’s made it look that way.”

The Eagles (12-4-3) finally broke the first-period stalemate on Brendan O’Malley’s goal with 3:36 to play on a crossing pass from Sean Talbot with Mike Cashman picking up a second assist.

BC High struck again with 3:28 remaining in the second with Chris LaLiberte banging one home from the top of the crease.

The Eagles preserved their second straight shutout effort with some key penalty kills in the third period.

Cronin and Co. kept the Cougars (10-6-3) off the board despite three power play chances. BC High also got one of its own a man down, with Matt Sullivan’s short-hander off a 2-on-1 break with an assist from Mike Marsters. That marker rounded out scoring with five minutes to play.

“Our PK’s been pretty good all year, it’s too bad that we have to use them so much though,” Flaherty said. “We need to stay out of the box a little bit better than we are.”

Andrew White scored earlier in the third off some pretty transition play with an assist by LaLiberte, who capped off a two-point game.

HOME COOKIN’ FOR FALMOUTH


Falmouth head coach Buddy Ferreira described the Clippers second-round matchup with Waltham as a “couple of .500 teams going at it.” But, with stakes so high, both squads brought their top game.

Of course, Falmouth is always a tough out as tournament hosts, but the Hawks had desperation on their side. Waltham entered the game two points shy of a state tournament berth with two games to play.

While the Hawks got half of what they needed, picking up a point for working to a 2-2 tie with the Clippers in regulation, Falmouth got the best of them in a shootout victory.

“Last game [a 2-0 win over Arlington Catholic] really boosted our confidence and this game just set it off,” Clippers junior defenseman Travis Howe said. “It meant so much to our team and Coach [Ferreira] even.”

The teams were deadlocked, 1-1, after the second intermission, but Waltham (7-7-6) showed grit, working for the go-ahead tally a little more than a minute into the third on Chris Maguire’s put back of a rebound on D.J. Feeney’s shot.

Although Falmouth (9-9-3) continued putting shots on Hawks goalie Patrick Jordan, they were repeatedly rebuffed.

Finally, with the benefit of a power-play advantage, Howe netted the equalizer with an unassisted goal, beating Jordan stick side with a slapper.

In desperate need of points, Waltham head coach John Maguire pulled Jordan inside of 30 seconds remaining for an extra-attacker. Already on a power-play after a Falmouth holding penalty with 55 seconds remaining, the 6-on-4 advantage still wasn’t enough to help one past Clipper netminder Brandon Moore.

The teams played to a scoreless overtime session before moving to the shootout, which Falmouth won, 2-0. Howe scored the Clippers first shootout goal before Matt Kinchla iced the victory, beating Jordan on a backhander.

“This is a big positive for us,” Ferreira said of his young squad. “We have seven sophomores who see regular ice time, so it’s been tough. But this is big to prove them they can come back in a game like that.”

The Clippers will face BC High for the tournament championship Thursday in Falmouth. The Hawks need one elusive point in their next tournament game against Austin Prep to qualify.

THIRD TIME A CHARM FOR ARCHIES



Although Falmouth’s comeback put an emphatic stamp on an exciting day of hockey, it wasn't the only game Monday to go an extra session. No. 19 Archbishop Williams’ finally got the monkey off its back with a shootout win over 17th-ranked Arlington Catholic.

Although the shootout victory counts only for the tournament (the game is recorded as a 3-3 tie toward MIAA records), Bishops head coach Derackk Curtis took the game for what it was as a vast improvement over their previous two meetings against their Catholic Central rivals. The Cougars won each of those earlier league contests.

“We haven’t been playing real well lately, so it was good to battle back and get that monkey off our backs,” Curtis said. “We haven’t been able to beat AC all year and going back to the state championship and losing to them at the Garden … It’s good for team chemistry and the morale of the guys, they deserve it.”

The Bishops (9-5-5) were down 3-1 entering the third period, but tied the game in regulation with a pair of goal inside the final four minutes.

Stephen Boardman drew the Bishops within one, going to the backhand on a deke in close against AC netminder John Busa with 3:27 remaining.

Dan Gibbons knotted the game at 3-3 less than a minute later, knocking one home from the doorstep.

After playing to a scoreless 5-minute overtime period, the teams went to the shootout. The Bishops took the best-of-five, 2-0, with successful tries by Michael Sorrenti and Mike Boyle.

Bishops sophomore netminder Brian Nazzaro made all four saves in the shootout, capping off a stellar game that included several saves during AC’s power play opportunity that spanned the final minute of the third and the first minute of the overtime.

The win unofficially snapped a three-game losing streak for the Bishops against the Cougars (8-5-7) which spanned back to last year’s Division 1 state title game.

“They came back and played hard,” Arlington Catholic head coach Dan Shine said. “We had a couple of chances to get the game-winner, but we didn’t get the bounces.”

HINGHAM AVENGES DUXBURY DRAW
When South Shore rivals No. 2 Hingham and Duxbury met earlier this season, the teams skated to a 2-2 tie at the Ed Taylor Tournament at Pilgrim. The Harbormen escaped with a win via a shootout in that holiday contest.

On Monday, with Hingham smarting over a 5-0 blanking at the hands of fifth-ranked BC High during Saturday’s opening round of the Cape Cod Classic, they were looking to rebound in their second-day matchup against the Dragons.

Hingham returned with a convincing 6-0 shutout over Duxbury and regained some of the momentum they’d built earlier in the month.

“We were playing pretty good hockey coming in, we’d won our last five games,” Harbormen head coach Tony Messina said after Monday’s win. “[Against BC High], it was our own fault. They’re a good team and we didn’t do the things we needed to do to win.

“We wanted to restore some of that confidence we’d been playing with.”

Hingham (12-5-4) got out to a 1-0 first-period lead, but exploded in the second period for three goals, sparked by defenseman Steven Bellew’s slap shot from the point off a failed Dragons clearing attempt.

“We have a good amount of guys who have been there,” Messina said when asked about the tenor of the room leading up to Super Eight selection Saturday. “We know what we have to do to get there.”

The Dragons (7-7-7) still need two points to qualify for the state tournament and have a crack against Arlington Catholic next.

Handicapping the Super 8 'Watch List'

February, 15, 2011
2/15/11
5:32
PM ET
Over the weekend, the Super Eight “Watch List” was compiled by the Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Association. In what has proved to be a particularly wild year, 21 teams made the initial list for observation during the final two weeks of the season. The mere number of teams on the list is a testament to how truly even competition has been through the year.

Aside from our weekly Top 25 state hockey poll, we’re going to take a little time to break down the Watch List, making a case for each team and their chances at the big dance while ranking the likelihood they will be among the field in addition to couple of X-factors to their postseason success.

It goes without saying that there’s a lot of hockey left to be played, but here’s how we see them stacking up as of right now.

As always, feel free to sound off and leave a copy of your rankings in the comments section.

TOP OF THE HEAP
1. Malden Catholic (13-2-2)

Why they’re in: Wire-to-wire, the Lancers have been the state’s most consistent team, minus one hiccup against Hingham. The top line of Brendan Collier, Ryan Fitzgerald and Mike Vecchione is without parallel. Not only that, the Blue Blades have depth throughout. Simply stated, they’re the team to beat.

X-factor: So much has been written (we’re included) about the Lancers offense, but they have a defensive corps to boot led by Connor Evangelista and Colin MacGillivray, not to mention the very steady Pat Young in net.

TOP GUNS
2. Hingham (10-4-4)
Why they’re in:
There’s been some turnover from last year’s Super Eight championship team, but the Harbormen still have some important cogs in the fold from that squad starting with their captains: winger Tim Driscoll and defenseman Alex Pompeo. They form the nucleus of a group that’s been there and done that, evidenced by some clutch late season wins, like last week’s comeback win against St. Mary’s of Lynn.

X-factor: Rangy junior winger Matt Hughes (6-foot-2) has exhibited a quick release and knack for finding the back of the net. The Harbormen have gone through stretches where they’ve struggled to score. If Hughes is on his game, Hingham will be all that much tougher to beat.

3. St. John’s Prep (10-5-1)
Why they’re in:
The Eagles have assured themselves a second-place finish in the Catholic Conference with a 4-3-0 record thus far. Quite frankly, that should be a good enough resume to gain Super Eight entry in any season. In addition, Prep has Top 25 wins out of conference against Austin Prep, St. John’s (Shrewsbury), Springfield Cathedral and Woburn.

X-factor: The question entering the season was how far Harvard commit Colin Blackwell could lead the Eagles. But he hasn’t just had to do it alone. Freshman Shane Eiserman could soon follow Blackwell’s footsteps as a D-1 recruit. In net, Prep has it covered with junior David Letarte who’s underrated.

4. St. Mary’s of Lynn (12-3-3)
Why they’re in:
The Spartans aced their Catholic Central schedule with a 7-0-3 record, out-scoring their opponents 37-12. It all starts from the goal out with netminder Donald Hesse sporting a sub-2.00 goals against average. Sophomore Bobby Mullins has stepped up to shoulder the offensive load and leads the squad with 12 goals.

X-factor: The Spartans don’t have too many marquee out-of-conference wins, but we’re looking past that in this panel’s consideration of their merits on the strength of their conference schedule which includes three Top 25 squads in Archbishop Williams, Arlington Catholic and Austin Prep. St. Mary’s pushed Malden Catholic on Monday before losing, 3-2, but the Spartans have a couple more high profile non-leaguers on the docket with Springfield Cathedral and Weymouth.

TOP EIGHT BUBBLE
5. BC High (9-4-3)
Why they’re in:
First-year head coach and longtime Eagles assistant John Flaherty set a goal to get his team back into the postseason this season. Not only has BC High qualified for the state tournament, it very well looks like they’re Super Eight bound. The Eagles started Catholic Conference play 0-3-1, but were able to salvage two wins down the stretch. Their 3-3 tie against Malden Catholic seemed to be a springboard for the team to believe in itself.

X-factor: A big tip of the cap goes to the Eagles’ senior leadership in keeping the young squad together, led by captain Mike Cashman, and assistant captains Jack Buckley, Brendan O’Malley and Andrew White.

6. Weymouth (15-2-1)
Why they’re in
: We expect that the Wildcats will put their finishing touches on Bay State Carey league title on Wednesday against Braintree despite a recent bump in the road with a loss to Needham. It’s hard to imagine Weymouth not being a shoo-in for the field of eight having been so dominant wire-to-wire. We could get a glimpse at how the Wildcats could play in the field with a string of late season tests against Catholic Memorial, Central Catholic and St. Mary’s in the next two weeks.

X-factor: It all comes down to defense in the postseason and with defensemen Andy Sheridan and goaltender Brian Brady, the Wildcats have senior leadership covered.

7. Woburn (12-3-1)
Why they’re in:
The Tanners hold a slight 1-point lead over Winchester in the tight race to the Middlesex League crown. Their demonstrative 4-1 win over Reading on Saturday could go a long way toward punching their ticket. The Tanners control their own destiny with two more scheduled league games (Stoneham and Winchester) and, if they take care of business, they should be in.

X-factor: Woburn seems to be peaking at the right time and hasn’t lost since their first meeting against Reading on Jan. 8. Juniors Eddie Aprile and Bobby Smith played up for their latest big game against the Rockets last week.

HARD TO FIGURE
8. Catholic Memorial (7-7-1)
Why they’re in:
Bar none, nobody plays a harder schedule in the MIAA than the Knights every year. They’re accustomed to playing Super Eight-caliber hockey every time out and they get everybody’s best. For a CM team, they’re young, but they’re also plenty talented with defenseman Marc Hetnik leading the way. Sophomore Liam Coughlin (8-8-16) has been a revelation.

X-factor: Quite frankly, whether or not they have enough points to get to the tournament. It’s not often you’re taking a serious look at a .500 club come this time of year, but it again speaks to the quality of schedule in the Catholic Conference as well as out-of-conference. So here’s the gauntlet, five points in five games and they’re in.

9a. Central Catholic (12-4-1)
Why they’re in:
Less than a week ago, we had the Raiders ticketed for the top four of the eight-team field. After a lack-luster 1-1 tie against Billerica last Wednesday, Pandora’s Box opened. Now, as it stands as of publication time, the Raiders hold a 1-point lead over Billerica in the DCL/MVC with four games to play. The Indians also have four games to play. We’ll hedge that the winner of this pre-postseason mini tournament will have a chance at the Super Eight.

X-factor: Kyle Williams is that type of goaltender that can carry a team on a postseason run, but the Raiders can be dangerous if Tommy Evangelista and playmaker Nick Leonard are on point.

9b. Billerica (7-1-7)
Why they’re in:
If the aforementioned Raiders tail off and the Indians can pull of the DCL/MVC title, that’s it. On the plus side, the Indians have lost only one game, a 3-2 loss to Burlington. On the negative side, they’ve also only won less than half of their games as well.

X-factor: Health. The Indians were down five players in their 1-1 tie against Central Catholic, but the job head coach Mike Mastrullo pulled mixing and matching lines was masterful, plus his team came to play. It’s that side of Billerica that makes you believe.

ON THE FRINGE (WORD ASSOCIATION ROUND)
11. Needham (10-5-3)

Why they’re in: Building steam.

X-factor: Experience, Super Eight that is.

12. Springfield Cathedral (11-7-0)
Why they’re in:
Aren’t the Panthers always in?

X-factor: Zac Rondeau = game-changer.

13. Winchester (10-5-1)
Why they’re in:
Surviving the Middlesex League.

X-factor: Ryan McGoff.

14. Xaverian (8-5-2)
Why they’re in:
A Catholic Conference team on the outs?

X-factor: Dave Michaels.

BEST OF THE REST
15. Braintree (10-4-3)
16. Reading (12-4-1)
17. Arlington Catholic (8-3-6)
18. St. John’s Shrewsbury (10-6-1)
19. Barnstable (11-1-3)
20. Austin Prep (9-5-3)
21. Marshfield (10-2-4)

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