Boston High School: Connor Evangelista

Player Perspective: KUA's Nick Roberto

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
1:19
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Kimball Union Academy hockey wrapped up its first-ever Flood-Marr Holiday Tournament championship on Sunday with a 4-2 win over Westminster School. The Wildcats were led by senior forward Nick Roberto, who earned the tournament’s David Rogerson Trophy as its MVP.

Roberto, a Maine commit and Wakefield, Mass. native, also became the first KUA player to take home MVP honors since 1975.

Considered one of the top prep hockey teams in New England entering the 2012-13 season, the Wildcats are in the hunt for another NEPSAC championship this year.

We caught up with Roberto, who started his high school hockey career at Malden Catholic, in between games on Friday:

Q: You have some pretty skilled players beside you on your line with Casey Miller and J.D. Dudek. How do your skills complement each other?

A: “We’re always on the same page. We’re not selfish players, we’re always looking for each other. I like Casey because I’ve been playing with him for two years now. He’s a pass-first and shoot-second kind of player. He’s always looking. Dudek came over [transfer from Pinkerton Academy] and he’s just a hell of a player, he’s going to [Boston College], that says a lot. He brings a lot of skill to the line. I’m more of a grind-it-out player, but Casey and him, it’s all skill. That goal, my first goal [on Friday] was all Dudek, Casey drove the net and I was high and Dudek just made a nice pass. I was lucky to get it underneath the crossbar. And then, at the end of the game … At first, I thought it was going to be a little bit scary, but we got it. Casey just found a little hole on the ice and I tipped [the shot] up and batted it out of midair.”

Q: The tournament started a little tough for you guys, but you took over the third period of your first game against Salisbury with your two goals, including the game-tier and the game-winner. What was the difference?

A: “I think I played the worst two periods of my life, then the third period, Coach [Mike Levine] just told everybody to relax. I was a little snake-bitten with my stick and then I just came alive in the third. But it was a team effort.”

Q: You have a very talented roster and, as a result, there’s high expectations again for this team this year. What do you expect of yourselves as a team?

A: “I think today [Friday] really showed what we’re made out of as a team. It was the first time we’ve been losing for two periods and we fought back. No one gave up. Everybody was really positive on the bench, and that helps a lot. Coach wasn’t negative. He’s always helping us, encouraging us. We just starting playing hard, getting shots to the net and good things happened.”

Q: You have a couple of your old Malden Catholic teammates – Connor Evangelista and Brendan White – playing with you. What’s it like having been around those guys for so long?

A: “Well, Connor and I have been best friends since we were about three years old. We’ve gone to every school together: preschool, elementary school, middle school, MC and now here. We were roommates last year. Brendan came along this year, and I’m roommates with [Providence College commit] Niko Rufo this year, but I think Whitey’s in our room more than we are. It’s just fun up there with those two because we’ve been friends for such a long time.”

Q: You’re still a couple years away from Maine, but what are your hockey plans from here?

A: “I went up there a couple of weeks ago, I saw them play BC and we talked after the game. They said they don’t have that many openings for 2013, so then I can play a year of juniors and step right in and play. I’m fine with that, they’re really supportive of me – whatever helps. I’m not looking to go to college right now with the economy being what it is. I might as well live the dream some more and I’ll get there when I get there.”

ESPN Boston MIAA All-State boys' hockey team

March, 24, 2011
3/24/11
4:59
PM ET
First Team
F - Colin Blackwell, St. John’s Prep
The senior center and captain led the Eagles with 45 points (24 G, 21A) while earning MVP honors from the Catholic Conference. Playing on Prep’s top lines, in addition to power play and penalty kill units, the Harvard commit was a +42 this season for the Super Eight finalists.

F - Brendan Collier, Malden Catholic
Collier was perhaps the most versatile player in the state. The junior BU commit scored the game-winning goal in the Lancers’ Super Eight championship, but the winger was also a mainstay of MC’s penalty kill units, playing defense. The Charlestown native tallied 63 points (24 G, 39 A) during the regular season while guiding the Lancers to their first D1A title.

F - Mike Vecchione, Malden Catholic
The Lancers captain and UNH signee led their potent offense with 70 points (26G, 44A) during the regular season. The senior winger also broke the Catholic Conference’s all-time single-season scoring record during MC’s run in the Super Eight. The Saugus native is looking at playing in either the British Columbia Hockey League or the United State Hockey League next year.

D - Connor Evangelista, Malden Catholic
The junior blue liner was perhaps the most underrated element to the Lancers’ Super Eight title run. Whether it was through an outlet pass springing the rush or on the penalty kill, the Wakefield native did it all. Evangelista was among the state’s top-scoring defensemen and contributed 25 assists during the regular season for the D1A champion Lancers.

D - Marc Hetnik, Catholic Memorial
The Knights senior was like having a fourth forward out there, who also readily handled the opposing team’s top players night after night. The Chestnut Hill native is considering BU, Holy Cross and Merrimack among his college choices and is likely to play in the British Columbia Hockey League next year.

G - Kyle Williams, Central Catholic
The junior netminder spearheaded the Raiders’ run to the Super Eight. With Williams carrying a bulk of the load, Central Catholic surrendered just 43 goals this season while posting a goal differential of +45. He was also a driving force behind the Raiders’ Super Eight run and turned in a strong performance in a near upset bid against Malden Catholic.

“Line Change” Second Team
F - Tim Driscoll, Hingham
After scoring the winning goal in the Harbormen’s Super Eight championship in 2010, the Holy Cross commit captained Hingham to a D1A return in 2011. The senior winger led the Harbormen with 34 points (12 G, 22A) during the regular season and is exploring opportunities to play a prep postgraduate year of hockey before enrolling at Holy Cross.

F - Ryan Fitzgerald, Malden Catholic
The talented sophomore was the fulcrum the Lancers’ prolific top line, centering Collier and Vecchione. The BC recruit was MC’s second leading scorer during the regular season, netting 66 points (24 G, 42 A) for the Super Eight champions.

F - Tyler Piacentini, Weymouth
The senior captain was the sparkplug to the Wildcats’ Super Eight run. While he was often the smallest player on the ice, Piacentini was typically the most visible, letting his play to the talking. With a 61-point regular season (31 G, 30 A), he finished fourth in the state in scoring to MC’s dynamic first line.

D - Chris Joyce, Needham
The senior blue liner was the Rockets’ third leading scorer and a stalwart on defense who seldom left the ice. Joyce tallied 24 points in the regular season (7 G, 17 A) while leading Needham to yet another Super Eight appearance.

D - Alex Pompeo, Hingham
The senior was among the state’s leading point-getters among blue liners and finished second on the Harbormen in scoring to Driscoll. Pompeo was an integral part of the Harbormen’s Super Eight title run in 2010 and their repeat appearance in 2011.

G - Donald Hesse, St. Mary’s (Lynn)
The Spartans netminder was among the state’s leaders in all goaltending statistical categories, including a measly goals against average of 1.90 during the regular season. Hesse spurred St. Mary’s to its first Super Eight appearance this season. The Salem native is considering playing hockey at several postgraduate prep schools next season.

Best of the Rest
F Garrett Allen, Dartmouth
F Mike Cashman, BC High
F Liam Centrella, Andover
F Tom Coleman, Needham
F Ryan Connors, Marshfield
F Liam Coughlin, Catholic Memorial
F Joe Czarnota, Reading
F Ryan Dempsey, Marblehead
F Ryan Doherty, Tewksbury
F Terence Durkin, BC High
F Kevin Emmerling, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
F Tommy Evangelista, Central Catholic
F Riley Flanagan, Weymouth
F Dan Graham, Arlington Catholic
F Anthony Hardy, Bridgewater-Raynham
F Mitch Hamor, Beverly
F Alex Holland, Woburn
F Jack Jenkins, Billerica
F Sam Kurker, St. John’s Prep
F Chris Leblanc, Winthrop
F Nick Leonard, Central Catholic
F Conal Lynch, Boston Latin
F Chris Maguire, Waltham
F Jim McGrath, Medfield
F Dan O’Hear, Catholic Memorial
F Ross Olsson, Billerica
F Cam Owens, Wilmington
F Drew Oxley, Saugus
F Kurt Roderigues, Saugus
F Nick Roberto, Malden Catholic
F Jason Salvaggio, Xaverian
F Joe Scarfo, Winthrop
F Casey Shea, Woburn
F Devin Smith, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
F Andrew Taylor, Oliver Ames
F Zach Wells, Barnstable
F Andrew White, BC High
F Garrett White, Malden Catholic
D Steven Bellew, Hingham
D Steven Bristol, Weymouth
D Sean Kavanagh, Springfield Cathedral
D Cam Kennedy, St. Mary’s (Lynn)
D Jake Kulevich, Marblehead
D Ryley MacEachern, Austin Prep
D Eric Muise, Peabody
D Alex Taddeo, Franklin
G Joe Cerulo, Wakefield
G James Cox, Braintree
G Peter Cronin, BC High
G Zac Rondeau, Springfield Cathedral
G Kyle Jacobs, Pembroke
G Chris Treon, Westwood

All Rookie Team (Top 5 to Watch for Next Year)
  1. Shane Eiserman, F, St. John’s Prep
  2. Tyler Sifferlen, F, Malden Catholic
  3. Tom Besinger, F, BC High
  4. Sean Cleary, G, Barnstable
  5. Nolan Redler, F, Winchester
Coach of the Year
John Flaherty, BC High
It took just one season for Flaherty, who took over for legend Joe McCabe, to get the Eagles back to the Super Eight after missing the playoffs in the previous two seasons. The BC High graduate guided the Eagles to a 15-6-3 record that included an appearance in the Super Eight crossover round. Flaherty also works at the school as its Director of the Fund.
All eyes will be on the TD Garden Sunday as championships will be decided in six divisions of MIAA title games. We'll have you covered all day long, but until then, we provide to you a breakdown of each of the game and our predictions:

GIRLS’ TOURNAMENTS
Division 2

No. 4 Fontbonne Academy (16-2-5) vs. No. 2 Duxbury (20-3-0), 9 a.m., TD Garden
The Breakdown: The Ducks’ Taylor Shepherd can hold her own against the very best the state has to offer and along with linemates Liz Coleman and Erin McLoughlin, they’ve created one of the state’s most potent pairings. Make no mistake, the Green Dragons can also score with the best of them — with prolific sister duo Brianna and Lily Connolly leading the way—but Duxbury is strong from the net out with freshman Rachel Myette turning in a strong first season between the pipes.
The Pick: While the Dragons might be the deeper team, Shepherd is perhaps the most dynamic player in the state, and talent goes a long way this deep in the tournament. We like the Ducks to win their second title in three seasons. Fontbonne, 3-2.

Division 1
No. 8 Hingham (19-4-2) vs. No. 3 Acton-Boxborough (19-3-1), 8:15 p.m.

The Breakdown: Jane Freda scored a rather historic goal during the Harborwomen’s overtime upset of top-seeded St. Mary’s. Not only did she catapult Hingham forward on its march to the finals, she also ended the Lady Spartans’ 100-game unbeaten streak. Katie Walsh and Sarah Schwenzfeier have contributed a consistent scoring punch all season for Tom Findley’s team, while Beth Findley has been stellar in nets with a 1.30 goals against average to go along with nine shutouts. While it might not have as historic, Kati Goguen’s third-period goal lifted the Colonials in their upset win over Woburn in the semifinals. A-B boasts a staunch defense led by one of the best in the state in Caleigh LaBossiere and seventh-grader Cali Loblundo (90.6 save percentage) has been a revelation in goal.
The Pick: Instant karma’s going to get you, and we feel that Hingham has it on their side after toppling the state’s undisputed No. 1 team. Hingham, 2-1.

BOYS’ TOURNAMENTS
Division 3
Westfield (15-5-4) vs. Marblehead (20-4-3), 11:15 a.m.

The Breakdown: Defenseman Colin Arnold and forward Matt Gagnon were just freshmen when the Bombers won their last state title in 2008. This year, the pair were a major driving force behind Westfield’s run to the state title game, which included an upset over Central champion Hudson in the state semifinals. Marblehead’s seniors are trying to win their first state title as a group, despite having won three of the last four North sectional titles. Forwards Chris McLeod and Ryan Dempsey lead a dynamic offense, while you’d be hard pressed to find a better blue-liner in all of D3 than captain Jake Kulevich.
The Pick: We’re going with the emotional pick here and siding with the Magicians, but it’s also a reflection of their skill. This is a very talented and deep hockey team. Marblehead, 4-2.

Division 2
Tewksbury (18-5-1) vs. Franklin (17-4-2), 1:30 p.m.

The Breakdown: The Redmen won their first D2 North title since 1995, while the Panthers haven’t won a state title since 1983 – that’s a year after somebody named Laviolette moved onto bigger and brighter things and when current head coach Chris Spillane was playing. Something has to give and one of the hockey-rich towns will come away with a long-awaited title. Tewksbury is led by explosive forward Ryan Doherty, who leads the Redmen in scoring, along with Frank Mazzei and Derek and Mark Petti. The Panthers are very strong on the back end with defensemen Alex Taddeo, who’s among the state’s best, and netminder Billy Spillane, who’s been solid all year.
The Pick: It’s usually a safe bet to take defense over offense this time of year and we’ve always been a fan of the Panthers’ team defensive philosophy. Franklin, 3-2.

Division 1
Wakefield (14-6-4) vs. Marshfield (18-3-5), 3:30 p.m.

The Breakdown: Both of these teams had to defeat the No. 1 seeds, who also happened to be Super Eight tournament participants to win their respective sectional tournaments. The Warriors slipped by St. Mary’s in a one-goal decision while the Rams took a hammer to Springfield Cathedral in the South. Wakefield (No. 7 seed in the North) has been led on its Cinderella run by goaltender Joe Centrella, who’s big and plays high (think Martin Brodeur) while playing his angles well. The potent Marshfield offense is led by 100-point scorer Ryan Connors and Chris Perry.
The Pick: This game might be the hardest of the day to forecast. We went back and forth on this one before settling with the Rams. Marshfield, 2-1.

Division 1A
No. 2 St. John’s Prep (18-5-1) vs. No. 1 Malden Catholic (20-2-2), 6 p.m.

The Breakdown: This is the matchup everyone’s been waiting for, simply put, they truly are the two best teams in the state this season. Both are skilled. Both play fast. Both have the type of talent that draws attention from scouts. The Lancers top line of Brendan Collier, Ryan Fitzgerald and Mike Vecchione hasn’t seen a parallel in this state in quite some time. MC’s second isn’t far behind with Mike Iovanna, Nick Roberto and Garrett White stepping up their play in the tournament. The Lancers have plenty of talent along the blue line as well with playmaker Connor Evangelista and rising star Colin MacGillivray. Pat Young is a stalwart in net. The Eagles have perhaps the best player in the state in center Colin Blackwell, who’s put on an offensive display along with linemates John Farrow and Shane Eiserman. Winger Sam Kurker provides a power-forward presence on the Eagles’ second line. Junior netminder David Letarte has been steady all season long.
The Pick: We wouldn’t be at all surprised if this one turns into a barnburner, however, the most encouraging thing the Lancers might have going for them is the defensive clinic they put on during the second period of their crossover round win over BC High. If the Lancers forecheck like they did against BC High, they will be very hard to beat. Malden Catholic, 5-3.

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.

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)

No. 4 Hingham shocks No. 1 MC

January, 16, 2011
1/16/11
1:24
AM ET


HINGHAM, Mass -- Top-ranked Malden Catholic was supposed to come in and use Hingham’s Derek McInnis for skeet shooting practice firing pucks from every angle. Even Hingham head coach Tony Messina was joking post-game that ‘the NHL team was coming in.’

Well, the Lancers didn’t realize McInnis was up for the challenge.

The senior goalie stopped a career-high 33 of 34 shots on net as the No.4 Harbormen shocked everyone with a 2-1 victory at a sold out Pilgrim Ice Arena to send the home crowd into a frenzy.

Austin O’Connor put back his own rebound for the power play game-winner with 10:39 left on the clock as the penalties really hurt the offensive flow of the game for the Lancers.

The Harbormen rung up ghosts from the past as they sent Malden Catholic packing in last year’s Super Eight semifinals in their last meeting en route to the school’s first-ever Division 1A title.

“Probably the most saves [McInnis] ever made,” said Messina. “I said to our guys they are shooting a lot but we are getting sticks in the way, tipping the puck, blocking shots and you saw that.”

In total, Malden Catholic (7-2-0) peppered McInnis and out-shot the Harbormen, 34-21, in the game. Although the Lancers fired an amazing 64 shots toward net, they only had one goal to show for it.

After a scoreless first period, Hingham (6-1-3) hit the back of the net first as Alex Pompeo scored unassisted at 7:08 of the second period. But the Lancers were not rattled one bit as junior defenseman Connor Evangelista rifled one from the point just 2:22 later in the period off a simple assist from the right slot from BU-bound Brendan Collier to tie the score 1-1 heading into the third. The tying goal came on the power play as Dan Griffin’s second penalty of the period proved costly and Mike Vecchione set up a perfect screen out in front of the right post for Evangelista.

After Evangelista’s equalizer, the Hingham defense did an excellent job keeping the Lancers’ offensive juggernaut out along the boards and along the perimeter. The sold-out crowd seemed to come alive in the third realizing that Hingham has a chance in an arena that Messina likes to liken to Fenway Park. Great to play on, stifling home-ice advantage –- not so great to watch a game.

“It’s nice to have the home ice because you can change all the time and we can control that and keep them to the perimeter in this rink because it’s small but they still get a good shot off,” Messina said. “If we play them again down the road I’m not sure we will be able to control that.”

The Lancers picked up their third penalty as Ryan Fitzgerald headed to the penalty box and O’Connor made them pay. With only five seconds remaining on the man advantage, O’Connor was sitting on the doorstep of the crease when he wristed a shot that ricocheted right back to his stick for the put-back, rebound tally.

“I thought [Hingham] played hard the whole way, beating us to the puck, we were waving our sticks looking for the big play and it just didn’t happen,” Lancers head coach Chris Serino said.

When discussing the untimely penalties, Serino pulled no punches.

“You lose your best line and we lost our best line for the third period. And that’s our fault. No one else’s fault but ours. Just stupid penalties.”

Malden Catholic came this close to tying things up as Collier put an almost-perfect, opposite-post shot on net just outside the left point. Collier’s shot hit inside the post and O’Connor’s goal held up as the game-winner.

“[O'Connor has] come a long way, the first few years he didn’t play a lot and last year he contributed to the team on the defensive end and now we have him on the first line moving the puck around,” Messina said. “What can I say, he’s scored some big goals this year.”

Malden Catholic had one other loss coming into the contest, by forfeit, to Weymouth in a game they won 5-1 but turned over due to an ineligible player.

O’Connor’s game-winner keeps Hingham with only one loss, a 5-3 decision against Catholic Memorial.

“What a good hockey game,” Serino added. “But I really thought they outplayed us. They beat us to loose pucks, they forechecked harder than we did, they were in great position and were really well coached. We were probably out-coached, so we got out-played and we got out-coached. So they did a good job on us.”

MALDEN CATHOLIC - (7-2) 0 - 1 - 0 - - 1
HINGHAM (6-1-3) - 0 - 1 - 1 - - 2


FIRST - NONE

SECOND - H, Alex Pompeo (unassited), 7:08; MC, Connor Evangelista (Brendan Collier), 9:31 (pp).

THIRD - H, Austin O'Connor (unassisted), 4:11 (pp).

No. 1 Malden Catholic finishes No. 2 CM

January, 12, 2011
1/12/11
2:39
AM ET


MALDEN, Mass. – They sure do finish with flair.

For the second straight game against a Catholic Conference foe, No. 1 Malden Catholic trailed in the third period. The Lancers clawed out of a 2-0 hole to come back and beat No. 3 St. John’s Prep last week, but, once again, MC found itself trailing late Tuesday night against No. 2 Catholic Memorial.

The Knights took a 2-1 lead 2:36 into the third on Liam Coughlin’s goal. That’s when the Lancers clicked into another gear, scoring three goals in a span of 1:12. MC netting six goals on 12 shots overall in the third period to finish in a flurry and a 7-3 victory over CM.

“In that five-minute stretch, we did everything right,” MC head coach Chris Serino said. “We handled the puck and we were moving it like that the whole game, we just weren’t finishing.’

The Lancers (7-1-0, 2-0-0) dominated play for long stretches of the first period and out-shot the Knights, 12-5. However, MC only mustered to sneak one goal past CM goaltender Tommy Knox in the first with Ryan Fitzgerald tallying his 11th of the season on a give-and-go.

The Knights (5-4-0, 1-1-0) evened the score 15 seconds into the second period when Dan O’Hear knocked in a rebound off Marc Hetnik’s shot.

“We played hard, we created turnovers, we generated some offense off of our forecheck,” CM head coach Bill Hanson said of his team’s effort in the second stanza.

The Knights hard work paid off again early in the third period on Coughlin’s marker assisted by Jack O’Hear – his second.

Yet, MC drew even with an unexpected lift from freshman Tyler Sifferlen. Defenseman Connor Evangelista sprung Sifferlen on a breakaway. He beat Knox top-shelf for the first of his two goals in the period.

“That really turned things around,” Lancers assistant captain Brendan Collier said of Sifferlen’s goal. “From there, we were able to keep getting the puck deep, forecheck their D and just wear them down.”

Collier kept the pressure on netting his 10th of the season 42 seconds later with assists from Fitzgerald and Paul Wrenn. Mike Iovanna added his seventh goal of the year on a two-on-one break for a 4-2 MC lead. Garrett White tallied his second point of night (1 G, 1A) with a power play goal set up by Mike Vecchione to give the Lancers a three-goal cushion.

Fitzgerald later added his second goal of the night, thanks to some gritty work in the corner by Vecchione who fed the puck into the slot from his knees.

Sifferlen rounded out scoring with his second of the night with 8.3 seconds remaining. Chris Stathopoulous also scored late for CM.

Serino credited the work of his third line, comprised of Sifferlen, Bob Keough and Jake Porazzo, in helping to keep the Lancers’ legs fresh throughout.

“We run three lines out there and we’re able to wear them down,” Serino added. “It helps us tremendously because we’re able to wear them down and we were able to bury the puck in the third period.”

Passing thoughts: Kasabuski Tournament

December, 30, 2010
12/30/10
1:07
AM ET
SAUGUS, Mass. – No. 1 Malden Catholic hockey flexed its muscles throughout the Kasabuski Christmas Tournament. After throttling St. Bernard’s, 18-0, on Tuesday, the Lancers capped off the tournament championship with a convincing 8-0 win over No. 6 St. Mary’s of Lynn Wednesday night.

Malden Catholic (5-0-0) had six players finish with multi-point games, including tournament MVP Brendan Collier (2 G, 2A) and Ryan Fitzgerald (2G, 2A), who led with four points apiece. Mike Vecchione and Mike Iovanna each had three-point games while Colin MacGillivray and Nick Roberto (2 G) each had two points.

St. Mary’s (2-1-2) endured a tough first period, when the Lancers scored five times. Malden Catholic struck for three goals within 32 seconds of each other midway through the first.

“In the first period, I thought we really only played seven or eight really good minutes,” Lancers head coach Chris Serino said. “Fortunately, we put four, five goals in during that time.”

While Malden Catholic’s is indeed potent offensively, Serino also reminded that you cannot overlook the efforts of his defensemen. The Lancer blue-liners, led by the top pair of Connor Evangelista and MacGillivray, were instrumental in limiting the Spartans to nine shots on goaltender Pat Young.

“I thought we did a pretty good job in our own end, getting the puck out,” Serino added.

“People look at our forwards and our top line, but we’ve got pretty good defensemen, too. I think especially our top four are as good as anybody.”

On a night when many things didn’t go well for the Spartans, bench boss Mark Lee was encouraged by the way his team competed in the third period, holding the Lancers off the board.

“Every mistake you make, they’re there to capitalize on it,” Lee said. “Each one of their goals was a breakdown by us. They’re one of the most talented teams I’ve seen in years.

“But I’m very proud of our third period, we came out and played like men. We skated up and down with them and we had some chances. I’m happy with how we finished the game, taking the score away.”

SAUGUS TAKES D-2
It was a banner day all-around for Serino as his alma mater captured the Division 2 championship earlier in the day.

Saugus blanked Lynnfield, 3-0, on the strength of a pair of two-point performances from Kurt Roderigues and Drew Oxley.

“We’ve had some games this year that we’ve learned from,” Sachems head coach Jeff Natalucci said. “We were up 3-0 against Winthrop and we let them back in because we stopped working, but tonight we didn’t stop working. Hopefully, we continue to grow and go from here.”

After Ralph Pagliucca put the Sachems (2-0-3) ahead 1-0 in the seond period, Roderigues added some cushion, beating talented Lynnfield netminder Craig Cataldo on a snipe from the circle. Roderigues was set in motion on the play by a laser cross-ice pass through the neutral zone form Oxley.

Roderigues later returned the favor, setting up Oxley’s goal three minutes into the third period.

Saugus showed some grit in the tournament, working back from a two-goal deficit against Pentucket on Tuesday to earn a 5-2 win and advance to Wednesday’s final. The Sachems also played with plenty of jam with an aggressive forecheck. And it would be hard to recall loose puck in the corner that wasn’t first fished out by a Saugus skater.

Even Roderigues’ goal was started by some dirty work done in the corner. Freshman Steven Kay snaked the puck out of the Sachems’ end, pushing the puck to Oxley who let Roderigues off to the races.

All encouraging signs for their first-year head coach.

CATHOLIC CENTRAL LOGJAM
Earlier in the day, No. 5 Austin Prep collected a 4-0 win over Catholic Central foe St. Bernard’s in the Division 1 consolation game.

However, the Kasabuski tournament just reinforced the fact that the Catholic Central is shaping up to be a very even three-horse race this season.

On Tuesday night, the Cougars skated to a 1-1 tie with St. Mary’s (the game is counted as a tie in MIAA standings), but the Spartans had the last laugh, scoring with 50 seconds remaining in the overtime period to set up their matchup with Malden Catholic. The tightly-battled game has been indicative of the early season meetings between the Catholic Central powers. Before Christmas, No. 4 Arlington Catholic skated to a 4-4 tie with St. Mary’s. So no definitive favorite has emerged in one of the state’s most tightly contested conferences.

“It’s nice to take three points away from the tournament, but we were still a little sloppy,” Austin Prep head coach Louis Finocchiaro said. “There are still things we have to work on. We can be a little careless with the puck at times. But we’re a young team and you expect those things to happen.”

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