Boston High School: Nolan Driscoll

ESPN Boston Super 8 primer

March, 2, 2012
There are less than 48 hours remaining before the puck drops on the real Super 8 on Sunday at Merrimack College.

So we’re taking this opportunity to break down the final eight:

1. Malden Catholic (15-1-4)
Marquee wins: Pretty much all of them, minus the Lancers’ one loss to New Jersey powerhouse Delbarton.

Players to watch: F Brendan Collier (22-34-56); F Ryan Fitzgerald (26-14-40); F Mike Iovanna (14-23-37); F Tyler Sifferlen (9-14-23); F Ara Nazarian (10-16-26); D Casey Fitzgerald (1-15-16); D Colin MacGillivray (2-8-10); Brendan White (2-16-18).

The skinny: As in the last couple of years, this year’s Super 8 is viewed as the Lancers’ tournament to lose. Again, they have the best line in the state with Collier, Ryan Fitzgerald and Iovanna saddling into Mike Vecchione’s former spot. But MC’s true strength is depth. Sifferlen and Nazarian would occupy a spot on mostly any team’s top line. Super frosh and BC commit Casey Fitzgerald has filled Conor Evangelista’s role dutifully as a puck-moving defenseman.

X-factor: Goaltending. Connor Maloney watched last year’s Super 8 from the BC High bench behind Peter Cronin. Now, it’s his time to shine.

2. St. Mary’s of Lynn (18-1-3)
Marquee wins: Malden Catholic (Kasabuski Tournament tie); Hingham (5-1); Cathedral (3-2).

Players to watch: F Bobby Mullins (9-20-29); F Jarrod Fitzpatrick (14-7-21); F Cam O’Neill (14-15-29); F Brendan Mageary (13-11-24); F Tim Aylward (10-10-20); D Nikko Markham (6-12-18); D Bryan Wilkins (1-7-8); G Bailey MacBurnie (1.30 GAA, 94.1 save %).

The skinny: So what were the Spartans to do without perennial league all-star Donald Hesse as their backbone? Well, Mark Lee found a more-than-legitimate starter in MacBurnie, a sophomore, who’s played well along with a defensive corps led by Markham. Fitzpatrick has been another revelation in his first season with the Spartans. St. Mary’s has greater scoring depth than in year’s past. And they’re young, as freshman Eric MacAdams (4-14-18) has impressed seeing top-line action.

X-factor: How do the Spartans react in a tight game. In last year’s Super 8 play-in stab, and the Div. 1 tournaments of year’s past, one-goal games have come back to haunt them. If they can sweat out a couple of close decisions in this tournament, they might find themselves at the Garden.

3. St. John’s Prep (13-5-2)
Marquee wins: BC High (3-1); Hingham (2-1); Central Catholic (4-0).

Players to watch: F Sam Kurker (26-26-52); F Brian Pinho (14-20-34); F Tyler Bird (9-5-14), F Andrew Brandano (8-6-14); D Nick Pandalena (6-10-16); D Brent Murray (0-4-4); G David Letarte (2.02 GAA, 91.5 save %).

The skinny: We still haven’t gotten over last year’s championship game; it was simply amazing hockey. There’s no Colin Blackwell, but Kurker (BU commit) has really blossomed this season and has taken this team on his back the way his former linemate did last year. Pinho and Bird, along with Kurker, are a formidable first line to skate against, and are strong in all three zones. Pandalena is a mountain of a defenseman, but beyond him, the Eagles blue line was green entering the season. Murray has elevated his play to comprise a formidable top pairing.

X-factor: Letarte. I believe we said this last year as well. When the senior is on his game, he can be airtight.

4. Hingham (16-4-2)
Marquee wins: Marshfield (6-2); Catholic Memorial (3-2); St. John’s of Shrewsbury (4-0).

Players to watch: F James Gordon (21-17-38); F Matt Brazel (11-20-31); F Matt Hughes (13-11-24); F Ryan Linehan (8-12-20); F Patrick Mannion (6-12-18); F Sam D’Antuono (6-19-25); D Nolan Driscoll (2-7-9); G John Grenier (1.88 GAA, 90.1 save %).

The skinny: If this team had a motto, it would be “lacking experience, but not young.” During the Harbormen’s most recent Super 8 runs, a good portion of this year’s roster watched from way down the bench, or up in the gallery. But this team has collectively raised its game and is benefitted by great coaching. Gordon’s 20-goal season has been a pleasant surprise and Brazel is one worth watching for the next two years. The real revelation has been Grenier between the pipes. The Xaverian transfer is among the statewide leaders in goals against average.

X-factor: Grenier. He doesn’t fit the current mold of a big, butterfly goaltender. Instead, he relies on aggressively challenging the shooter and cutting down angles. We’ll see how it matches up with the precision passing games of MC and St. John’s (S) in pool play games.

5. BC High (10-5-5)
Marquee wins: St. John’s (twice); Prep (5-3); Cathedral (3-0).

Players to watch: F Matt Sullivan (9-15-24); F Tom Besinger (10-15-25); F Bartley Regan (7-6-13); F Steve DeForge (6-13-19); D Brian Furey (3-6-9); D Sam Topham (1-9-10); G Peter Cronin (2.00 GAA; 91.5 save %).

The skinny: Cronin lead this team to the crossover round last year, falling just short of an upset of MC. He was the revelation of last year’s tournament and, as usual, the Eagles will look to their goaltender to continue his strong play. Besinger might be the shiftiest forward in the tournament not named Kevin Emmerling. He’s not big, but he sure can skate. Furey has done a nice job leading a young Eagles blue-line corps this season. ‘Moe’ Regan has produced some dirty goals and has thrived in his role as a power forward, coming off his EMass D1 Super Bowl win.

X-factor: Sullivan. The Eagles’ soft-spoken leader is a lead-by-example type, but thrives in big-game atmospheres. Wouldn’t be surprised at all if he’s a player we’re talking about months after the tournament.

6. Springfield Cathedral (10-6-6)
Marquee wins: BC High (4-3); Needham (1-0); CM (3-1).

Players to watch: F Frank Crinella (13-15-28); F Thomas Quinlan (11-5-16); F Peter Crinella (5-8-13); F Brendan Ashe (7-7-14); D Matt Foley (0-12-12); G John Liquori (2.40 GAA, 88.9 save %).

The skinny: The Panthers cracked the top six this year after getting bounced in a play-in game last year. This is a team that isn’t very flashy, but is consistently tough to play against, playing a brand of hockey that can be frustrating to opponents. Sophomore John Liquori has been steady, taking over for old stalwart Zac Rondeau. Liquori is the benefactor of a sound defensive squad that likes to play the body and takes care of its defensive assignments with diligence.

X-factor: Frank Crinella is perhaps the most talented player in the state who receives the least amount of deserved credit. This tournament could be a statement for him.

7. Central Catholic (13-3-5)
Marquee wins: Burlington (6-4, play-in game).

Players to watch: F Ryan Daigle (8-15-23); F Mike Kelleher (10-7-17); F Lloyd Hayes (15-8-23); F Alex Lester (7-9-16); F Zack Cote (10-4-14); D Jake Donahue (3-4-7); G Kyle Williams (2.13 GAA, 91.1 save %).

The skinny: Stop me if you’re heard this one before, but the Raiders again used a spirited second-half push after a slow start to get back into the top tournament. If they continue the fast and physical brand of hockey they played against Burlington, the Raiders will provide a tough test. Kelleher’s natural hat trick is a big boost to Central’s chances going forward; if he gets going, he’s one of the most potent pure scorers in the state.

X-factor: Williams. Shocking, right? As the goaltender goes, so goes the Raiders. And it’s no coincidence that Central played its best while last year’s ESPN Boston All-State netminder was at his finest.

8. St. John’s of Shrewsbury (15-4-3)
Marquee wins: Needham (5-4, play-in game).

Players to watch: F Kevin Emmerling (25-28-53); F Vin D’Amato (23-14-37); F Jay Duquette (11-22-33); F Hunter Burdick (6-9-15); D Nick Rutigliano (1-10-11).

The skinny: Akin to Central Catholic, the Pioneers took perhaps their biggest win of the season on Monday. In that shootout with Needham, they showed why they can go toe-to-toe with any team across the state with the top line of Emmerling, D’Amato and Duquette running and gunning …

X-factor: … but then there’s the defense. The Pioneers are going to need to tighten up in their own end. If they allow their three future opponents to enter the zone as they allowed the Rockets to run in the third period, there could be some lop-sided scores.

Recap: No. 4 Hingham 4, No. 19 St. John's (S) 0

January, 19, 2012

HINGHAM, Mass. - It's a bit stunning to note that a team firmly entrenched in the mix for a Super 8 bid is making it happen with a defense and goaltender that are seeing the ice for the first time this season.

That has been the case with No. 4 Hingham, who rode that defense and the stellar play of netminder John Grenier to a 4-0 shutout of No. 19 St. John's (Shrewsbury) last night at Pilgrim Arena.

Grenier, a junior, only had to make 13 saves, thanks in great part to the work of his unheralded defense. Led by Nolan Driscoll, Pat Cahill, Andrew Flynn, Noah Ellis and Corbin Robichaud, the Harbormen (10-2-0) put on a shot-blocking clinic, as the stat sheet showed a total of 42 shot attempts by the Pioneers (8-4-1).

"Its not unexpected because although they didn't play in the games with us last year, they practiced with us every day most of those guys," Hingham coach Tony Messina said. "We know what they can do, they've been in the system for a couple years so we were hoping they could acclimate pretty quickly and they have."

"With the goalie, we didn't know how good John was or what he was capable of but he's been more than we expected, more than we could ask for," Messina continued. "Together, they've been pretty good. Its really been team defense too. We try to make sure the forwards are coming back to help and that's obviously a big thing. A lot of blocked shots, a lot of long sticks trying to get sticks on pucks. You have to against the best teams. Otherwise they'll eat you alive."

For his part, Grenier is also very appreciative of being able to man the cage behind such a hard-working blue line corps.

"It was huge," the junior netminder said of his defense's ability to block shot. "The shots they don't block, they could come in, come to me, and you don't know what happens when they get to the net. It either bounces out for a rebound or can get to the net. It's just not a good situation if it comes to the net. If they dont stop it its not any good."

The bulk of Hingham's offense against the Pioneers came courtesy of its second unit. James Gordon had two goals and an assist, Matt Brazel had a goal and two helpers, and Sam D'Antuono dished out three assists.

The tenacity of the second line bore though particularly on rebounds, as Brazel and Gordon notched Hingham's first two tally's by being aware of where the puck was after shots.

Matt Hughes scored the third goal on a one-timer courtesy of a beautiful, cross-crease pass from Brazel, and Brazel and D'Antuono helped spring Gordon for his second, and the game's last, score with 1:03 left to play.

"They've been good for us all year," said Messina in praise of his second line. "They play hard in the offensive zone. the thing we to watch with them is coming back in the defensive zone, but they can put the puck in the net which is great. The first line was a little off tonight but the second line was great."


One player from St. John's that immediately jumped off the page was senior forward Kevin Emmerling. The Whitinsville native is listed at a mere 5-10, 170 pounds, but skates with a flash and a flair that leaves no recourse but to generate offensive opportunities.

Emmerling is already drawing looks from Hockey East schools such as UMass-Lowell and Merrimack, a list that will undoubtedly grow as the season wears on.

"He's a very offensively skilled player, said Pioneers coach Brian Murphy of Emmerling. "He's got good speed and great hands. We're pushing him, trying to get him into college and get him ready. I think he can play at a high level, he just needs an opportunity.

St. john's has designs on making a run at a Division 1 state championship, or even better, a cherished bid to the Super 8. A year ago, the the Pioneers were oysted by Winchester in the Div. 1 North quarterfinals, 2-1. In an effort to prepare themselves better, Coach Murphy has set up his schedule for his team to face no less than 11 teams from Eastern Mass., including stalwarts such as Hingham and BC High.

While the result haven't been what Murphny had hoped for (the Pioneers are 1-5 thus far against EMass. competition), the goal to is to improve and try and reach the same level of some of these opponents.

"The big thing is the pace, the quickness, the speed of the game. These guys are good players and they play hard and they play quick and so you're going to have to adjust to that pace if you're going to play at a high level," Murphy said. "Thats why we do it, thats why we play all these teams. We want to pick up that pace, we want to challenge ourselves and see if we can get up tthat level."

"Sometimes its frustrating, sometimes its difficult, sometimes you take your lumps but like we said to them in the locker room, we'll be in the tournament, which one who knows, and we just need to keep working, take one game at a time and see if we can get some good things out of this. We can't change it, we just try to see if we can build on it."