Boston High School: Rob Devaney

Super 8 tournament primer and picks

March, 2, 2013
There are less than 24 hours remaining before the puck drops on the Super 8 tournament Sunday at UMass-Lowell’s Tsongas Center.

So we’re taking this opportunity to break down the final eight. As the tournament takes on a best-of-three format for its first-round matchups this year, we’re taking a look at the head-to-head breakdowns for each series, along with predictions:

Series: No. 1 St. John’s Prep (17-2-1) vs. No. 8 Central Catholic (14-5-3)

Players to watch: Prep – F Brian Pinho, F Tyler Bird, F Andrew Brandano, F Jack McCarthy, F Cam Shaheen, D Brent Murray, G Billy Price; Central – F Lloyd Hayes, F Corey Webber; D Nick Gorski, D Alex Lester, G Colin Soucy.

Previous meeting: Central 2, Prep 1 on Dec. 26.

The skinny: Central fought its way into the eight-team field with an improbable comeback against Hingham in Monday’s play-in game. But they’ll have to be ready to go out of the gate against the top-seeded Eagles. Prep is deepest team in the field — from its forwards to its defensemen — and the Raiders will have to weather the Eagles’ ability to wear teams down by consistently rolling four lines (Claude Julien surely would love this Prep team). The goaltenders will also be under the spotlight in this series with both Price and Soucy making their debuts in taking over for tournament stalwarts David Letarte and Kyle Williams, respectively. The play of both goaltenders has been a strength for their teams this year.

X-factor: Can the Raiders parlay some momentum gained from their dramatic play-in game overtime victory into a Game 1 win against the Eagles? Also, what kind of a factor will Central winger Mike Kelleher be?

Prediction: Prep in two.

Series: No. 2 Springfield Cathedral (16-1-4) vs. No. 7 Malden Catholic (12-6-3)

Previous meeting: MC 2, Cathedral 1 on Feb. 21.

Players to watch: Cathedral – F Peter Crinella, F Dominic Blad, F D.J. Petruzelli, F Johnny Leonard, D Matt Foley, D Jack Williams, G John Liqouri; MC – F Mike Iovanna, F Ara Nazarian, F Tyler Sifferlen, F Pat Wrenn, D Casey Fitzgerald, D Nick Rolli.

The skinny: While the Panthers enjoyed some down time this week, MC set about making a statement in its 9-1 dismantling of Archbishop Williams in Monday’s play-in game. Perhaps no team in the state has been hotter than the two-time defending Super 8 champion Lancers and they’d like to prove that, once again, this is their time of the year. There will be plenty of top-tier talent on the ice when the team’s top forward units face off with Cathedral’s line of Crinella-Artie Potter-Blad opposed by MC’s Iovanna-Nazarian-Sifferlen troika. The key to this series, however, will be which team’s second and third lines come to play.

X-factor: Cathedral goaltender John Liquori. As we saw in the Panthers’ game against St. John’s Prep in the final week of the regular season, he’s capable of stealing points and games for them. He’ll need to be at his best to curb the Lancers’ attack.

Prediction: Malden Catholic in three.

Series: No. 3 BC High (14-3-3) vs. No. 6 Catholic Memorial (12-6-2)

Previous meetings: BC High 5, CM 1 on Jan. 16; BC High 4, CM 3 on Feb. 2.

Players to watch: BC High – F Tom Besinger, F Pat Kramer, F Steve DeForge, F Chris LaLiberte, D Sam Topham, D Ryan Shea, G Peter Cronin; CM – F Liam Coughlin, F Jack O’Hear, F Kevin Hock, F Aaron Clancy, D Dennis Medeiros, D Sean Heelan, G Brandon Collett.

The skinny: Can’t get much better than this, right? Right up there with Bruins-Canadiens. The teams will add another chapter to their storied history in the 50th-anniversary year of their hockey rivalry. While the Eagles claimed both meetings against their Catholic Conference counterparts during the regular season, the play was largely even (minus one second-period outburst in BC High’s 5-1 win in January). So expect more of the same in this series.

X-factor: Liam Coughlin. The Eagles had success neutralizing the rangy center during their regular season appearance, both in the offensive zone and in the face-off circle. But we’ve seen Coughlin (25-16-41) take control at times this season, and he’ll have to do so for the Knights to advance.

Prediction: BC High in three.

Series: No. 4 Austin Prep (13-1-6) vs. No. 5 Reading (16-1-5)

Previous meeting: N/A.

Players to watch: AP – F Nolan Vesey, F Bobby Carpenter, F Jake McKenelley, F Eric MacAdams, F George Sennott, D Andrew Cross, D J.J. Layton; Reading – F Rob Devaney, F Mike Thomson, F Jake Barbera, F Mark Dente, G Evan Morelli.

The skinny: The Battle of Reading is just one subplot to a group of first-round series rife with context. The high-flying Cougars attack will have to break through a sticky Reading forecheck that can give opponents fits. AP does enter tournament having played some of its best hockey of the year in the final week of the season, wrapping up a Cape Cod Classic championship. The Rockets, meanwhile, will gain the fan bases of the rest of the state as the lone remaining public school entrant in this year’s field.

X-factor: Nolan Vesey. Has the potential to be the best player in the tournament. For a young squad such as AP, however, Vesey’s leadership will be vital for their long-term Super 8 chances. He needs to set the tone.

Prediction: Austin Prep in three.

Recap: No. 4 Reading 3, No. 12 Wilmington 1

February, 16, 2013

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Three weeks ago, Reading head coach Mark Doherty made some changes to his offense, moving senior captain Rob Devaney onto a line with Jake Barbera and Mike Thomson in hopes of sparking something within the Rockets system.

In Saturday's Middlesex League crossover matchup against Wilmington, that unit came through in the clutch as Barbera had a goal and an assist while Devaney popped the eventual game-winning goal with 3:07 left to play as the fourth-ranked Rockets bested the 12th-ranked Wildcats, 3-1, at Ristuccia Arena.

"Midway through the season, we weren't getting much offense so we just tried to shake up the lines," Devaney explained. "Obviously, we've all played with each other since we we've been about five years old so it wasn't too much, just to get something new in the system. We tried changing the system a little bit and I think it paid off. We're coming our harder, getting more opportunities, getting more shots and that's the kind of team we are. Get shots and go to the net hard."

"We always know where each other are," he added. "We always keep that third guy high. We cycle the puck real well. I'm one of the smaller guys but Jake Barbera is a big kid and he creates room for me and Mike and we're able to just pass it back and forth and get good shots for rebounds."

With the game tied, 1-1, heading into the third period, Reading (15-1-5) caught Wilmington (14-3-1) in a line change and defenseman Andrew Lawrence intercepted a clearing attempt and chipped the puck forward to start a three-on-two break. Barbera collected the carom and slid a quick pass back to Devaney, who fired a shot inside the far post.

"I think we caught them in a line change," Devaney explained. "We came down on a three-on-two rush. I got a drop pass with a kid stepping up on me. I tried to shoot it to get it on net, didn't want it to get blocked and it ended up going in. Obviously a huge goal with about three minutes left in the game."

The Rockets first goal came just 38 seconds into the second period, when Barbera got position in front of the Wilmington goal and tipped home a shot from the point by sophomore defenseman Mike Seibold to tie the game.

"They are one of the best teams I've seen this year, including all the parochial schools, et cetera," Doherty said in praise of Wilmington. "I think they've got as good a forward [in Cam Owens] as there is in the state, bar none. He's right there with the best of them. We knew coming in, with the event that was planned here, it was going to be an interesting environment. Thank goodness it went our way. It could have gone either way truthfully. Both goalies are very good. I'm grateful it broke our way in the long run."

With both teams on the Super 8 watch list, it added a heightened level of excitement to the proceedings. For Reading, their status was likely secure beforehand and certainly must be cemented now. The goal for the Rockets will be to finish strong in the season finale against Arlington, and look to improve where they will end up seeded in the tournament field.

"We always look forward to playing in it," Doherty said. "I would like to think we'll be nominated. I try to stay as humble as I can about things but my goodness, I think we've shown this year that we're one of the better teams in the state."

Added Devaney, "I think we've proved it so far. Every team goes through a couple slumps here and there but then again, our last loss was December 29th at BC High and it was only a 2-0 game that could have gone either way. I think we're up there with every other team that's ranked high so I think we deserve it."

Wilmington's dream of joining the field as a Division 2 squad most likely came to an end with the loss. The reigning Div. 2 state champions figure they needed to win out to even have a chance of being considered for a nomination, much less inclusion in the field.

"Obviously it's an honor to be mentioned with them and all that but we really would have to win out," admitted Wildcats coach Steve Scanlon. "We would have had to beat these guys to even be really considered and for a division two team, it's a lot. It's a testament to our guys, they've played really good over the last couple of years so to even get mentioned with them is pretty good."

Wilmington dedicated the game to longtime team bus driver, Judy Tipton Lee, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's Diease, in Oct. 2011. The teams wore special jerseys with a ribbon and the words 'Judy's Wildcats' emblazoned on the front, and every player wore Lee's name on their backs, while fans wore similar tshirts.

The Wildcats got off to a good start as Brendan McDonough took a backhanded pass from Cam Owens and buried his shot from the lower, left wing circle at 4:45 of the first period.

Goalie Drew Foley was also stellar, turning aside 27 shots and keeping his team in the game.

"Especially early, he was unbelievable," said Scanlon in praise of Foley. "He held us in it. He's been pretty much our MVP. He holds you in the games, the kids are comfortable playing in front of him and they play with a lot of confidence. He's quite a goalie."

A bounce or two the other way and this game could have played out differently. Midway through the third period with the game still tied, a backhander by Steve DeFuria went between the pads of Reading goalie Evan Morelli (20 saves) and trickled through to the goal line. Morelli dove on it quickly, but it was hard to tell whether or not the puck had crossed the line first. The official was stationed right along the red line and immediately waved it off.

Then, with 31 seconds left in the game, Wilmington drew a crucial icing call that gave them a faceoff to Morelli's right with an extra skater as Foley headed to the bench. Reading's Ryan Thomson won the draw and defenseman Matt McLelland quickly skated off the right wing and sent a shot the length of the ice for an empty-netter.

"When do you see the draw go right to the guy and he sends it up the river?" Scanlon mused afterward with a smile. "We would have liked to get something going there with the extra guy. It is a game of inches, right? Some days they go with you, some days they don't. It was a good game, good experience for my kids."

Recap: No. 5 Reading 3, No. 24 Burlington 2

February, 5, 2013

READING, Mass. -- No. 5 Reading nearly skated Middlesex League rival Burlington out of the barn after one period of hockey Monday night. The Rockets opened up a shooting gallery in the Red Devils’ zone and, had it not been for the efforts of Burlington goaltender Derek DeCastro, things easily could have gotten out of hand fast.

Even though Reading went on to outshoot the Red Devils by a combined 35-17 margin, the action was a lot closer.

In the words of Rockets head coach Mark Doherty, “It was a Reading, Burlington hockey game.”

Reading prevailed, escaping with a 3-2 win over the No. 24 Red Devils, thanks to a two-goal game from junior forward Jake Barbera. But it wasn’t as easy as it looked and, as the Burlington power play opportunities racked up, it came down to a diligent group of penalty killers who made the difference for the Rockets (13-1-4, 9-0-3).

Although Reading seemed to be waltzing away with two points, holding a 3-1 lead late in the second period, the Red Devils (6-4-5, 5-3-5) got back into it with their potent power play.

Senior captain C.J. Grinnell made a tape-to-tape across the width of the ice surface to set up Joe Berardi’s half-slap, one-timer for a goal on the man-advantage with 4:22 remaining in the third.

Burlington had two sterling opportunities to notch the equalizer in the third, with two additional power plays, but the Rockets were game. Reading limited the Red Devils’ man-up unit to just one shot on goal in their final two power play chances, playing a stifling brand of defense in front of goaltender Evan Morelli.

“We have some good penalty killers,” Doherty said. “You talk about [Mark] Dente, [Rob] Devaney, [Mike] Thomson, they all know what they have to do. They know that they just have to rise to the situation.”

The Rockets claimed a 2-1 lead at the first break, after peppering DeCastro (32 saves) with a barrage of 15 shots on goal.

Reading drew first blood when Dente collected a nifty saucer pass from Alex Guarnotta and slipped behind the Burlington defense for a partial breakaway. Dente finished on the backhand for a 1-0 lead at 6:06.

Red Devils defenseman evened the score at 11:09 of the first, stepping up from the blue line, snatching a clearing attempt and firing off a wrister on an unassisted goal.

The Rockets went to the room with a one-goal lead after Barbera tallied his first of the game, putting back a rebound off a shot from Devaney. Barbera followed with his second of the game just 14 seconds into the second period.

Again, the rangy winger’s net-front presence paid dividends.

“We know that we have guys who can get it to the net,” Barbera said. “We have skill guys who can have a presence on the wall, they can definitely move the puck well. I know when they’re coming down the boards, we’re just getting it to the net … Robby [Devaney] and Mike [Thomson] were able to get it to the net.”

Barbera deposited the rebound from a Thomson slapper to provide the Rockets with a two-goal cushion.

However, Burlington again cut the deficit with Berardi’s power-play blast.

“They’re a bigger, a stronger, an older team, I think you could see that all night,” Burlington head coach Bob Conceison said. “But I liked the way our kids battled. I was real happy with our third period and we had some power plays in the third period that they killed and they made some good plays.”