Boston High School: Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury hockey eyes another D3 title run

February, 2, 2015
Feb 2
Having lost nine players from last year's state championship team, there were those believing the Shrewsbury hockey team would find the road to another state title a lot more difficult to navigate this time around.

Obviously, it is still too early to predict what will happen once the Division 3 postseason party begins later this month, but for those pessimists out there, don't sleep on the Colonials.

Ever since head coach Steve Turnblom took over the program five years ago, Shrewsbury has played under a calculated system which centers around speed, passing, puck movement and team defense. Players come and go, but the structure remains the same. It is a system that worked brilliantly a year ago and it appears to be excelling once again this season as Shrewsbury currently holds down a 12-2-0 record.

Once the dust settled following last year's celebration inside TD Garden, Shrewsbury quickly turned its attention to this season. Major components from last year's successful run, including Dave Belbin, Sean Hallice and forward Matt Dillon, departed. Belbin and Hallice both graduated and are now playing junior hockey, while Dillon transferred to Cushing Academy.

But there was no panic. Shrewsbury knew what it was coming back in terms of front line scorers. Where the concerned lied was on the defensive side.

"We lost a lot of our defense but most of our forwards were back," said Turnblom. "The chemistry up front from the get-go was there but defensively, it has been a struggle. We're not as good defensively as we were a year ago. We've had some injuries on that side and now we are looking for other kids to step up. We do know that every defensemen from this year's team will be back next year, other than Jack Quinlivan, so that's a plus."

The Colonials are still deep enough to replace old parts with new ones. Shrewsbury has done that rather successfully with the additions of defensemen Joe Walton (sophomore) and Conall Perichino (freshman). But it was also important to add another veteran, along with Quinlivan, to anchor this young defensive corps. Therefore Turnblom decided to move senior forward Tyler O'Keefe, a prominent scorer, into the defensive zone.

Even with O'Keefe pulled back, it hasn't affected Shrewsbury from dominating the competition this season. Stockpiled with a host of skilled snipers, all have proven quite capable of putting the puck into the net from any spot within the offensive zone. That, according to Turnblom, has irked some opposing coaches who claim the Colonials have been piling it on by leaving their top players out on the ice until the final horn sounds.

But don't expect an apology from Turnblom anytime soon. He states that it is up to opposing teams to try and stop his instead of complaining no matter which line he puts out there. Others have criticized the ease of the Colonials' schedule. Mind you, Shrewsbury has limited control over who it plays. Like most teams, they submit a list of teams they would like to play but the final decision rests with schedule makers.

It just so happens that Central Mass. hockey across the board is in the midst of a down year with no one close to Shrewsbury's talent. Even inside its own conference (Quinn), regarded by most as the strongest in the region, the rest of field has been a bit down.

"Ever since I made the team as a sophomore, I felt the competition was good," senior forward Joe Buduo said. "No matter who we play, I have always gone out and given my A-game. I still do but I think this year our team is just that more dominant as compared to the other teams we play in Central Mass."

So the odds seemed stacked in Shrewsbury's favor at least to compete for a second consecutive state crown.

"Looking around our locker room we do have a lot of new faces," said Quinlivan, who leads the team with 13 goals and 20 assists. "But all of them are hungry. We also have the leadership and experience back from last year as well. The energy we have gotten from the younger guys has boosted the older guys. All of us are very excited about this team. I do think we will get back to the state finals if everything continues to go our way.

“The key is to go into the postseason staying hot. Every team that has won a championship seems to enter the postseason with a hot hand. Hopefully we will do the same."

Adds O'Keefe, "We have seen different guys, both young and old, step up all season. All of us want to get back to the Garden and bring another state championship back to our school. It is something we have worked for our whole lives."

Having already played in one state championship, the Colonials believe they have a decided edge should they run the table and return to the Garden next month.

"Last year was an amazing experience for everyone," says Shane Flaherty, a senior forward. "If we do get back there at least we know what to expect and won't be as nervous this time because most of us have already experienced it."

Once the playoffs start, Shrewsbury knows full well that a mistake here or there could spoil its championship dreams. With each passing day, they are constantly reminded of that by their coaches.

"The only way we are going to lose is if we beat ourselves," assistant coach Joe Joubert said. "It's that simple. If we don't show up to play in the playoffs then we will be going home early."

A couple weeks ago, Shrewsbury took a trip to take on perennial power Springfield Cathedral — a traditional Super 8 Tournament entree. It was an opportunity for Turnblom to see how his team would measure up against one of the state's elite programs. Although the Colonials were manhandled by the Panthers, 9-1, Shrewsbury still managed to take away some positives from the encounter.

The Colonials know they will not see anything like Cathedral's caliber in the postseason. The speed, endurance, physicality and talent put forth by Panthers is not witnessed at the Division 3 level. But the Colonials were not intimidated, matching Cathedral's physicality and intensity throughout.

Collectively, this group seems more like a band of brothers instead of a hockey team. Individual statistics and the amount of playing time one gets are never uttered. The Colonials play as a solitary unit with a single goal in mind.

"There hasn't been one person in our locker room saying I have more points than you or anything like that," senior goaltender Chris Shelby said. "It's not like that here. Everything and everyone here is team-orientated, positive and focused on what we need to do."

Senior Brayden Carroll agrees. "The one thing I'll take away from my experience here is that we play for each of our teammates," he said. "All of us have high respect for one another."

For most of the seniors on this club, this season will be their last hurrah. Some may continue their hockey careers at the prep school, college or junior level, but for others, there is only a handful of weeks remaining in their careers. The objective is for them to go out with a bang.

"Winning two straight state championships would be awesome," senior Dan Quinlivan said. "But as a senior class I believe we are leaving this program in better shape then when we all came in together. When we came in as freshmen, hockey wasn't the main thing here. Now, I feel we are a hockey school. I think all of us have had a hand in changing the culture here. Hockey is the main focus here and everyone is geared toward winning another title.

“This is probably my most favorite team I've ever been on because everyone here has their priorities straight -- family, school and hockey in that order. I don't think anyone on this team would want to play anywhere else."

Priorities resonate high on this team's agenda. Turnblom and his staff understand life does not revolve around hockey. But for those who play it here, there are certain requirements that need to be followed to wear the Colonials' uniform.

"You are expected to do all of your school work, maintain good grades, come to practice every day and work as hard as you can," said assistant coach Rich Grant, and former head coach at Nashoba Regional. "On top of that, for at least 20 times a year, we are asking for everyone's best effort. We know we are a team with a target on our backs.”

He added, “This group has consistently given us their best effort. From tryouts up until now all of these kids have carried that load of responsibility with class and dignity. We aren't here to disrespect or embarrass other teams. We go out, try to score goals, celebrate and go about our business like gentlemen. It says a lot on how Coach Turnblom runs the show here. All of these guys have done an outstanding job of not only being good guys in the rink but off the ice as well."

Recap: Shrewsbury 6, St. John's (S) 3

January, 4, 2015
Jan 4
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. – In the end, it wasn't so much a victory as it was total domination.

Whenever Shrewsbury and crosstown rival St. John's square off it goes without saying the Colonials always have this game circled on their calendars. The fact that both schools are separated by less than two miles only enhances the heated rivalry which has expanded 30 years, predominantly owned by the Pioneers.

Most will agree this annual meeting means more to Shrewsbury – a Division 3 program that rarely gets the opportunity to play up two divisions against a Division 1 opponent like St. John's.

Anytime the Colonials can come out victorious has become even rarer. But on Saturday night, they did just that. No. 24 Shrewsbury scored the first six goals before settling on a 6-3 triumph in front of a packed house at New England Sports Center.

The defending D3 state champions carried the play over the first 30 minutes and never looked back as they improve to 5-1-0.

As has been their M.O. this season, the Pioneers started slow, showed a lack of team unity and would never recover, dropping to 1-6-1.

Goals by Joe Buduo just 3:58 into the contest proceeded later by a Jack Quinlivan long-range laser had Shrewsbury in front by a pair going into the first intermission. During the first two frames, the Colonials were flying at both ends of the ice, often times catching St. John's out of position or just standing around watching the play develop.

"I was very happy with our emotion and how we played tonight," Colonials head coach Steve Turnblom said. "We were very aggressive on the forecheck and did a good job coming back on our backchecks. We also had a lot of blocked shots, which we were trying to do. We played three zones for the first two periods but we ran around a bit in the third.

“I wasn't happy with our third period because I felt we needed to mature better. To be a champion you have to tighten those sort of things up."

The last time Shrewsbury defeated St. John's came back in the 2009-10 season. The two teams battled to a 2-2 draw last season.

The Pioneers were out-manned and out-hustled from the get-go. In most cases, a two goal deficit after one period is still considered salvageable.

But not for St. John's, as it continues to struggle in search of an identity. The Pioneers inability to find the back of the net (22 goals for, 33 goals against) has become a painful topic of concern with the chances of them qualifying for the Division 1 North postseason tournament quickly diminishing.

"It concerns me that the kids are not ready to go before the start of a game," said St. John's head coach Mike Mead. "We did everything as a coaching staff to get them ready for tonight. We told them how ready and how good Shrewsbury would be. We told them that we needed to attack them and counter-punch them but we couldn't.”

Shrewsbury's assault within the Pioneer zone carried over into the second period. It took only 33 seconds before Trevor Shea was able to flip the puck over goalie Alex Franchi, after the junior was left sprawled out on the ice after making an initial stop. A few moments later, after the Colonials managed to kill off a St. John's 5-on-3 advantage, Buduo would take over. The senior center tallied Shrewsbury's next two goals to record the hat trick and pad the Colonials' margin to 5-0.

"I thank my line mates Matt (Ward) and Trevor (Shea)," said Buduo. "All of those goals are because of them. They both gave me nice feeds tonight. I couldn't have done it without them. Our chemistry on all of our lines is very good. Anytime you can beat St. John's it is a great feeling, especially in the way we dominated the game."

The Colonials added insult to injury late in the period, while playing shorthanded, after Matt Ward poked in a loose puck in front of the crease.

With only 42 seconds to go, the Pioneers finally had something to cheer about when Pat Storer scored an unassisted goal, making it 6-1, heading into the final period.

For whatever reason, Shrewsbury didn't come out with the same type of tenacity seen during the first two periods. That, in turn, allowed Kevin Quinlivan and Garrett Lahan to find the back of the net, cutting the deficit to three.

Despite putting up 13 of their 29 shots in the frame, the Pioneers found the margin to large to comeback from as Shrewsbury junior netminder Shane Gorrie came up huge with some big stops between the pipes in the period. The Colonials finished with 28 shots.

"Shane played a solid game," Turnblom said. "He played cool and made some great saves when we needed him to. Emotion was starting to go St. John's way in the third and Shane shut them down.

“We knew this was going to be war just like any other year. It's all about emotion. It's a big rivalry and all of the guys from both teams know one another. I think we've beaten them three times in the last 30 years. But we got them this year so I'm very happy.”

Recap: No. 24 Shrewsbury 4, Groton-Dunstable 1

December, 30, 2014
WESTBOROUGH, Mass. -- Jack Quinlivan might be the best high school hockey player you haven't heard of -- yet.

Quinlivan does not have the distinction of playing for one of famed Catholic Conference schools or one of New England's elite prep programs. He plays for Division 3 Shrewsbury High School. Because Division 3 hockey programs in Massachusetts are often overlooked due to the commanding presence of the bigger Division 1 programs, Quinlivan and his Colonials mates don't merit the attention they probably deserve.

Nevertheless, Shrewsbury still goes about its business with a workman-like ethic, not afraid to mix it up, yet maintaining a sleek, puck-handling finesse that often leaves opponents bewildered.

Monday proved to be no different as the Colonials skated around Groton-Dunstable, 4-1, at North Star Youth Forum. Despite losing nine players from last year's state championship club, Shrewsbury still looks the part of a champion as it improved to 4-1-0.

Quinlivan, a senior so versatile that he can start on offense or defense, had a hand in three of the goals, registering 3 assists. In doing so, he surpassed 100 career points, now sitting on 103.

"It feels great," said Quinlivan. "I just take things shift by shift. I hadn't thought about the 100 points much coming into this game but it's a great feeling looking back on the past years and the achievements I've been able to accomplish here along with the rest of my team. It's truly an honor to be by these guys' sides and put up 100 points."

After falling to the Crusaders a year ago, the Colonials weren't about to see it repeated. Just 50 seconds into this contest, senior winger Trevor Shea, off a G-D defensive breakdown, skated in alone on goaltender Ben McEvoy, beating the sophomore top shelf for a 1-0 lead. Brayden Carroll would increase the lead to two goals after poking in a rebound at 8:56.

"Our immaturity is showing," said Crusaders head coach Phil Rowley, who carries just two seniors. "We're just that far away from being good but just that far away from being bad. We need to decide which way we want to go. I think we'll mature as we go along. Tonight I felt our mistakes cost us some goals and their mistakes they recovered from."

Two minutes after Carroll's tally, junior forward Ryan Dodge got one back for the Crusaders (0-3) after grabbing a fat rebound out front and backhanding a shot over a sprawling Shane Gorrie (13 saves) to make it 2-1 heading into the first intermission.

"Phil always has that team playing hard-nose hockey," said Shrewsbury head coach Steve Turnblom. "You know you are going to get a battle from them anytime you play them."

Despite G-D keeping it close early, Shrewsbury's overall talent proved too much for the Crusaders to handle. As the reigning state champs, the Colonials know they are a team with a huge target planted firmly on their backs, but accept the responsibility that goes with it.

"We expect every team to bring their A game against us and they have," Quinlivan said. "We just need to come out with our best every game as well. It's starts during practice. We know we cannot afford to take any periods or any shifts off. All of our coaches have done a great job in preparing us this year and I think we're going in the right direction."

Shrewsbury regained its two-goal margin at 10:35 of the middle period when Matt Ward knocked in a rebound. Things stayed that way until early in the third when senior center Joe Buduo was left alone in the slot and sent a hard wrist shot by McEvoy, who played well making 29 saves.

"Our skill finally took over and our movement with the puck was good tonight," Turnblom said. "For us, it is all about two-way hockey. It's not just about scoring but it's about not letting the other team score. We continue to instill onto our team how important it is to play solid, defensive hockey. For Jack, going over 100 points in his career is a great accomplishment by him. He has worked very hard, not just in-season but during the off-season too. He deserves everything he gets. He is a great player."

Cathedral takes boys' hockey preseason No. 1

December, 16, 2014
For the first time in the history of ESPN Boston's MIAA boys' hockey Top 25 poll, Springfield Cathedral begins the season at No. 1.

The Panthers host six Division 1 college recruits on their roster to begin the year, but start the year with a pair of Catholic Conference powers in BC High (No. 2) and four-time defending Super 8 champion Malden Catholic (No. 3) on their tail.

For a look at the complete preseason poll, click HERE.

Here's more on how our first poll of the year breaks down:

Super 8 takes shape?: Projecting out a way-too-early field of 10 for the Super 8 at the top end of our preseason poll, there's a bit of a different look from last year's tournament field.

The old stalwarts are included, with Central Catholic, Catholic Memorial, Xaverian and Austin Prep all represented in the top 10. However, there could be a bitter race developing in the Catholic Central Large, with both Arlington Catholic and St. Mary's (Lynn) debuting in the top 10. Our top 10 also features one public school side with Reading checking in at No. 6.

Looking further down the poll, all of last year's field of 10 teams make the initial cut. Braintree (No. 11), Duxbury (14) and Archbishop Williams (15) remain in the Top 25 to start the year. We wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Wamps make another run at the state's premiere tournament.

CCL bears watching: As we just alluded to, the key to the Super 8 this year could be the Catholic Central Large race. Aside from the Catholic Conference, (which finds all of its members in our opening poll), the CCL checks in with the second highest number of member teams in the poll with four. We could be in for a real treat watching AC, St. Mary's and the incumbent AP vie for the league crown, and don't forget about Archies.

It's highly feasible that the league will carry up to three Super 8 berths this year, so the drama will be aplenty.

Handicapping the statewide races: Looking beyond the Division 1 ranks, Tewksbury ranks as the highest Division 2 squad at No. 21. The Redmen should be view as a prohibitive favorite to win the state crown after losing to eventual champion Beverly in last year's D2 North final. In the South region, Canton checks in at No. 25, leading a strong contingent of Hockomock League schools (Franklin and Oliver Ames) in the Last 10 Out section of the poll.

Defending Division 3 state champion Shrewsbury also cracks the poll at No. 24. The Colonials could be primed for a repeat performance with a high-flying offense led by brothers Dan and Jack Quinlivan -- both of whom will challenge for the statewide scoring title this season.

Notes: Garrett Reagan hockey summit

December, 8, 2014
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. _ The task at hand is a dubious one for Chris Kelly, but there is no doubt the first-year Matignon head hockey coach has the pedigree and knowledge to put this program back on the map.

In spite the Warriors reaching the postseason a year ago under, then head coach, Dan Lupo, this once-fabled program has not basked in much glory since the days of legendary coach Marty Pierce, who stepped down in 2004, having won eight state championships and responsible for sending a number of players to the NHL, including Steve Leach, Shawn McEachern, Niko Dimitrakos and Tom O'Regan.

Kelly was a member of two of those state title runs in 1982 and '83, serving as team captain on the latter. With Lupo forced to depart due to work commitments, Kelly was brought on board last August following a successful stint at Wayland High School.

"What I am trying to accomplish here is to not worry too much about what has happened in the past,” said Kelly, during Sunday's Garrett Reagan Hockey Summit at New England Sports Center. “We are trying to build a future of our own. I don't ever like to compare myself to Coach Pierce because I have too much respect for him. I am trying to build a future here, but always be thinking about the tradition of Matignon. I want to get these kids on board to begin a tradition and hopefully people outside the Matignon community can understand what we are trying to accomplish.”

Kelly points out the life lessons he learned as a player under Pierce's tutelage, and now as coach, are immeasurable. Learning from one of the best hockey minds this state has ever produced, far-exceed the basic game fundamentals and strategies.

"I wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for Coach Pierce,” Kelly said. “He is a mentor and a role model of mine. I wish everyone knew Marty the way I do. He has helped so many people inside the hockey community and outside. I just think the world of him. What I instill into my players is what I have taken from Marty and that is the three D's _ discipline, desire and defense. That is what he preached and that is what I am now preaching. I started using that method when I was at Wayland.”

The Warriors will have their hands full playing in the highly-formidable Catholic Central League, playing the likes of Arlington Catholic, Archbishop Williams, Austin Prep and St. Mary's of Lynn.

"I would like to see us be competitive in our league,” said Kelly. “I would like to see us get into the postseason tournament this year and win a game or two to start. But it is a very tough league with some very good coaches.”

A few years back Matignon was in the midst of a numbers crunch as the enrollment dwindled. In fact, under former coach Angus Means, the team managed to dress just 11 players on a nightly basis. At one point there was even discussion to close down the school entirely. But during the past couple of years, a revitalization has taken place as enrollment figures are on the upswing.

“The numbers are there,” said Kelly. “We did a lot of work back in August to now of getting kids to come to the school. Some kids were on the fence when Coach Lupo left but I worked the phones, went to tournaments over the summer and met with parents to try to get those kids to come here. It has been quite surprising in terms of our talent level right now. We have a lot of senior leadership and things have projected a little faster than I had first anticipated.”

Matignon will be led by goaltender Ben Parker, winger Johnny Andrews, center Mike MacPherson and defenseman Cam Monagle.

MC stockpiled on defense: There is no mistaking the fact that Malden Catholic head coach John McLean has enjoyed the fruits of his labor, having now won the last four Super 8 Tournament titles.

Known for its well-balanced play at both ends of the ice, most are quick to identify MC's quick-strike offense as the reason why the Lancers are considered the best team state-wide. But don't sleep on the defense. Especially this year.

[+] EnlargeJohn McLean
Scott Barboza/ESPNMalden Catholic senior captain John McLean leads the Lancers on their run for a fifth straight Super 8 championship.
The Lancers are the deepest in that department for the first time in McLean's nine years at the helm.

“This is the strongest defensive corps that I've ever had here,” said McLean. “We go six deep. We have five returnees and a transfer (Matt Ciulla) from Dexter Southfield School. I'm very excited and having that many defensemen will certainly help us. My biggest thing right now if figuring out what our lines will be. We have four or five games over the next two weeks so we will mix and match and go from there.”

The defense will be led by McLean's son, John III. The 6-1 senior has been nothing short of brilliant during his tenure here, well-regarded for his physicality and his penchant of knocking opponents off of their lanes.

"We've got some new guys in this year and I think Matt Ciulla is going to be a huge asset for us,” he said. “Also, all of our forwards come back and help play defense so it is all one unit out there.”

With the departures of center Ara Nazarian and forward Tyler Sifferlen (both now playing in the USHL), McLean will be looked upon to provide much of the leadership for this year's club.

"I want to represent MC in making sure we continue to be a very good hockey program,” the younger McLean said. “Everyone on our schedule is good so we haven't won a thing this year and basically this is a new team. We are starting at square one again. We have lost a lot of senior leadership from last year so I just want to be a good leader on and off the ice and help our younger kids develop so they can be our future leaders both in school and on the ice.”

Cathedral set for new heights: Three straight years Springfield Cathedral has arguably had the most talent team, top to bottom, over all other programs in the state. Having reached the Super 8 Tournament in all three of those years, the best the Panthers could do was reach the semifinals before bowing out.

This season, once again, SC has all the weapons in place for a return trip to the Super 8. The question is how far can they go this time? Losing just one player from last year (goaltender John Liqouri) to graduation, there is no reason why the Panthers cannot advance to the finals this season.

"I do think it is our year,” said stellar senior forward Peter Crinella. “Everyone is back but John. We're looking good and it is our hope we can break past the semifinal round this time around and make it to the championship and take it home with us.”

Panthers coach Brian Foley says the team has spent a majority of the off season working out together in the weight room, and building leg strength through plyometrics and speed drills in an effort to enhance strength, speed and endurance.

"We're still trying to figure out who is who right now,” Foley said. “We've got a little competition going on our fourth line. We have 12 forwards, seven defensmen and three goalies back. The biggest thing I have seen this year is the size and strength difference from a year ago with everybody. All committed to the off season workouts and physically, everyone seems to be bigger, stronger and faster.”

Shrewsbury back for seconds?: Steve Turnblom wants it. So too, does his team. Having hoisted the Division 3 state championship trophy a year ago, the Colonials have a taste for another crown three months from now. Who can argue that notion?

Gone from a year ago are several key components, especially on the defensive side. Following the departures of defensemen Sean Hallice, Cole Ambach, Cole Vincequere and Matt Dillon, who transferred to Cushing Academy, Shrewsbury has left a huge void. Offense took a hit as well with the graduations of forward/center Dave Belbin and forward Derrick Dell'Olio.

"We lost some solid players but 8 of our 9 forwards are back,” said Turnblom. “We continue to stress defense more than anything here. Last year we limited teams to 10-15 shots per game which gave us a big advantage. We need to play well in our own end.”

But all is certainly not lost. The Colonials return seniors Dan and Jack Quinlivan, Tyler O'Keefe and Joe Buduo on offense. All of whom well-capable to score from anywhere inside the offensive zone.

"We know we've got some holes to fill but I think we will be better in certain areas,” said co-captain Dan Quinlivan. “I don't think we'll be as talented as we were but I do feel we will be more-prepared for each game that we play. The intensity here is going to be high. The goal is to get back to the state finals and we feel we can get there. It was the best thing that happened to us last year and we want it again.”

Shrewsbury has upgraded its schedule this year by adding Springfield Cathedral and Newton South, as well as its annual grudge match versus St. John's (Shrewsbury).

"The kids want to win another title and they know how to do it,” Turnblom said. “But I told them we are starting from scratch again and everyone is going to be gunning for them. They need to work hard all the time and continue getting better. Our kids wanted a better schedule because they want to play some of those better teams. You play better competition then you, yourself, will get better.”

Pioneers looking to stay the course: Under the direction of first-year head coach Mike Mead last season, St. John's (Shrewsbury) reached the Division 1 North tournament. After knocking off Burlington in the quarterfinals, they fell to Arlington in the next round.

Two major components from that team (defensemen Bryan Nelson and goaltender Mario Pizzeri) are gone. Both, no doubt, will be sorely missed but Mead says you cannot dwell on the past and it is time to move forward.

"We have some good seniors coming back so I'm very excited as we head into the season,” Mead said.

Players like defenseman Brendan Doherty and Michael Parente will be expected to handle the brunt of action inside their own zone, while Kevin Quinlivan, Patrick Storer and Dan Barlok will be responsible for putting the puck into the back of the net. Goaltending will still be this team's primary concern as sophomore Matt Mongeau and junior Alex Franchi will begin the year platooning between the pipes.

"Both are young goalies who are battling it out," Mead said. "Neither has any varsity experience because Mario played every game last year for us. But I think both paid close attention to what Mario was doing in his preparations for every game and hopefully some of that has rubbed off on both of them. We shall see.”

The Pioneers have added powers Central Catholic and Catholic Memorial to an already grueling schedule that also includes Springfield Cathedral, BC High, Xaverian and St. John's Prep.

C-C caps regular season as boys' soccer No. 1

October, 30, 2014
Concord-Carlisle scored in the final minute of its final regular season games against Acton-Boxborough to earn a draw and stay in the top spot in the final MIAA boys' soccer Top 20 poll of the regular season. The Patriots had only given up two goals in 15 games before the final game, which ended 4-4.

That draw keeps C-C ahead of also unbeaten Needham, which closed out its season with a 3-0 win against Lexington on a hat trick by midfielder Aram Ouligian, who is making a push for Player of the Year with his scoring run in the final stretch of the season. This is the second consecutive unbeaten regular season for the Rockets, who have not lost in the regular season since a defeat to Wellesley in early September 2012.

The big move up the rankings into the top 10 was by Amherst, which completed an unbeaten season out west, The Hurricanes took advantage of some of the teams ahead of them dropping points to jump into the third spot. Defending D1 champ West Springfield is the other West team in the top 20; moving from last 10 out to No. 15 after a win over previously ranked Belchertown.

D1 South is going to be a war of attrition with one quarter of the top 20, and three of the top seven, all coming from that bracket. Add in Brockton and Wellesley from the last 10 out and other Bay State teams, such as Natick, Braintree, and Weymouth, to that list and there will be no easy path to the sectional final.

The Boxers were one of four teams that dropped out of the top 20 this week after losing their final four games of the season. Wachusett, Belchertown, and Wellesley were the other three teams to move into the last 10 out, while West Springfield, Shrewsbury, Westborough, and Duxbury all move into the top 20 heading into the postseason.

For this week's complete rankings, click HERE.

Conference Breakdown:
Patriot - 3
Mid-Wach - 3
Bay State - 2
Catholic - 2
DCL - 2
Smith - 2
ACL - 1
Big 3 - 1
Cape Ann - 1
Dual Valley - 1
Hockomock - 1
TVL - 1
SHREWSBURY, Mass. –- Hard to believe it’s been nearly three years since St. John’s last won a football contest over neighboring rival Shrewsbury, and so this one had been circled on the Pioneers’ calendar from the first day of training camp this summer.

And for senior running back Shane Combs, there was an extra jump in his step -– literally.

[+] EnlargeTim Cassidy
Brendan Hall/ESPNSt. John's QB Tim Cassidy (3 total TDs) turned in an admirable performance just hours after the burial of his great-grandfather.
The Notre Dame baseball commit didn't just juke, jive and plow his way to a 19-carry, 201-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Pioneers' 52-20 drubbing of the Colonials. He also discovered just what kind of leaping ability he has in his arsenal, too.

Combs had never hurdled anybody before in a game, and teammates say there wasn't anything the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder has done in practice to suggest he was capable of hurdling straight over defenders. Yet there he was on the first carry of the game, taking a pitch-out eight yards and taking even himself by surprise when he jumped straight over a Shrewsbury linebacker.

"They were ankle-biting a little bit," Combs said. "If you’re gonna go low. . .The first time, I don’t even know why I did it at all -– I was like, ‘Oh God, that just happened’. And then after a while, they kept going low, so I just kept going over them I guess. I don’t know how to explain it, just reaction I guess."

Combs did this five more times in the first half, including what ought to be one of the top highlight-reel plays of the season, taking a 22-yard screen pass from Tim Cassidy (7 of 15, 155 yards, 3 total TD) and hurdling one defender after another down the sideline before being pushed out at the Colonials seven. That would set up Cassidy's seven-yard plunge on the very next play that made it 21-7 Pioneers midway through the second quarter.

After that run, Combs recalled, "I came off the field and said, ‘I’ve got to stop doing this, because someone’s going to come in high and stick me in mid-air’."

"He’s a pretty athletic kid," St. John's head coach John Andreoli said. "If you see him at the tailback spot, that’s why when he gets the ball in the open field he’s dangerous. He can run you over, he can jump over you, he can cut and go the other way. He’s a guy you need to get the ball in his hands."

That they did, early and often. On the Pioneers' second offensive drive of the game, Combs took the first three carries, including a 32-yard toss capped with a hurdling of a defender to set up first and 10 at the Colonials' 18. The drive ended with a three-yard Cassidy keeper, following junior right guard Sean Ragan over the goal line for the 7-0 advantage.

"It’s real easy when you can follow a 285-pound kid who’s getting looked at by D1 schools," Cassidy laughed.

The Pioneers put another score on the ground, this one a 15-yard Combs dive, before the Colonials cut the lead in half just before the end of the first quarter. Quarterback Jack Campanale tossed up a fade to sophomore Brian Moura, who hauled it in and juked across a defensive back's face for a 61-yard completion that set up Anthony Laramee's two-yard scoring plunge two plays later.

Combs' final hurdle of the day made it 28-7 with under two minutes to go in the first half, taking a direct snap and leaping his way to a 51-yard scamper, before Jack Campanale threaded a jump ball to his brother Casey with time expired, getting his feet just inbounds near the back pylon for a 24-yard score.

St. John's dominated the second half, starting with an 80-yard strike from Combs to Davon Jones (5 catches, 194 yards, 2 TD), the Boston College commit wriggling himself free of several arm tackles to break downfield and set up first and goal at the Colonials' 7. Combs rumbled in one play later for the 35-14 advantage.

That was followed by two dazzling scores from Jones, a 30-yard inside zone and a 40-yard catch-and-run.

"Sometimes you can over-adjust, but we didn’t want to do that," Andreoli said. "I thought we had a solid game plan. We knew they were gonna come out and try to throw a little on us in the second half, so we got a little less aggressive in some of our blitzes and played a little more man coverage to try to take away the quick throws. But overall, I thought it was a good defensive effort."

The 52 points scored by St. John's is the most since last November, when they snapped a losing skid to Leominster by winning a 52-42 track meet on the Blue Devils' home turf for the inaugural MIAA Division 2 Central Championship. After a slow start out of the gates -- highlighted by a 10-3 loss to Catholic Memorial back in Week 3 -- the Pioneers feel like they are coming into a groove, having now outscored the opposition 87-20 in the last eight quarters.

"[This was] hugely gratifying. We worked really hard this week," Combs said. "I think we had a completely new level of intensity in our preparation. We prepared for this one like we haven’t prepared for a game all season."

Heavy hearts for Cassidy: This week was an especially difficult one for Cassidy, whose great-grandfather, Frank Nosek, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 95 to natural causes. The funeral for Nosek was held this morning in his hometown of Clinton, and Cassidy came straight from there to Pioneer Field.

"It was a really nice funeral, my uncle did a really nice eulogy. It really motivated me today," Cassidy said.

Choking up ever so slightly as he recounted his week to a group of reporters, Cassidy fondly recalled his final visit with Novak, last Sunday, and the honor he felt on the field this afternoon.

"We walked in and he smiled. He couldn’t say anything, but just the expression on his face meant so much to me," Cassidy said of the Sunday visit. "It was a pretty emotional week, between practice and having to come home and help my mom, who was pretty close with him, and my grandmother was having a really hard time. To be able to play today for him was the best thing possible."

Noting that this game had already been circled long ago, he added, "I did the best I could to make him proud."

Franklin, Scituate enter boys' soccer poll

October, 9, 2014
The top seven teams all stayed the same this week. The first big change was at No. 8 with Brockton dropping down four spots following a defeat to unranked Xaverian. Medway continued its strong start to the season and jumped up into the top 10 as the top Division 3 team in the rankings. Ludlow also returned to the top 10 after a scoreless draw with West rival Amherst on Friday.

The big move up the rankings was made by Algonquin, which jumped five spots to No. 10 after another perfect week. Tyler Morin has provided the offensive punch for the Tomahawks this season, who will face a very difficult final stretch of the season beginning with next week's matchups against Shrewsbury and No. 11 Sutton. Algonquin will also have to face Wachusett, St. John's (Shrewsbury) and Westborough, which are all teams with winning records.

Two new teams have entered the rankings this week with league leaders Franklin and Scituate making their first appearances this season. Franklin has been unbeaten in its last 10 games and currently leads the Kelley-Rex division and is in search of its fourth straight league title. Scituate takes over the No. 20 spot after a big win over then No. 19 Pembroke that gave the Sailors the lead in the Fisher division of the Patriot League.

For this week's complete Top 20 poll, click HERE.

(Editor's note: This week's rankings do not reflect the forfeiture of 11 wins by Ludlow, which will inhibit the Lions from participating in the MIAA postseason tournament. Records are as of Wednesday. )

Conference Breakdown:
Patriot - 3
Smith - 3
DCL - 2
Bay State - 2
Big Three - 2
Catholic - 2
ACL - 1
Cape Ann - 1
Dual Valley - 1
Hockomock - 1
Midland - 1
TVL - 1

A-B boys' lax finishes season at No. 1

June, 24, 2014
After capturing the program's first state title, Acton-Boxborough finishes the season in the top spot of our statewide MIAA boys' lacrosse Top 25 poll.

The Colonials finished the regular season at No. 1 and then went on to beat Duxbury, in overtime, to secure their first title.

The full poll can be accessed HERE.

CHAMPIONS REIGN: Medfield, which captured its sixth overall championship, was the highest ranking Division 2 squad, checking in at No. 3 after dispatching rival Hingham in the title game.

Cohasset, which interrupted Dover-Sherborn's run in Division 3, also hopped into the top 10, showing at No. 8.

NEW BLOOD: Five teams that made their Top 25 debuts this season made the cut in the final poll of the year, adding to the notion that parity might have finally come to Massachusetts lacrosse.

Bridgewater-Raynham makes its highest showing at No. 12 after reaching the Division 1 South quarterfinals. Shrewsbury (No. 15) and Westfield (16) both climbed into the poll -- with the Bombers making their debut in the final rankings -- after huge upsets in Division 2, coming over St. John's and last year's state champion Longmeadow, respectively.

Wakefield (24) and Melrose (25) also held it down on the back end after making their debuts in the final weeks of the regular season.

D2 semifinal: Medfield 14, Shrewsbury 1

June, 11, 2014
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Medfield made it look easy Tuesday night, dominating all phases of the game and rolling to a 14-1 victory over Shrewsbury in a Division 2 state semifinal.

The Warriors (22-2) dominated the face-off X, winning 16 of 18 face-offs thanks to the play of All-American Brian Brissell, and buried the Colonials (20-5) with a series of cuts and pinpoint passes that allowed senior Tyler Hagan to score four goals and classmate Jack Isaf to add a hat trick.

"When you move the defense on every dodge, it makes it hard for them to think about who’s got slide help, and when they go for that slide somebody behind them cuts and gets open," Medfield coach John Isaf said. “It really depends on what we see from the sideline and how aggressive they’re being on defense. How hard they’re sliding and things like that. Then we’ll go with whatever works.”

Medfield asserted itself right from the start, scoring four goals in the game's opening six minutes, including two by Isaf before two minutes had rolled off the clock. The Warriors would then take a 6-0 lead into the second quarter. Senior Matthew Treiber scored a pair early in the second, and Hagan went on an individual three-goal run to push the score to 11-0 at intermission.

"It was just off-ball cuts for me," Hagan said of his productive night. "They seemed to kind of take their mind off the off-ball cuts and seemed to fall asleep a little bit, so a couple of those goals I just kind of snuck by."

Senior captain Matthew Crowell scored his second goal less than a minute into the third quarter, but Shrewsbury's All-American goalie Chris Gorman made four saves the rest of the period to momentarily stop the bleeding. But Isaf completed his hat trick less than two minutes into the fourth, pushing the game into "running clock" mode, and Thomas Sears scored his second of the game just two minutes later.

By the time Derick Tinsley got Shrewsbury on the board with five minutes to play in the fourth, Medfield had already scored 14 times.

After the game, Shrewsbury coach Nate Skermont was pleased with his team's effort, but said the Colonials simply ran into one of the state's elite teams.

"When they (Medfield) have the ball, there are three or four things that they can do to beat you that teams in Central Mass can't do," Skermont said. "I was pleased with our effort. We knew what we wanted to do, and we did it, but we just ran into a team that was that much better (Tuesday)."

For the Colonials, it was a bitter end to what had been a season of firsts. Shrewsbury captured its first district championship in program history Saturday with a win over Westfield, and scored one of the biggest wins in program history the previous Tuesday against rival St. John's in the district semifinas.

"I would not trade this team for any team anywhere," Skermont said of this year's Colonials. "That will never change. We will always be champions. Nobody can ever take that away from us. We're district champs, something nobody in our school has ever done, and we'll always be the first to do that, and I'll always cherish that and always have these kids' backs.”

Medfield will now move on to the Division 2 state championship game at Boston University's Nickerson Field. The Warriors will face Hingham in a rematch of last season's Division 2 Eastern Mass final. Game time has yet to be set.

D2 Central/West: Shrewsbury 7, St. John's (S) 6

June, 3, 2014
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- There were plenty of moments where you thought Shrewsbury would fade away against cross-town rival St. John's, but the Colonials went on a run in the game's final 11 minutes to score the upset over the Pioneers.

After failing to score in their first meeting with St. John's, Shrewsbury shocked its long-time nemesis, 7-6, as attackman Derick Tinsley threw home a rebound goal with less than two minutes to play. The play began after Shrewsbury's All-American goalie Chris Gorman robbed St. John's All-American attackman Drew Smiley for one of his seven saves, then Colonial middie Alex Chin picked up the ground ball and began sprinting the other way. But he would be stopped by the Pioneers' All-American goalie Steven Kerr, only to see Tinsley swoop in between four St. John's defender to clean up the miss.

"This was definitely our biggest game," Tinsley said. "Biggest thing I've ever done in my life, actually. This was our championship."

But Shrewsbury still needed one final defensive stop from its star goalie. With St. John's playing a man up and 43 seconds left on the clock, Gorman came away with another big save, stoning St. John's sophomore Andrew Cox, then clearing it immediately to ice the game.

"This was the best game I've ever played in," Gorman said. "Great opponent, the most fun (game). It's the best day of my life."

Things didn't start out quite so promisingly for the Colonials though, as Smiley scored the first of his four goals just minutes into the game, followed by a score from St. John's junior Jared Ward on the Pioneers' next possession. Tinsley scored the first of his three goals to get Shrewsbury on the board, but an acrobatic goal by Smiley quickly stretched the lead back to two. Even when Shrewsbury managed to tie things up in the third, thanks to a dodging goal by Chin, Smiley reasserted himself, scoring off a pass from Cox as he cut to the cage, then the next time down on a powerful drive from the alley.

With the Colonials down two and only 12 minutes to play, Shrewsbury coach Nate Skermont knew his team still felt it could pull off the upset.

"Even when we fell behind, we just kept grinding it out," Skermont said. "Belief is a powerful word, and that's what we kept saying in the huddle. Keep believing and keep working hard."

The Colonials struck quickly, as Buduo and Tinsley each scored their second goals of the game in the period's opening two minutes. Just under three minutes later, Buduo fooled the St. John's defense with a tricky pass-fake to complete his hat trick and give Shrewsbury its first lead.

From there on out, Tinsley's put back and Gorman's last save would carry the Colonials to the Division 2 Central/West championship game against Westfield. It will be a match up few predicted, with Westfield coming off an upset of its own, defeating reigning Division 2 state champion Longmeadow on Tuesday.

That game will be played Saturday at Worcester's Foley Stadium. Faceoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Central Mass. lax All-Americans announced

May, 29, 2014
The Central Mass. Lacrosse Coaches Association unveiled its boys' lacrosse All-American list Wednesday night.

Here's a look at the honorees, per correspondent Joe Parello:

Quintin Forbes, M, Groton-Dunstable, Bentley

Chris Gorman, G, Shrewsbury, Eastern Connecticut

Drew Smiley, A, St. John's, Navy

Steven Kerr, G, St. John's, Western New England

Tom Bishop, LSM, Wachusett, Clarkson

Academic All-Americans:
Miles Massida, M, North Middlesex, BU

Ben Foley, M/A, Tyngsborough, James Madison

Nabeel Tokatli, M, Worcester, WPI

Recap: No. 8 St. John's (S) 9, No. 18 Shrewsbury 0

April, 27, 2014
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- Amidst talk that upstart Shrewsbury, not defending district champion St. John's (Shrewsbury), might be the best team in Central Massachusetts, the No. 8 Pioneers sent a message to their rival Sunday: lacrosse in the heart of the Commonwealth still belongs to them.

Behind hat tricks from junior Jared Ward and sophomore Andrew Cox, St. John's cruised to a 9-0 win on a rainy afternoon at Shrewsbury High.

"I thought we played really well from the beginning," St. John's coach Terry Leary said. "I thought we had very few unforced errors, and that's something we've been pushing as we move toward the second half of the season."

It was a breakout day not only for the St. John's (9-0) midfield, which scored six of the team's nine goals, but also for senior goalie Steve Kerr. After waiting his turn behind now-graduated A.J. Arnold a season ago, Kerr is leading Central Mass in goals against average, at only 2.56 allowed per game. His six first quarter saves thwarted any chance Shrewsbury (9-1) had of making this a game.

"I think it was a great day for our defense," senior attackman Drew Smiley said. "Our offense has been getting the credit, but our defense has been there all year. Steve Kerr has been playing amazing all year too."

After Kerr weathered the initial storm, there wasn't much for him to do, however, as the St. John's defense limited Shrewsbury to just two more shots on goal the rest of the day. That, combined with an astonishing 20-2 advantage on ground balls, allowed St. John's to work its way out of an offensive funk, thanks to stellar play from its midfield.

The midfield, led by Cox' three goals, scored six goals total, dominated the face-off X thanks to senior Connor Maloney, and forced the normally solid Shrewsbury midfield into a number of mistakes.

"We came into the huddle [in the first quarter] and we kind of said to our middies, 'you guys can step up and you guys can control this game,'" Smiley said. "Andrew Cox, the sophomore, had a huge game. It was kind of his breakout game, and we've been waiting for him to do that all season. He's a great athlete."

Ward got things going for St. John's, scoring two goals in the first quarter, and Cox' first goal in the second quarter gave the Pioneers a 4-0 halftime lead. Cox opened the second half with a blast over Shrewsbury star goalie Chris Gorman's right shoulder to extend the lead and then added another cutting goal on a pass from senior Kevin Butler moments later.

Ward completed his hat trick and pushed the game to its final score of 9-0 midway through the fourth, establishing St. John's as the unquestioned team to beat in Central Massachusetts.

"It was a huge win for us," Smiley said. "Beating a team like Shrewsbury, they're one of the best teams in Central Mass, it's a great feeling, and we knew they were gonna bring it."

The road gets no easier for the Pioneers, as they get set to host a pair of talented Eastern Mass opponents. St. John's will first welcome St. John's Prep, Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., then Xaverian, Thursday at 4 p.m.

Duxbury lax regains No. 1 billing in poll

April, 26, 2014
For the first time since the conclusion of last regular season, Duxbury claims the No. 1 spot in our boys' lacrosse Top 25 poll this week.

The Dragons vaulted to the top spot following their win over former No. 1 Xaverian earlier in the week.

For this week's complete poll, click HERE.

Here's more from this week's update:

Welcome new faces: Three teams made their season debuts in this week's poll, including No. 24 Bridgewater-Raynham which makes the program's first appearance in the poll's four-year history.

Undefeated Shrewsbury (9-0) checks in at No. 18, ahead of its battle of Central Mass. unbeatens against crosstown rival, No. 8 St. John's of Shrewsbury on Sunday. Also, North Andover returns to the poll for the first time since last season, climbing to No. 21 after a momentous upset of No. 6 Lincoln-Sudbury at the Coaches Challenge Cup earlier this week.

MC caps season at No. 1 in Top 25

March, 20, 2014
For the fourth straight season, Malden Catholic ended the boys' hockey season as the No. 1 team in our statewide MIAA Top 25 poll.

The Lancers, four-time repeating Super 8 champions, have now finished in the top spot in each one of our ESPN Boston end-of-season polls, after beating Austin Prep in the D1A final for a second straight year.

For the complete poll, click HERE.

Rockets blast off: Reading, champions of the state Division 1 tournament, was the first non-Super 8 team to appear in the poll, checking in at No. 9.

After seeing a great deal of turnover with a deep and talented senior class last year, the Rockets played their best hockey to run through the North tournament and beat Braintree (No. 10) at the Garden. While Reading suffered a four-game losing streak late in the season, the Rockets won 11 of their last 12 games, including the postseason, to skate away champions at the Garden for the first time since their Super 8 win in 2008.

Dominance: Both Div. 2 champion Beverly and D3 winner Shrewsbury found their way into the poll. The Panthers, predictably, were the highest ranked non-Division 1 team, slotting in at No. 13, after losing just one game all season.

Meanwhile, the Colonials flexed their muscle at the Garden, beating Eastern Mass. champion Hanover, 7-1, and finished the season at No. 24. Shrewsbury was the only D3 entrant in our preseason poll, as well.