Here are some thoughts from the first week or so of the high school hockey tournaments.
This will be the first of four installments I plan to bring you through and at the conclusion of the tournaments. I’ll also be bringing you my weekend picks on some of that week’s most anticipated matchups:
Optimism through disappointment: By this point, you’ve likely seen and formulated a definitive opinion on the controversial “no goal” call during Monday’s Super 8 play-in game between Braintree and Catholic Memorial. While the Wamps have to be letdown by the turn of events earlier this week, Braintree can still embark on a championship quest of a different kind.
The Wamps, now the No. 1 seed in the Division 1 South tournament following their Super 8 exit, open sectional play Saturday against No. 8 seed Falmouth. It’s always interesting to watch how teams who are jettisoned from the Super 8 play-ins are able to readjust after falling short of an ultimate goal.
However, I think there’s hope for both Braintree and Archbishop Williams – which was also dealt a crushing blow in a double-overtime classic in its play-in tilt against Xaverian – and they might just cross paths down the line.
Undoubtedly, the Wamps played their best hockey of the season in its final month. They played their way into the Top 10 with wins over Super 8 No. 6 seed Duxbury and on the final day of the regular season against CM. I liked what I saw from a steady defensive corps, led by Joe Harrington and Kevin Howard, and Nick Anson has been a reliable presence in net.
For the Bishops, I don’t think there are many teams – statewide – that can match their depth and offensive skill of their top six forwards, in addition to Ryan Dunn’s emergence as a legitimate All-State candidate in the late season. Head coach Derackk Curtis characterized Steve Jenner as a “hot and cold” goaltender earlier this year, but in the final weeks of the season, Jenner has become a dependable puck-stopper.
If both teams can refocus quickly, I’d expect them to meet up at Gallo for the D1 South championship game.
A nod to a great: Think about some of the most famous headwear in sports history -- Tom Landry’s legendary fedora, Trot Nixon’s pine tar-stained hat, Craig MacTavish’s noteworthy lack of a bucket and compensation with some serious flow on top -- among those, in local hockey circles, the late Ed Burns' own fedora has to be included.
The Arlington hockey coaching legend died earlier this month and, as a nod to his mentor, Spy Ponders head coach John Messuri sported Burns’ trademark hat behind the bench during their surprising 1-0 win over Catholic Conference power St. John’s Prep. While Messuri paid homage to Burns’ legacy, the Spy Ponders honored it with their performance, playing their tough-minded brand of defensive hockey, buttressed with the unusual in-game tandem goalie rotation of Ryan Cote and Mike Schiller.
It marked a bumper crop of wins for the Middlesex League on Wednesday, which was a combined 5-1. Surprisingly, the one team to lose on the night was two-time defending Division 1 state champion Burlington, which was shut out by St. John’s of Shrewsbury.
Three Stars of the Week:
3. Sam D’Antuono, Jr. F, Dexter – The former Hingham Harborman put his team on his back during the third period of their 3-2 comeback win over Canterbury School in the first round of the NEPSAC Piatelli/Simmons tournament. D’Antuono scored the tying goal, before netting his second with the game-winner, all in the third period.
2. Al Lynch, Sr. G, Framingham – The Flyers’ netminder earned his first career playoff win with a 42-save performance in a 5-2 win over defending Division 1 South champion Marshfield on Wednesday.
1. Joe Marella, Sr. F, Abington – Marella single-handedly put a hurting on Division 3 South No. 1 seed Cape Cod Tech, scoring six goals in the Green Wave’s 7-1 thrashing Wednesday at Gallo.
This weekend’s picks du jour:
(Note: I’ll have full Super 8 breakdown and picks later this weekend.)
D1 North boys: ST. MARY’S over Winchester; MELROSE over Reading; ST. JOHN’S (SHREWSBURY) over Arlington; WILMINGTON over Medford.
D1 South boys: BRAINTREE over Falmouth; FRAMINGHAM over Franklin; ARCHBISHOP WILLIAMS over Norwood; BARNSTABLE over Milton.
D2 North boys: BEVERLY over Danvers; LINCOLN-SUDBURY over Winthrop.
D2 South boys: CANTON over Medway.
D1 girls: READING over Austin Prep.
Bracket-buster upset special: D2 boys – OLIVER AMES over Westwood.