FRANKLIN, Mass. –- Like Lazarus, the Rockets rose from the dead. Left off the board after an initial vote by the Division 1A “Super Eight” selection committee Saturday morning, Needham’s chances were nil.
However, such as their season, the Rockets were given second life after a motion for review. The move for debate by Paul Podolski of the Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Association revived discussion of Needham’s resume and, upon second vote, the Rockets gained favor of the panel by a 6-1 tally.
After being left of the list entirely, Needham later secured the sixth seeding — the final automatic bid in the field — highlighting a dramatic morning at MIAA headquarters. It also marked the Rockets’ third straight season with a top six billing.
“We’re in the position we’re in because of the way we played the last couple of weeks,” Needham head coach Bill Guisti said. “A couple of weeks ago, when we got ready to play Weymouth and Braintree, we were really on the bubble and under the radar at that time. I told our team that we really need to win the next two games to be in the running … We started getting going from there.”
The rest of the top six didn’t require such drama to sort out.
ESPN Boston poll No. 1 Malden Catholic (16-2-2) was an easy pick for the top spot, while the top three teams of the Catholic Conference held serve with St. John’s Prep (14-5-1) and BC High (13-4-3) following at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
Bay State Carey champion Weymouth (17-3-2) checked at No. 4 ahead of defending Super Eight champion Hingham (13-5-4).
Filling out the play-in spots of the field were No. 7 Woburn (17-3-1), No. 8 Central Catholic (16-5-1), No. 9 St. Mary's of Lynn (14-5-3) and No. 10 Springfield Cathedral (12-9-1). Those four teams will be in action Monday at Chelmsford Forum with play starting at 6 p.m.
WELCOME TO THE CLUB
It’s been a while, but Mark Lee is finally there.
“It took me 25 years, but we made it,” the St. Mary’s of Lynn head coach said.
Aside from the personal accomplishment, Lee believes the Super Eight bid — the first in the program’s history — was more a reflection of the hard work and dedication his team put in this season.
“They continued to get better day by day as the season’s gone on,” Lee said. “We’re not the most flashy team, but we’re as hard a working team as there is in the state.”
BC HIGH RETURNS
After a two-year drought, BC High returns to the Super Eight (and postseason play for that matter) under the direction of first-year head coach John Flaherty.
Flaherty is no stranger to the bench during Super Eight play, as he served as an assistant under Joe McCabe for the Eagles’ Division 1A titles in 2006 and ’07. While BC High accomplished its stated goal of returning to the playoffs as the third seed, Flaherty said it didn’t so much matter where they ended up.
“With strength of schedule, strength of conference and the way we played against that competition, I knew we would be among the higher seeds,” he added. “But the three seed is no different from the eighth seed to be honest. You have to play everybody and you have to beat everybody.
“It’s rewarding to be named the third seed. It’s great for our seniors and our players to be recognized as such. But all the records are gone now.”
NO. 11 ON THE OUTSIDE
The last team to fall from the field of 10 was Billerica. At 10-2-8, the co-champions of the DCL/MVC Large were the last team to be crossed off the list in the second round of voting.
It could’ve been viewed as a snub, considering the Indians took three out of a possible four points in play against league rival and Super Eight entrant Central Catholic (seeded 8th by the committee). Billerica’s only losses of the season came against Middlesex League foes Burlington and Woburn, a Super Eight team.
However, Billerica head coach Mike Mastrullo took it all in stride and accentuated the positives of the season.
“We took a big step forward in the right direction this season,” Mastrullo said. “This was big for the program. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
After sweating it out to see whether his team would make the field, Needham’s Guisti quickly shifted his attention to his team’s play — in particular, on the power play.
The Rockets gave up a couple of short-handed goals during the Springfield Cathedral tournament last week and their bench boss hopes to avoid such snafus in their upcoming games.
“I pray that we don’t give up any more during this tournament,” Guisti said, “otherwise, I might defer taking penalties. Maybe we don’t want the power plays.”