Enjoy the calm before the storm now, because tomorrow sets off three weeks of unimaginable upsets, overtime game-winners and legendary goaltending performances. Nine local teams qualified for the postseason tournament this season, all with hopes in mind to be the last team standing at the TD Garden on March 20th. With that, here’s a look at each one of those teams.
Division 1 South
Falmouth (15 or 16)
First game: To be announced
Outlook: Since the MIAA decided to wait until the after the Super-8 play-in game to announce the Div. 1 North and South brackets this season, there not much to say about the Falmouth Clippers and their postseason matchups.
Here is what we do know. The Clippers are locked into the lowest seed in the bracket with an 8-10-2, as they clinched a postseason berth solely because of their second place finish in the Atlantic Coast League.
The entire lineup of the Div. 1 South lies in the hands of Hingham. The Harbormen are the lone team from the division represented in the play-in game and their presence or lack there-of changes everything. A win from Hingham over Arlington on Monday evening in Chelmsford keeps the Harbormen in the Super-8 tournament, and would mean a 15-team field in the Div. 1 South, obviously giving the Clippers the 15-seed.
Now, this is all just speculation based on current winning percentages, but a 15-team field would likely give Falmouth a matchup with No. 2 Natick.
On the other hand, a Hingham loss on Monday against Arlington gives the Harbormen the automatic one-seed (where they belong despite a .568 winning percentage). With Hingham back in the Div. 1 South, that would mean the Clippers, seeded at No. 16, would square off with Hingham.
But, lets just focus on what we do know and let the rest play out
Frustrating would be an accurate description of the Clippers season. Falmouth entered the season with high expectations, and didn’t match the preseason hype.
The talent is there, and we had all hoped that at some point this season the chemistry would develop. Perhaps the postseason is the turning point, but locked into the lowest season, the odds are stacked quite heavily against any postseason run.
Falmouth was in similar position last season, and played arguably their best game of the season in a 3-2 loss to Barnstable in the first round. Where they buzzing because it was a rivalry game or because of the postseason environment, well probably a little bit of both, but with Patrick Coyne, Jake Miller and Cam Tobey on the ice, anything is possible if they can put it together.
If you are a Falmouth Clipper, you should be rooting for Hingham on Monday night, however.
Division 2 South
First game: First round, Wednesday vs. (3) Canton, 5:30 P.M., Brockton
Outlook: We’ll start with the good news here. The Blue Knights were fighting for their playoff lives last Wednesday, needing a win or tie in the season finale with Middleboro/Hull. What’s to be said for playing in a de-facto play-in game a week before a first-round matchup? Probably not much, but it is a confidence boost.
Now the bad. Canton. The Bulldogs were targeted as a Div. 2 South contender before the season began, and lived up to the hype by capturing the Hockomock – Davenport title, and dropping only two games on the season (Lincoln-Sudbury and Medway).
Making matters worse, Canton had their way with Sandwich in the opening round of the inaugural Jim Gormley cup in December, blanking the Blue Knights 6-0 at Gallo, so that bodes well for the Bulldogs.
The Blue Knights have talent, and could potentially pull the upset, but they need everything to go right for them and stay away from bad habits. A few things stand out immediately. A quick start would go a long way for two reasons; first of all setting the tone in a playoff game as the underdogs goes a long way. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, if things start off on a bad note, such as an early goal, things tend to turn south in a hurry, mainly with penalty trouble.
Penalties have plagued the Blue Knights all season, but take the Lowell Catholic game for example. The Crusaders scored 24 seconds into the game, and that set in motion a frustrating evening as Sandwich took nine penalties in the contest.
Goaltender Craig Hatfield has been the foundation all season long, and a big night from him could stir an upset. Offensively, senior captain Matt Brooks and Brady Doherty need their best efforts.
It’s a long shot, but if that cards fall perfectly, Sandwich could move on.
Division 3 South
First game: Preliminary round, Thursday vs. (11) Cohasset, 4:00 P.M., Gallo
Outlook: Three Mayflower League teams in the top-10 of the Div. 3 South, which rarely happens from a single league, so what does that mean? Is the Mayflower trending upwards, or over-hyped? We are about to find out.
The Whalers set program records in both wins and goals scored this season and enter the postseason winners of five-straight and unbeaten in their last 10.
But even as a six-seed, they didn’t draw the matchup they had hoped, as they square off with No. 11 Cohasset of the South Shore League. The Skippers closed the season with a 3-0-1 record, including a shocking victory over Hanover, who was largely regarded as a serious contender to win the Div. 3 South this season, and a Spartan Cup Championship.
That being said, Nantucket has shown that they can score goals in bunches with a talented junior class in Ethan Fey and Max Duce and freshman James Lester. However, Nantucket will be without one of its best skaters in Simon Johnson due to a lower-body injury sustained against Blue Hills on February 19th.
Peter Bopp appeared to have secured the No. 1 goalie position this season, and will likely get the starting nod.
Saint John Paul II (12)
First game: First round, Wednesday vs. (5) Hanover, 8:00 P.M., Gallo
Outlook: First-year coach Chuck Jancaterino and the Lions overcame a bumpy road to begin the season, tearing through the middle of their schedule to earn a No. 12 seed in the Div. 3 South. And if there is a coach who knows how to win in the postseason, it’s Jancaterino after a state title in 2004 and finalist run in 2003 with Bourne.
But, tough, tough draw for the Lions to open the postseason. The Indians were highly regarded as favorites, along with reigning sectional-champ Norwell, to capture the hardware once again. According to the RPI numbers, Hanover is the highest-rated Division 3 team in the state, coming in at No. 22, which is higher than a handful of team on the Super-8 watch list.
But enough of what the matchup says on paper, lets dive into the positives.
SJP features two solid scoring lines starting with seniors Brian Bradley and Sawyer Horan. Christian Mulkern, John Walden, and Liam Gregory add depth on the offensive end, while Patrick Connolly and freshman Jack Richards provide support on the blue line.
The goaltending combination of Gil Bach and Henry Klimm has alternated throughout the season. That being said, whichever goaltender gets the start, he will have to bring his A-game, as the Indians are one of the highest scoring Div. 3 teams with 94 goals on the season.
Cape Tech/Cape Cod Academy (13)
First Game: First round, Wednesday vs. (4) Sacred Heart, 4:00 P.M., Gallo
Outlook: Perhaps the biggest causality of the added week of the MIAA season, Cape Tech/CCA has played just one game over the final two weeks of the season. Not often is that an encouraging sign heading into the postseason, so we’ll have to see how the Crusades look on their first couple of shifts, and Sacred Heart is one of those teams that can’t be spotted an early lead.
It’s not the worst matchup for the Crusaders, being paired up with fourth-seeded Sacred Heart, but still would be a big upset if Cape Tech/CCA wins.
The Saints are a big team, one of the tallest in Div. 3, but so is the first line of the Crusaders. Cole Therrien, Jacob DiPilato and Ryan DiPilato may matchup well with Sacred Heart’s first line, but it’s the second line that may prove to be too much.
Cape Tech/CCA thrives in high scoring games, grinding out a low-scoring affair isn’t exactly their forte, and Sacred Heart has a fantastic goalie in Ian Fillion who has allowed just 29 goals this season. Senior Owen McCoubrey has got a majorty of the starts this season, and will have to match Fillon for Cape Tech/CCA to have a shot, but Will Grindell has also seen his share of the ice.
It marks the fourth consecutive season that Cape Tech/CCA is in the Div. 3 South tournament, but the Crusaders have not won a game in any of those first-three seasons, including a disappointing 2013 campaign when they hauled in the top-overall season.
Let’s see if first-year coach Curran Stockwell can snag that first victory, pulling off the upset in the process.
First game: Monday vs. (19) Dighton-Rehoboth/Seekonk, 5:00 P.M., Brockton
Outlook: What’s the old adage in sports, the hardest thing to do is beat the same time three times in a row? Well we are putting that to the test Monday evening in Brockton.
It’s easy to look at this matchup and say the Canalmen have the upper hand. These teams are quite familiar with each other from South Coast Conference play, and it has been years since the Falcons have knocked off Bourne.
But it likely won’t be that easy, as Dighton-Rehoboth/Seekonk battled the Canalmen tough in both games this season, as Bourne escaped with one-goal victories each time.
Bourne has a senior laden-roster, which bodes well in the postseason, most of those seniors have playoff experience under their belts.
While the Canalmen primarily rely on their first line of Dawson Prophett, Joe Hess and Connor Torpey, contribution from the second line will go a long way. Games from seniors John Wenzel and Ryan Pezzone, as well as Drew Adams would greatly benefit Bourne.
Once again, the Canalmen’s hopes to continue their season rests upon the shoulders of senior goaltender Jack LaCasse, who led Bourne to its first postseason victory in five years a season ago with a shutout over Nantucket.
A Bourne victory would set-up a date with No. 3 Hopkinton on Thursday.
First game: Preliminary, Tuesday vs. (16) Masconomet, 3:45 P.M., Haverhill
Outlook: This game all boils down to one thing, which Barnstable team shows up. Pure and simple, its been a frustrating season for the Red Raiders who can’t seem to get out of first gear except for when Duxbury shows up on the schedule. Historically, the Red Raiders have always been a victim of playing to the level of the opposition, which has haunted again this season, but with the postseason finally here, maybe this is where we see what the Red Raiders are like at full speed.
The first postseason game has been friendly to Barnstable in recent years, as games against Woburn and Lincoln-Sudbury have yielded goals in the first 60 seconds of the game, the last coming from Meghan Moore against L-S last season. However, the Red Raiders will be without their second-line center and one of their best girls on the draw, as she is facing the second game in a two-game suspension for a hit against Plymouth in the final game of the Cape Cod Classic.
Filling her role is junior Cassidy Lariviere, who is playing the best hockey of her career, and was instrumental in securing the Red Raiders first even SEMGHL Coastal Championship a week ago with two goals in a comeback victory over Sandwich.
Head coach Peter Nugnes hinted that a few shakeups could come in the postseason, following that victory over Sandwich, so we’ll have to wait until game time to see what that means. One possibility is that forward Amanda Piknick is moved back to the blue line, where she was for a few games earlier this season, a place she can truly utilize her heavy shot, which could give eighth-grade forward Rachel Dwyer a bump up. But one thing is for sure, the line of Callie Rogorzenski, Brynn Mendes and Danielle Derosier will remain intact, as they have been the highest production value Barnstable has this season.
Defense has been frustrating this season for Barnstable, but as Masconomet has just one-scoring line, led by junior Izzy Sarra (21-12-33), shutting down that single line will be a focus.
Let’s not put the horse before the cart here, but wouldn’t an Arlington Catholic-Barnstable first-round matchup be fun?
First game: Preliminary, Wednesday vs. (17) Longmeadow, 7:00 P.M., Tony Kent Arena
Outlook: Who would have imagined that the Dolphins would be playing in a postseason home game back in December? But that’s exactly what we have here, marking the first home game in the history of D-Y hockey, and that included the boys team.
(In fairness, very rarely do boys teams get postseason home games.)
It is tough to get a gauge on Longmeadow, as they are one of just five teams west of I-495, but the Lancers have a few very impressive wins on their resume, most noticeably a 6-2 win over Archbishop Williams.
One thing stands out for D-Y as a critical key to victory, and that is taking advantage of Longmeadow’s 161-mile trip to Tony Kent Arena. I’m not one to put serious stock in road records in high school sports, but Longmeadow’s road record isn’t nearly as impressive as when they take advantage of long bus rides in their home arena.
Offensively, the system is simple, and when it works it is difficult to defend. Get bodies to the net, set screens and deflect pucks on the way in, its what works for D-Y and if they have any chance of winning this game, it is what they have to do.
Both teams don’t allow a lot of goals, and while Longmeadow features a better offensive unit, expect another low-scoring affair, which is a benefit to the Dolphins.
Summer Walsh and Lily Holmes have been the foundation defensively this season, and a strong back-check will take added pressure off them and freshman goaltender Lucy Reid.
Taylor McDowell, Tara Stocker and Amanda Crowley have a large roll in the offense and will need to produce as well for a victory.
A trip to top-seeded Methuen/Tewksbury hangs in the balance, and lets not forget that No. 17 Sandwich went up to Methuen two years ago and knocked off the top-seeded Red Rangers.
First game: Preliminary, Tuesday vs. (15) Fontbonne, 4:00 P.M., Quincy
Outlook: The Clippers are another team with some good news and bad news. We’ll start with the good.
Falmouth drew a very favorable bracket overall, one that is littered with teams from other SEMGHL divisions that don’t match the Coastal in terms of quality teams and strength of schedule.
Now that bad. The Clippers have to survive a preliminary round game with Fontbonne in order to take advantage of that bracket.
There is no substitute for postseason experience and that heavily benefits the Clippers in this situation, as Hannah Callahan, Shannon Upton, Ericka Meissner, Rachael Curtis and Brooke Bowman have plenty of experience in the postseason. That combination saw five games last season and three the year previous. That’s not to say that Fontbonne hasn’t seen success, as they have won a postseason game each of the last three years from relatively high seeds (No. 14, 20 and 22).
Despite a little bit of a hiccup the last week of the season in the Cape Cod Classic (1-1-1 record) the Clippers have come on strong the second half of the season, thanks to the play of Upton and goaltender Emily Marciello.
The sophomore netminder made it through the brutal SEMGHL Coastal and non-league schedule allowing just 33 goals on the season in her first year as a varsity starter.
Another emerging skater in eighth-grade forward Caroline Coyne, who notched 16 points in her first season, good for fourth on the team.
While Falmouth plays a difficult schedule, Fontbonne matches them game-for-game. Their Catholic Conference schedule includes Notre Dame Academy, as well as non-league games against No. 1 Arlington Catholic (a 1-1 tie was one of the Cougars two non-wins on the season) and Archbishop Williams.
In the postseason, Falmouth has always excelled as taking away the opponents top-line, case in point last season’s 6-2 semifinal win vs. Kelly Browne and Burlington. The Clippers should explore that option again, taking away to dual-threat of Katie Nolan (27-19-46) and Maggie Landers (13-22-35).