Super 8 play-in games preview: Archbishop Williams vs. Xaverian and Braintree vs. Catholic Memorial

Catholic Memorial goaltender Brandon Collett - Matt Dewkett

March Madness starts a few days early with the Super 8 Play-in games on tap for Monday evening.

Stoneham, Mass. -- The Super 8, Massachusetts' premier high school hockey tournament, gets under way Monday evening in the Stoneham Arena with the two play-in games. As past years have shown, these games can be incredibly exciting with a win or go home mentality reverberating around the arena.

Archbishop Williams and Xaverian tangle in the first game while Braintree and Catholic Memorial square-off in the second game of the night. Both games can be streamed free of charge at www.seriovideo.com and www.masshshockey.com.

The winners of Monday's games will have the unenviable task of going up against BC High and Malden Catholic, respectively, in the quarterfinals that begin Sunday at the TD Garden in Boston.

No. 8 Xaverian (11-3-6) vs. No. 9 Archbishop Williams (12-5-3)

These two teams did not meet in the regular season and have no common opponents so it's hard to judge how this matchup will shake out. This game should have more of an offensive aspect to it than the late game, but both teams have solid senior goaltenders.

The Hawks of Xaverian haven't made the Super 8 since 2010, but did sneak into the Division I Tournament last season, beating Duxbury in a shootout before losing to eventual runner-up Marshfield in overtime.

Senior tri-captain Tony is the team's leading scorer with 14 goals and 36 assists, but behind him are several key players who can also spark the offense. Junior tri-captain Tim Sweeney and senior Connor McCarthy are players to watch for in this game. Sophomore John Beniers is an up-and-coming player to keep an eye on for the future.

Hawks freshman goaltender Aidan Murphy is one of the better young goaltending prospects in Massachusetts. A '98, he's grown up in the South Shore Kings organization and played on their U16 USPHL team before the high school season started.

Archbishop Williams started the season off with a bang, beating Springfield Cathedral in the second game of the season. The Bishops had their ups and downs on the season, but were competitive in most outings, and finished the season on a 4-0-1 run. Two of those wins came against St. Mary's and Arlington Catholic, two teams who were considered for the field, but left out.

Senior captain Michael Sorenti leads the way offensively, but fellow seniors Nick Menzel, Ryan Dunn, Mike Jessman and Michael Davis are also key cogs up front. Junior Colin Boyle is the steadying presence on the blue line, but Matt Clifford does a good job of transitioning the puck up ice from the end line. Senior goaltender Steve Jenner finally had his chance to be the full-time starter after the graduation of Joe Vinay.

The Bishops were throttled, 9-1, in the play-in game last season by eventual champion Malden Catholic, but this is a new season, and Derackk Curtis' team should be ready to play come Monday night.

Breaking down the matchup

Xaverian Archbishop Williams
Location Westwood, Mass. Braintree, Mass.
Head Coach Dave Spinale Derackk Curtis
Overall Record 11-3-6 12-5-3
League Record 1-3-4 (Catholic) 6-4-0 (Catholic Central)
Record vs. Super 8 Field 1-3-3 1-2-0
Most Notable Win Duxbury (5-1) Springfield Cathedral (3-2)
Last Super 8 Appearance 2010 (Won play-in game) 2013 (Lost play-in game)
Goals Per Game 4.90 4.40
Goals Against Per Game 2.30 2.65
Top forward Tony Marini (Sr.) Michael Sorenti (Sr.)
Projected Starting Goaltender Aidan Murphy (Fr.) Steve Jenner (Sr.)

No. 7 Braintree (13-4-3) vs. No. 10 Catholic Memorial (9-7-4)

This is a rather intriguing matchup as it is a rematch of the final meeting of the regular season, won by Braintree, 3-0. The Wamps went 8-0-2 down the stretch, including the key victory over the Knights on Friday that secured their inclusion in the field.

Unlike Catholic Memorial, Braintree has an experienced squad, dressing 13 seniors on most nights. Seniors Nick Ward and Kyle Leslie are the biggest offensive threats, but classmates Brian Gallagher and Gino LaRossa were also double digit scorers during the regular season.

One thing that really stands out when watching Braintree is the team's commitment to skating in all three zones. In the team's win over CM, several players made numerous blocks and got sticks in lanes to break up scoring opportunities.

Senior captain Joe Harrington anchors the defense along with classmate James Flaherty. Another senior, Nick Anson, has been superb all season between the pipes.

On the other hand, Catholic Memorial struggled down the stretch, going 0-6-2, including back-to-back lopsided losses against BC High and Malden Catholic. Bill Hanson's team lost 6-0 to BC High and 11-0 to Malden Catholic in a span of two days earlier this month.

The Knights played a much more difficult schedule than Braintree, but have a young team with a lack of firepower compared to teams of CM past. Discussion involving Catholic Memorial has to start in the crease with super sophomore Brandon Collett, who certainly has the ability to steal games.

Sophomore defenseman Tim Weinstein, an undersized blue liner, is good at moving the puck up ice and has good stick skills. Classmate Frank Cosolito is a big blue liner who could become a real threat if he picks up his physical play.

Sophomore Paul Hardiman has the most promising future of any CM forward, but his line mate, senior Michael Stathopolous, led the team in scoring. Junior captain Aaron Clancy has a hard shot if he can find some space in the slot. BC football recruit Kevin Bletzer is a third line, checking forward, who will see a decent amount of ice time.

Notice a trend yet? Most of CM's top players are sophomores. The Knights were hurt by the graduation of UMass recruit Liam Coughlin and several other key players defecting to prep school and junior hockey, including Cornell recruit Beau Starrett.

Breaking down the matchup

Braintree Catholic Memorial
Location Braintree, Mass. West Roxbury, Mass.
Head Coach Dave Fasano Bill Hanson
Overall Record 13-4-3 9-7-4
League Record 9-3-2 (Bay State) 3-3-2 (Catholic)
Record vs. Super 8 Field 2-1-0 1-5-2
Most Notable Win Duxbury (4-2) Malden Catholic (3-2)
Last Super 8 Appearance
2013 (Lost in semifinals)
Goals Per Game 3.65 2.60
Goals Against Per Game 1.90 2.75
Top forward Nick Ward (Sr.) Paul Hardiman (Soph.)
Projected Starting Goaltender Nick Anson (Sr.) Brandon Collett (Soph.)

Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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