Malden, Mass. -- The tournament named in honor former Merrimack College and Malden Catholic head coach Chris Serino is the best in Massachusetts this Christmas weekend. No. 1 Austin Prep and No. 2 Malden Catholic are on a collision course to meet in the finals, but Hingham and St. Mary's are the underdogs out to make that dream matchup fall through.
Austin Prep is led by junior Bobo Carpenter, a Boston University commit and the son of NHL veteran Bobby Carpenter. The North Reading, Mass. native already has three goals in the team's first three contests. Fellow juniors Dan O'Toole and Cam Russo have four and three goals, respectively.
The Cougars, coached by former Merrimack assistant Louis Finnochiaro, have the top uncommitted goaltender in New England. Junior Elijah Harris is on the radar of Hockey East and ECAC schools after solid play in high school action as well as the USA Hockey Select 16 Festival last summer.
Austin Prep's opponent in the first round is St. Mary's (Lynn, Mass.) who has been a legitimate contender in the Division I ranks for the past decade under the leadership of coach Mark Lee. The Spartans haven't churned out many Division I players, but several have gone on to play Division III college hockey.
Jordan Manthorne and Shawn MacBurnie are the top returning scorers from a team that missed the MIAA Tournament a year ago, a rarity for the program. MacBurnie's brother Bailey is back from prep school and ready to anchor down the goaltending spot.
The Spartans have lost three in a row after an opening night victory, but the setbacks were against BC High, Arlington Catholic and Braintree. It will be a tall order for SMH to pull off the upset in the first semifinal.
Malden Catholic is 2-0 after convincing victories over Mount St. Charles (RI) and Franklin. The Lancers put up 15 goals total in the two games, and two different players have recorded hat tricks. UMass-Lowell commit Tyler Sifferlen pulled the trick in the opener while top uncommitted prospect Matt Filipe did the duty in the second game. Despite playing a little under the weather, UNH recruit Ara Nazarian had two goals and three assists.
Filipe is undoubtedly the top uncommitted player in the Massachusetts high school ranks and one of the top prospects in New England. He is a late '97 whose father played at Northeastern. The Lynnfield native plays a strong, physical game.
The Lancers are the three-time defending state champions and looking to become the first team to win four in a row since Catholic Memorial pulled the same feat over a decade ago. Head coach John McLean was a former assistant of Serino's at Merrimack and took over the Malden Catholic program when Serino's health began to deteriorate.
Hingham doesn't come in with as much fanfare, but they are a legitimate contender to make the Super 8 as one of the lower seeds. The Harbormen are 1-1-1, including a 2-1 loss to St. John's Prep. Hingham is having to replace three of its top players from last season, all of whom left with eligibility on the table to play prep school hockey for Dan Donato at Dexter. Including losses to graduation, Hingham lost 85% of its goal scoring.
It's rebuilding mode to say the least for Hingham coach Tony Messina, but he'll rely on senior goaltender and captain Alex Bonn.
It would be a shock of huge proportions if Austin Prep and Malden Catholic didn't square off in the finals of this tournament, but it's hockey and anything can happen.
Friday, Dec. 27
3:20 p.m. Austin Prep vs. St. Mary's
5:40 p.m. Malden Catholic vs. Hingham
Saturday, Dec. 28
3:20 p.m. Consolation Game
5:40 p.m. Championship Game
NCAA Recruits in Tournament
'96 F Bobo McCarthy (Boston University)
'96 F Ara Nazarian (New Hampshire)
'95 F Tyler Sifferlen (UMass-Lowell)
'97 G Elijah Harris (Uncommitted)
'97 F Matt Filipe (Uncommitted)
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Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.