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Super 8 Preview: No. 4 BC High vs. No. 5 St. John's Prep

BC High junior defenseman Ryan Shea
BC High junior defenseman Ryan Shea
Matt Dewkett

BC High and St. John's Prep are the most familiar opponents of any of the four Super 8 quarterfinal series. The two Catholic Conference rivals faced each other twice in the regular season. The Eagles came out on top in each of the two meetings. The first was a pretty close game thanks to a late St. John's rally, but the second game was an ugly one that SJP would surely likely to forget.

No. 4 BC High (13-5-2)

It was an up-and-down regular season for John Flaherty's Eagles who seemed to struggle to find an identity after entering the season as one of the major favorites to be the top seed in the Super 8. It was more a case of not living up to the high expectations than just not performing well.

Key Player:

There might not be a more key player in the entire tournament to his team's success than BC High junior defenseman Ryan Shea. The '97 who is pegged to be selected somewhere in the later rounds of the 2015 NHL Draft is a special talent.

He's an exceptional skater with good puck skills. A converted forward, he's got good hands, a heavy shot and most importantly, he's a one-man breakout. He can pass the puck out of the zone or carry it and start the rush. His vision and poise with the puck are both very noticeable.

Supporting Cast:

BC High has a very good first line that will need to carry the offense throughout the tournament, especially if Flaherty's team goes deeper than the opening round. Merrimack commit Pat Kramer centers the line with Christian Simeone on the left wing and young '99 Jack Nisbet on the right wing.

Kramer showed drastic improvement from last year. He's got good hands in tight and is definitely a play maker. As Flaherty said on a couple of occasions after games, his team relies on Kramer for offense. He's the type of player who has to come up big in big games. Nisbet has some nice speed while Simeone is good cycling the puck and winning battles along the boards.

Freshman defenseman Jayson Dobay has nice vision and junior blue liner Billy Roche has made great strides since last season. Both will be key to taking some of the weight off of Shea's shoulders.

Payzant Primed:

Flaherty described junior goaltender Brandon Payzant as his team's best player on the ice on a few occasions during his sophomore campaign. In order for BC High to make it deep in this tournament Payzant will have to be up to form. He's not as fundamentally sound as some of the other goaltenders in the tournament, but he's athletic. He's got a good glove and has the ability to make some acrobatic stops.

No. 5 St. John's Prep (14-5-1)

After a sub-500 season in 2013-14, Kristian Hanson's Eagles bounced back this year with a nice mix of upperclassmen and youth. The team's top line was made up of all seniors, but on defense and in goal, the team relied on some very young players.

Key Player:

St. John's doesn't have the wheels to keep up with BC High's attack so junior goaltender Kyle Martin will have to be up for the task. The transfer from Westford Academy is a small goaltender who has taken over the number one job after rotating for the first half of the season with high-profile sophomore Zac Laramie.

Martin is quick and agile in the crease and has made quite a difference, backstopping his team's youthful defense. Laramie has also been good when called upon this season and made 32 saves in a losing effort against BC High back in December.

Whoever tends goal for St. John's Prep in this series will have to be atop his game to give Hanson's team a chance.

Supporting Cast:

The Eagles have one senior-laden line and a younger line that have each stepped up on different nights. The senior line of Nick Latham, Tyler Scearbo and Ted McNamara just seems to know how to score. Scearbo is the fastest of the trio while McNamara likes to throw his weight around.

The second line on the depth chart is centered by Wilmington transfer Billy Falter with Kyle Hentosh on the left and Kyle Lynch on the right. Falter is the quick, gritty player while Hentosh is the smart, heady player with a good awareness of what's going on the ice around them. Lynch is a good goal scorer and has some nice skill with the puck.

Youthful Blue Line:

A lot of the buzz this season has been about the raw talent and physical tools of Prep freshman defenseman Paul Edson. The Beverly native has nice size for a late '99 and has some the makings of a good player down the road. The key for Edson is to be smart and not try to do too much.

Fellow freshman Tim Usalis is a good young defender in his own right. He doesn't have the size that Edson has, but he skates well, plays his gaps well and does some very nice things on the backend.

Juniors Brian Groom and Seth Murray are the elder statesmen on the blue line and move the puck well and skate well.

Prediction:

This is a tough series to call. St. John's Prep has made such good strides and BC High hasn't been consistently focused this season. I'm calling for a BC High victory in the series, but it goes three games. BC High wins 3-2 on Sunday. The Prep bounces back with a 5-4 win before BC High takes the series 4-1.

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