With less than a week left in the regular season, it's crunch time for several teams looking to secure a Super 8 bid or improve their seeding.
BC High has emerged as the clear cut favorite to win the Super 8 championship. Outside of the Eagles, defending Super 8 winner St. John's Prep, Malden Catholic and Pope Francis are all locks. After that, it gets a little hairy. Below is my prediction for how the field should look, but some key games this week could alter that.
Monday's Reading vs. Burlington game and Thursday's Burlington vs. Woburn game are two key Middlesex League games that will have the most impact on the Super 8 field. Wednesday's BC High-Reading contest could boost the Rockets' resume, despite it being an "exclusionary" game for the Rockets.
1. BC High (15-0-3)
The Eagles are the best team in the state by a mile. If John Flaherty's team plays a complete game for 45 minutes, it is unbeatable. Ian Murphy, Kayser Raei and Patrick Kramer lead the way up front while Jayson Dobay and Billy Roche hold down the fort on the blue line. No goaltender in the state is as experienced and reliable as senior Brandon Payzant.
Key Wins: St. John's Prep, Pope Francis, Austin Prep, Central Catholic, St. Mary's, Winchester
Remaining Schedule: at Matignon (Mon.), at Reading (Wed.)
2. St. John's Prep (14-2-4)
The defending Super 8 champions have not lost since a tough stretch to end January when its roster was depleted due to injury and illness. As long as Kyle Martin is healthy, Kristian Hanson's team has a chance to win each game. The defense is stellar and plays as a cohesive unit. Detractors predicting against a repeat can point towards the Eagles' 0-2-2 record against the rest of the upper echelon in the Catholic Conference.
Key Wins: Hingham, Woburn, Pope Francis, Austin Prep
Remaining Schedule: Newburyport (Wed.)
3. Pope Francis (15-4-2)
The Cardinals, formerly known as the Springfield Cathedral Panthers, have no where near the firepower of year's past, but still boast two Hockey East commits in forward Riley Prattson (Providence) and defenseman Dan Petrick (Northeastern). Brian Foley's team played a challenging schedule and didn't have a marquee win until last Wednesday's blanking of Malden Catholic.
Key Wins: Hingham, Malden Catholic, St. Mary's
Remaining Schedule: at Central Catholic (Wed.)
4. Malden Catholic (12-2-3)
As usual, John McLean's team hasn't been shy about taking on all challengers. Seniors Nick Botticelli and Corey Goldstein are both being sought after by top Division III schools. Sophomore goaltender Brian Cannata has stepped up this season and is a prospect to watch for the future.
Key Wins: Hingham, Austin Prep, Central Catholic, St. John's Prep
Remaining Schedule: at Lincoln-Sudbury (Wed.)
5. Burlington (16-1-3)
The Red Devils are the most complete public school team in the state. The team's top prospect is big, senior right defenseman Josh Boulos, who is being recruited by preps for a PG and a few Division I schools have him on their radar. Senior forwards Anthony Nikolopoulos, Rob McLean and Rob Ryan are experienced offensive producers. Juniors Riley Gilberg and Drew Metzdorf have also stepped up this season.
Key Wins: Woburn, Arlington, Framingham
Remaining Schedule: Reading (Mon.), at Woburn (Thurs.)
6. Austin Prep (12-4-3)
The Cougars were hit hard by losses to graduation and junior hockey, and have had trouble putting the puck in the back of the net. Lou Finocchiaro's team won't be outgunning any team in the post-season, but a defense led by juniors Colin Murphy (Northeastern) and Sean Verrier is tough to beat. Sophomore goaltender Dylan Regan has been solid when given protection.
Key Wins: St. Mary's (2), Central Catholic, Hingham
Remaining Schedule: Melrose (Thurs.)
7. Arlington (14-3-3)
The Spy Ponders are a well-coached team that skates well, but lacks a true super star. John Messuri has gotten the most out of his team that is finishing strong. Wins over Reading, Winchester, Marshfield and Hingham highlight the month of February. Junior forwards John Piggott, Kevin Ouellette and Peter Scheschareg are the team's top players.
Key Wins: Woburn, Winchester, Hingham
Remaining Schedule: Weymouth (Wed)
8. Central Catholic (14-6-1)
The Raiders don't have the most impressive of resumes, but were hit hard by injuries and BU commit Jake Wise leaving for a few games to the Youth Olympics in Norway where he helped lead the USA to Gold. Forwards Sean Brown and Cam Gendron are both future Division I prospects. There is doubt CC played a tough schedule, but it was on the losing end of the score in most of those games. A win Wednesday night over Pope Francis could go a long way in securing a stronger seed.
Key Wins: Hingham
Remaining Schedule: Pope Francis (Wed.)
9. Reading (12-2-7)
The Rockets have struggled to play complete games on a consistent basis, and seven ties are what resulted. Mark Doherty's team probably should have won more than a few of those games. Northeastern commit Matt Thomson and brothers Kevin and Mike Tobin are three of the top offensive threats in the state. The Rockets will likely be on the outside looking in if they can't win at least one of their games this week.
Key Wins:Hingham, Winchester
Remaining Schedule: at Burlington (Mon.), BC High (Wed.)
10. St. Mary's (17-4-0)
Mark Lee's Spartans took on all comers this season, but outside of a win over Hingham, they didn't have much success against the meat of the competition. Junior forward Dante Maribito is the top prospect and is being heavily courted by prep schools.
Key Win: Hingham
Remaining Schedule: Hingham (Wed.)
On the Bubble: Braintree, Winchester, Hingham, Woburn, Framingham, Marblehead
Braintree, with its tie against St. John's Prep last Wednesday, probably is the most likely to benefit from a bad week by Reading. Middlesex League Liberty Division Winchester could be next in line because of the title.