The play-in games are over and the field has been set for the 23d edition of the Super 8 tournament.
The round-robin format of years past is gone, replaced by a Hockey East-like format familiar to local college fans with each of the four first-round series played in a best-of-three format.
Tsongas Center in Lowell will host four games Sunday starting at noon. Tickets are $12 for adults, $7 for seniors and children. Prices will remain the same throughout the first round, regardless of rink location.
With a Super 8 field featuring no dominant team, this features quality matchups. Here’s a look, with seeds, records, and times:
No. 1 St. John’s Prep (17-2-1) vs. No. 8 Central Catholic (14-5-3), noon — The first game is between the Raiders and Eagles, who faced off the day after Christmas when Central Catholic defeated the Prep, 2-1, at home.
That was a long time ago, but Central Catholic has to feel confident remembering that game as well as enjoying the momentum coming off a come-from-behind victory over Hingham in their play-in game last Monday. In that game, junior goalie Colin Soucy allowed three goals in the first two periods but shut the Harbormen out in the third. This allowed his team’s offense to score four unanswered goals, including the winner in overtime.
Even with those two victories to look back on, this game will not be an easy one for Central Catholic. Prep senior goalie Billy Price finished the regular season as the best goalie statistically in the Catholic Conference. He let in just 20 goals over 20 contests, saving 253 shots over that same time span.
Offensively, St. John’s Prep scored 89 goals on the season, second only to Springfield Cathedral in the tournament. Prep has the firepower with junior Jack McCarthy and senior Brian Pinho up front, which might be too much for Soucy and the Raiders defense to keep at bay.
No. 3 BC High (14-3-3) vs. No. 6 Catholic Memorial (12-6-2), 2:15 — There will be no surprises when Catholic Conference rivals Catholic Memorial and BC High meet for the third time this winter. The two faced off as recently as Feb. 2, when the Eagles edged Catholic Memorial, 4-3. The victory completed BC High’s season sweep of CM, with the Eagles also defeating coach Bill Hanson’s Knights, 5-1, on Jan. 16.
The Knights have had a tendency to start fast and fade late in games. Hanson’s team has been able to right the ship over the last four regular season games however, defeating Braintree, Central Catholic, Fairfield Prep (Conn.), and Xaverian after the second loss to BC High. Eagles goalie Peter Cronin might be the difference in this series. He’s arguably the tournament’s most talented at his position and CM will be hard-pressed to neutralize this advantage. Freshman goalie Brendan Collett has had some promising moments this season, but has nowhere near the experience his opponent has.
No. 2 Springfield Cathedral (16-1-4) vs. No. 7 Malden Catholic (12-6-3), 4:30 — Springfield Cathedral has been atop the Top 20 rankings for much of the season and is the highest scoring team in the tournament with 100 goals. On the other side, Malden Catholic has given up the most goals in the Super 8 field with 53. Cathedral may look the better team on paper in this matchup . . . unless you dig a little deeper.
Cathedral’s one loss came in the last game of the regular season, a 1-0 loss to none other than Malden Catholic. The Lancers won the Springfield Cathedral Tournament in the process.
Regardless of the record, the Lancers have been the scariest hockey team in the state over the last month. The two-time defending Super 8 champions didn’t lose in February and embarrassed Catholic Central champion Archbishop Williams, 9-1, in their play-in game. The Bishops got off just nine shots on goal in the contest, which was the same number of goals MC scored at Stoneham Arena that night.
No. 4 Austin Prep (13-1-6) vs. No. 5 Reading (16-1-5), 6:45 — Reading fans won’t be able to chant the familiar “01867” that was so familiar during the Rockets’ run to the title in 2008. Despite sharing the same zip code, Austin Prep and Reading aren’t exactly familiar foes with neither school aware of the last time they played. That means both coaches had plenty of homework between selection Saturday and Sunday’s face-off.
The Rockets, who became the first public school to win the tournament in 2008, feature a fast-paced offense led by co-captain Rob Devaney and a defense backed by senior goalie Evan Morelli. Reading allowed just 27 goals in 22 games.
History is against Austin Prep. Only once in the past 22 years has a Catholic Central team won this tournament (Arlington Catholic, 1997). Still, one cannot overlook the fact that Austin Prep came out the victor at the Cape Cod Classic earlier this month in a field that featured BC High, Hingham, and Archbishop Williams.