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CM ready, set to defend its title

Brendan Leahy has backstopped the Cougars’ impressive run to the No. 2 seed in the Super 8 tourney. Brendan Leahy has backstopped the Cougars’ impressive run to the No. 2 seed in the Super 8 tourney. (File/Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Peter Martin
Globe Correspondent / February 21, 2010

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The Super 8 field is official and it looks like déjà vu all over again.

Catholic Memorial is the top seed for the 15th time in 20 tournaments after another impressive season. The Knights (14-3-1) are set up well to repeat as champs as they return several players who were key to their championship run last season, including Derek Colucci, T.J. O’Brien, and goaltender Tommy Knox. Coach Bill Hanson is also the dean of this tournament, having won it 13 times.

Rounding out that old familiar feeling, eight other teams that played in the tournament last season - Central Catholic, Malden Catholic, Hingham, Springfield Cathedral, Burlington, Winchester, Needham, and Xaverian - are returning.

The one new face is Austin Prep (16-1-3), the No. 2 seed, although the Cougars are certainly no strangers to the tournament, having made it to the crossover round in 2007.

At yesterday’s selection meeting at MIAA headquarters in Franklin, seven teams were selected by a unanimous 7-0 vote - CM, Austin Prep, Hingham (17-2-3), Needham (17-1-3), Springfield Cathedral (15-2-5), Malden Catholic (13-3-4), and Winchester (13-4-2).

The other three squads - Burlington (14-4-2), Central Catholic (13-4-3), and Xaverian (12-5-3) - weren’t far behind, with each receiving a yes vote from six committee members.

Wilmington, Woburn, and St. John’s Prep were also considered.

Surprises from the selection meeting included both Winchester, which made the crossover round last year, and Burlington, the 2009 runner-up, being slated to the play-in round. Winchester will meet Central Catholic and Burlington will face off against Xaverian, both games tomorrow at the Chelmsford Forum in Billerica.

The prediction: It’s hard to look past Catholic Memorial. The Knights have more top players and more high-level experience than any team in the tournament. But, if someone is going to dethrone them, it could be Austin Prep.

The Cougars have great goaltending in Brendan Leahy and can throw two lines out that can put the puck in the net as well as anyone in the state.

There are four public schools in a tournament that has only been won once by a public school (Reading, 2008). Hingham probably has the best chance and could become a sentimental favorite if it makes it to the crossover round.

Division 1
The top teams will come from the losers of the Division 1A play-in games, per the rules of the Super 8 tournament. Even without those two squads, there are still some powerful teams in the mix.

Woburn was the odd team out in the Super 8 shuffle, but as one of the top Middlesex League teams, the Tanners have to be considered a major player.

The other team to keep an eye on will be St. John’s Prep, the only team in the state to beat Catholic Memorial. Though the Eagles did not do enough throughout the regular season to earn a berth in the Division 1A tournament, they can play with anyone. And the North field will include Arlington Catholic and St. Mary’s, which successfully appealed to play in the tournament after its game last month ended with a fight and five players from both teams received game misconducts.

In the South, Archbishop Williams is a team to watch, having played Austin Prep close in its last two games. The Archies are led by the Catholic Central Large’s leading scorer, James Boyle (19-17 -36).

Norwood enters with heavy hearts. Matt Brown, a sophomore who was paralyzed in an on-ice accident this season, is still in the hospital. He has been moved to a rehab facility in Atlanta and is starting to have feeling in his hands. To help his family raise money for his care, the Bay State Conference is hosting a game and charity auction today at 3:30 at the West Suburban Rink in Natick. The game will feature four players from each Bay State team and all money raised will go to the family.

The prediction: The teams coming from the Divison 1A play-in games have a lot of quality, and at least one will probably make a deep run. But St. John’s Prep might have the most talent, although it remains to be seen if it can put that talent together for the duration of the tournament.

Division 2
The big story is Wilmington. The Wildcats received a nomination to the Super 8 and their 19-0-1 record stands as an impressive testament to their great season.

The Wildcats are led by senior defenseman Dan Cushing, who might have the hardest shot in Massachusetts.

Another weapon is senior goaltender Zach Rosa, the Cape Ann League MVP. Thanks in large part to his contributions, Wilmington allowed only 18 goals in 20 games.

The other team to watch in the North should be defending champion Newburyport (14-4-2). The Clippers lost both games they played against Wilmington, but Newburyport played tough and probably has the best chance of beating the Wildcats.

The South sectional looks like a three-team race with Nauset (17-2-1), Franklin (15-2-3), and Canton (15-3-2).

Nauset has the most impressive record, but it did drop a game to Canton early in the season.

Still, Franklin might be the prohibitive favorite in the South, having beat Canton and posted a tie against Newburyport this season.

The Prediction: Wilmington’s incredible defense and goaltending will be too much. Look for the Wildcats to clinch a state title.

Division 3
Concord-Carlisle stands alone in the North with its 18-0-2 record and seven shutouts. Any team looking to get past the Patriots will have to find a way to score. Mike Van Siclen leads the Patriots and was the DVL-MVC Division 3 MVP this winter.

Their biggest competition might come from defending North sectional champion Shawsheen, which posted a 17-2-1 record thanks to their leading scorer, Mike DiGiorgio, who had 26 points.

In the South, Scituate stands out thanks to its 17-3 record. The Sailors also boast one of the best goaltenders in the tournament in Jamie Murray, and Brian Collins leads the offense.

The Prediction: Murray gets hot and Scituate is able to hold off the rest of the competition as the Sailors get a shot at the state title.

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