For decades, the Super Eight tournament served a unique purpose in the Massachusetts hockey landscape, creating a separate playoff field for premier teams.
The event came to a screeching halt at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, then was removed in favor of a statewide tournament last year. To the surprise of few, the cream rose to the top with a Div. 1 championship between two Catholic Conference foes. Interesting how that works.
Ultimately, St. John’s Prep (22-3) won its first state title since 2015 with a convincing 6-2 drubbing of rival Xaverian at TD Garden last March. That night, senior captain Tommy Sarni sniped four goals for the Eagles. Now they shall attempt to replicate his scoring as they look to repeat. Expect players like Jimmy Ayers, Cole Blaeser, Aidan Holland, Christian Rosa and Will Van Sicklin to lead the charge.
Most are pegging Xaverian (20-4-1) as the candidate to best challenge St. John’s Prep. It won’t be such an easy task, as the Hawks graduated 15 seniors from last year’s group. However, Joe DiMartino (nine goals, eight assists) and Gavin Moynihan (eight goals, seven assists) are returning, and poised to provide a spark offensively.
BC High (10-13-1) got off to a sluggish start last season before catching fire and embarking on a Cinderella run to the Final Four. The Eagles fell short in overtime to the eventual champion in St. John’s Prep, but welcome back seven forwards and seven defensemen. Although standout Ryan Flaherty transferred to Avon Old Farms, the Eagles are still one of the deeper teams in the field along with their counterparts at Catholic Memorial (15-6-1).
For BC High coach John Flaherty, the guidelines remain the same along Morrissey Boulevard.
“Our goal every year is to win the Catholic Conference,” said Flaherty. “And put ourselves in a position to be the last team off the ice at the Garden.”
Could one of the publics emerge in Div. 1? There are certainly a few candidates.
Boston Herald Dream Teamer Cam Fici (36 goals, 11 assists) enjoyed a breakout junior season, and has Belmont (19-2-3) in the conversation to win the Middlesex League along with Arlington (19-5-2). As always, Hingham (20-4-1) remains in the hunt with Aidan Brazel (18 goals, 10 assists) and Chase McKenna (12 points) leading the Harbormen. Other programs to watch include Braintree, Marshfield and Pope Francis.
The Div. 2 landscape could see a shakeup due to the departure of some very talented players. Led by senior Caden Connors (28 assists, 23 goals), Tewksbury (22-2) captured the state championship last year. Now the Redmen will put their fate in the hands of Matthew Cooke (18 goals, 18 assists) and Tyler Barnes (13 assists, eight goals).
Canton (22-2-1) should be in the mix. The Bulldogs have made three consecutive trips to the state finals, excluding the COVID season. However, like many of last year’s contenders, the program sustained a hit with 14 seniors graduating. Senior AJ Thomas (20 goals, nine assists) and junior Brendan Tourgee (16 assists, 11 goals) will shoulder things offensively, while sophomore Collin Davis builds upon his incredible freshman campaign in net.
Could Gloucester (19-5) recapture the magic from its run to the Div. 2 Final Four? The Fishermen lost over 150 points of production to graduation, most notably Jack Costanzo (32 goals, 32 assists). Colby Jewell (30 points) will take over at the helm for the program this year.
Duxbury (14-10-2) welcomed Mike Flaherty to the bench in 2021, and the newly hired coach guided the Dragons on a trip to the Div. 2 Final Four. Duxbury returns a former Herald All-Scholastic in goaltender Sam Mazanec (2.04 GAA, .923 save percentage), with senior forwards Aiden Harrington (16 goals, nine assists) and Wyatt Glass (seven goals, nine assists) joining him.
“I’d like to think we can be in contention for a state title,” Flaherty said. “But there are a lot of good teams in Div. 2 so we have to be on our game every night.”
Masconomet (16-5-2) made the Round of 8 last season, but this year will mark a new era for the Chieftains as Andrew Boepple takes over for former coach Andrew Jackson.
Other schools to keep an eye out for in Div. 2 include Norwood, Silver Lake and Walpole. Some coaches have also picked Newburyport, Plymouth South and Wakefield as dark horses.
DIV. 1-2 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jimmy Ayers (St. John’s Prep)
Tyler Barnes (Tewksbury)
Adam Bauer (Belmont)
Cole Blaeser (St. John’s Prep)
Brendan Bonner (Duxbury)
Aidan Brazel (Hingham)
Finn Burke (Catholic Memorial)
Matthew Cooke (Tewksbury)
Collin Davis (Canton)
Nick DiCioccio (Tewksbury)
Joe DiMartino (Xaverian)
Aidan Dunphy (Silver Lake)
Cam Fici (Belmont)
Connor Fryberger (Catholic Memorial)
Wyatt Glass (Duxbury)
Aiden Harrington (Duxbury)
Aidan Holland (St. John’s Prep)
Michael Hussey (Duxbury)
Colby Jewell (Gloucester)
Sam Mazanec (Duxbury)
Chase McKenna (Hingham)
Gavin Moynihan (Xaverian)
Benjamin O’Keefe (Tewksbury)
Cooper Robillard (Tewksbury)
Jake Russell (Arlington)
AJ Thomas (Canton)
Brendan Tourgee (Canton)
Will Van Sicklin (St. John’s Prep)
Jake Vana (St. John’s Prep)
Brendan Zinck (Malden Catholic)