A 5-2 win over heavily favored BC High earlier this week earned the Duxbury hockey team two things: the title of champions of the Buddy Ferreira Classic and, as the Dragons found out Saturday morning, a trip to TD Garden.
This year, Super 8 participants won’t have to reach the title game to skate on Garden ice — they just have to make the field of eight.
Aided by a 16-1 run to end the season, Duxbury (16-2-3) picked up the last automatic spot bound for the Garden taking a 4-3 decision over Xaverian on the seventh and final vote by the MIAA Division 1A Selection Committee.
The bottom four teams in the Division 1A tournament as selected by the MIAA — Braintree (13-4-3), Xaverian (11-3-6), Archbishop Williams (12-5-3), and Catholic Memorial (9-7-4) — must compete in play-in games, with the winners of each making the Super 8.
“I think that carries a lot of weight: how you finish the year,” Duxbury coach John Blake said. “Right now, we’re playing our best hockey of the year and we are absolutely thrilled to be in the top six of the Super 8.”
The berth is Duxbury’s first since 2006 and will mark the first time they have played on Garden ice since winning the Division 1 title in 2007.
BC High picked up the No. 1 overall seed for the first time in 11 years after skating to a 14-2-4 record and its first outright Catholic Conference championship since 2003. The Eagles played 14 regular-season games against teams nominated for the Super 8 field, the most of any team under consideration, and went 9-2-3.
A member of the Catholic Conference has held the Super 8 top spot every season since 2002, when St. John’s of Shrewsbury held the pole position.
“It’s a reward for a hard-fought and good season,” BC High coach John Flaherty said. “Both committees, the Coaches Association and the MIAA, recognized that we play a very challenging schedule. I’m proud of our guys. Now, it’s a new season.”
Malden Catholic (16-4-0), the three-time defending Super 8 champions, will begin as a No. 2 seed. The Lancers are looking to become the first team to win four consecutive titles since Catholic Memorial (1998-2001).
Western Mass. power Springfield Cathedral (15-2-5), Catholic Central champion Austin Prep (13-4-4), and Merrimack Valley/Dual County victor Central Catholic (16-3-3) round out the top five.
Duxbury’s lone loss in the past 17 games came at the hands of the Braintree Wamps, who used an 8-0-2 closing run to capture the Bay State Carey crown and the program’s first appearance in the Super 8.
The Wamps picked up the No. 7 seed and will take on No. 10 Catholic Memorial at Stoneham Arena Monday at 7:45. Braintree dispatched the Knights, 3-0, in the team’s regular-season finale.
“It’s nice to get over the hump,” Braintree coach Dave Fasano said. “We’ve been on the Super 8 bubble three or four times in the last five or six years.
“The kids are really excited right now. The community is excited. We know it’s going to be a tough game against CM again, back-to-back playing them, but we’re going to give it our best and represent our program the best we can.”
No. 8 Xaverian and No. 9 Archbishop Williams will be the first game Monday in Stoneham, with puck drop at 5 p.m.
The most controversial selection of the day came for the final spot in the tournament between CM and St. Mary’s of Lynn (14-4-2). Despite going 0-6-2 in February and being outscored, 36-10, the Knights were awarded the last spot due in large part to a .500 record (3-3-2) in Catholic Conference play and ranking seventh in the state in strength of schedule.
The Spartans had finished the season 7-2-1 and carried a strength of schedule ranked No. 10 overall.
Prediction — In last season’s Division 1A tournament, the Lancers dominated opponents en route to a Super 8 three-peat. Unlike last year, this tournament appears to be a three-team race among BC High, Malden Catholic, and Springfield Cathedral. The other two teams have more talent on offense, but BC High is incredibly sound in all three phases of the game. Everyone will be looking to take down Malden Catholic considering its recent history, the Eagles are the team to beat.
With all four play-in teams of the Super 8 hailing from the South, the Division 1 South picture is still cloudy at best, as the losers of the two Super 8 play-in games will be dropped into the bracket as the top two seeds. As the Atlantic Coast champion and a preseason Super 8 contender, No. 4 Marshfield carries one of the more potent top lines south of Boston, while No. 6 Barnstable has taken points in games against Duxbury, Archbishop Williams and Catholic Memorial. As is the case most years, Division 1 North is loaded with talented teams which can play with any team on any given night, like two-time defending Division 1 champion Burlington (No. 7, 10-3-8) and two-time defending Division 2 champion Wilmington (No. 3, 12-3-7).
Prediction — St. Mary’s has one of the best goaltenders in the state in Bailey MacBurnie and something to prove after its Super 8 snub. The Spartans will be a tough out, as will the No. 15 seed, St. John’s Prep (9-9-2). The Prep played its best hockey outside of the Catholic Conference, going 9-2-1, and carries enough talent to make it to the end. However, one of the hottest teams going right now is Winchester (11-5-5). The Sachems have won seven of their last nine and are undervalued at the No. 8 spot due to their five ties. A preseason Super 8 favorite, Winchester has the goods to stay on its roll.
For the second season in a row, Beverly will head into postseason play with an 18-1-1 record and the top seed in Division 2 North. Last winter was one to forget, as Beverly followed up a first-round bye with a 4-3 loss to Danvers. Should No. 8 Danvers (10-9-1) take care of No. 9 Amesbury (8-8-4) this year, the Panthers would have a shot at redemption in the North quarterfinals. North Reading (16-2-2) and Tewksbury (15-3-2) could be on a collision course for the semifinals, while a trio of talented Tri-Valley squads (Westwood, Medfield, Medway) occupy three of the South’s top four spots.
Prediction — Beverly is the team to beat, but the path to the Garden won’t be easy with the likelihood of either North Reading or Tewksbury standing in the way. Medway took the last two sectional titles while in Division 3 and is one of the hottest teams in Division 2 South, having won seven of its last nine games. The Mustangs appear destined to face familiar foe Westwood in the semis after dropping both meetings to the Wolverines on the year. With Wilmington out of the picture due to its jump up to Division 1, this is Beverly’s best chance for its first state title.
Watertown heads into the Division 3 North tournament with a head of steam and plenty of experience after going 10-2-4 in the always competitive Middlesex League and clinching the Freedom Division.
The South is littered with members of the South Shore League, including league champion Norwell (11-6-4) at No. 11, Cohasset (14-6-0) at No. 4, and Hanover (13-7-0) at No. 5.
In the Central, the biggest threat appears to come from Shrewsbury (17-2-1), which is the top seed, and has outscored opponents, 116-30, on the year.
Prediction — While Watertown (13-2-5) is likely the favorite in the North, No. 5 Lynn (13-6-1) carries a top line that has shown ability to score at will. In the South, Cohasset has as good a shot as any with five scorers with 22 points or more, while Norwell (11-6-4) could sneak up on people. Shrewsbury will look to be the sixth team in the last seven years to win the title from the West or Central, but the pick here is Watertown.