FRANKLIN — It’s been a good week for coach Brian Foley and the Springfield Cathedral boys’ hockey team. After handing Malden Catholic its first loss Thursday, the Panthers received the first seed in the Super 8 tournament at the MIAA selection meeting on Sunday.
“It’s a nice accomplishment,” Foley said. “This really wasn’t a goal, so to speak. We just wanted to have a good regular season and take it a game at a time and let the committee seed us where they see fit. But it’s nice to be rewarded with that.”
The Panthers finished the regular season 20-0-2, and edged Malden Catholic, 2-1, on Thursday to preserve their undefeated record. Four-time returning champion Malden Catholic was seeded second by the committee.
“I think the fact that going into the game we were both undefeated kind of made it an easy decision for the committee,” Foley said. “If we both had a couple of losses it probably would have been handled with more scrutiny.”
The committee that seeded the teams was made up of seven members. Cathedral was nominated for the top seed by the first four members to vote, which automatically sealed its spot.
Thanks to a crucial win over BC High last Monday, Austin Prep was ranked third. The Cougars finished with a 10-0 record in the Catholic Central League. BC High followed as the fourth seed.
Midway through the season, it looked like St. John’s Prep would be a bubble team, but the Eagles ended on a six-game winning streak and were voted into fifth place. A 4-2 defeat of Xaverian and a 2-2 tie against Malden Catholic were two of the main selling points for the Eagles’ tournament résumé.
The coaches’ association recommended that Xaverian be seeded sixth in a meeting that preceded the selection committee’s decision. But when it came time to vote, the first four committee members selected Central Catholic for the sixth seed, securing it a spot.
That means Xaverian will have to win a play-in game to make it to the first round. After Central Catholic was selected, the voting was over and the bottom four teams were ranked by winning percentage.
With a tough Catholic Conference schedule, Xaverian had the lowest winning percentage and was seeded 10th. The Hawks will face No. 7 Franklin (16-2-3), with the winner earning a berth in the Super 8 first round Sunday at Tsongas Center in Lowell.
In the other play-in game, No. 8 Burlington (16-1-4) and No. 9 Woburn (15-2-4) will meet for the third time this season. The Middlesex League teams split their head-to-head matches.
The winner of the game faces Cathedral on Sunday at Tsongas.
Burlington’s 4-2 defeat of Woburn two weeks ago was a major catalyst for its tournament chances.
“I think beating them was important for people’s consideration for sure,” Burlington coach Bob Conceison said. “The third time — it’s going to be fun. It’ll be a good crowd and a good atmosphere.”
Franklin and Xaverian play Tuesday at 5:10 at Chelmsford Forum, followed by Burlington and Woburn at 7:10.
The most controversial moment came in the first round of voting when the committee made its nominations. Hingham (11-8-3) was viewed as a contender for the tournament, but because it did not receive a majority of votes for the nomination, it could no longer be considered in the second round of voting. Hingham coach Tony Messina was disappointed.
“It did seem like a technicality. I’m not sure that [the committee] knew. They seemed a little surprised that we were out of consideration,” Messina said. “Hey, it is what it is. They voted, and that’s what the vote was.”
Hingham heads to the Division 1 South tournament. Arlington Catholic also failed to receive a majority vote for a nomination and will play in Division 1 North.
Prediction — Cathedral is the top seed but not much separates it from Malden Catholic. The Panthers came out on top Thursday, but the Lancers are well-coached and will be studying a lot of film as the postseason progresses. It appears to be a two-team race going into this tournament, with Austin Prep and BC High lurking . Malden Catholic has the championship rings, but Cathedral has proven it should be the favorite.
The loser of the Franklin-Xaverian play-in game will become the automatic favorite in the South. Hingham is the other team to watch. After Sunday’s Super 8 snub, the Harbormen will look to make a tournament run. They take on No. 7 Weymouth in the first round. No. 3 Barnstable also had a strong season, finishing 13-5-1. In the North, either Woburn or Burlington will drop in as the first seed. No. 8 Arlington Catholic should be a favorite as well after a 12-7-2 finish with a difficult schedule. Arlington (14-3-4) is ranked third and is also a contender.
Prediction — If Franklin finds a way to beat Xaverian, the Hawks will be a huge favorite in D1. They were consistently tested this year against Catholic Conference opponents and should tear through most of the teams on their side of the bracket. Otherwise, it should be a tossup between Franklin and the loser of the Woburn-Burlington game.
In the south, Medfield is ranked second and will look to make a return to the championship after losing to Beverly in last year’s state final. But it will have to get past top-ranked Westwood (16-2-2). The Tri-Valley rivals split two games this season, so it could end up being a battle if they play in the postseason. Canton lost to Medfield in the South final last year and enters the tournament ranked sixth with a 12-6-1 record. No. 3 Plymouth South and No. 5 Medway also are teams to watch. With Beverly out of the picture after a weak season, the North is wide open. In the north, No. 1 Tewksbury looks powerful after finishing first in the Merrimack Valley/Dual County league. Winthrop won the Northeastern North League with a 15-3-2 overall record, and is ranked third in the North. Winthrop had Marblehead’s number this season, beating it twice, but No. 4 Marblehead won its last six games and is peaking at the right time. North Reading is ranked second and also is a threat.
Prediction — With the exception of the 3-1 loss to Medfield and a 2-1 loss to Lynnfield, Westwood looked untouchable this season. The Wolverines have posted eight shutouts and look ready for the tournament. Medfield should be Westwood’s biggest concern further down the line, but watch for Medway as a sleeper. The Mustangs (13-6-1) tied Westwood and defeated Medfield this season. Tewksbury looks likely to emerge from the North, but will see a great challenge in the State finals against whomever comes from the South. If it can get past Medfield, Westwood looks poised to bring home a state title.
Newton South made it to the North final last year but lost, 3-2, to Wayland. This year, the Lions finished atop the Merrimack Valley/Dual County League with a league record of 12-0, and are seeded first in the North. They are followed closely by powerful Northeast and Lowell Catholic teams. Returning champion Wayland and last year’s tournament favorite Watertown are ranked sixth and seventh, respectively.
Norwell sits atop the South after a 17-1-3 season. The Clippers were undefeated through 15 games. Cohasset was able to skate to a draw with Norwell and is seeded fifth with a 13-2-5 record. No. 2 Tri-County also is a team to watch at 14-3-0. Hanover, the returning champion, is ranked third.
Prediction — Newton South, with 14 upperclassmen, is the favorite in the North. Keep an eye on No. 4 seed Shawsheen, which defeated Northeast Regional twice and finished atop the Commonwealth Athletic Conference. Norwell is the clear favorite in the South. In the Central, returning champion Shrewsbury could pull together for a tournament run. North Middlesex (17-1-2) also looks strong. In the end, Norwell has shown few weaknesses and is the biggest threat in Division 3.
Listen to the MIAA Super 8 high school hockey report with Dan Shine on Tuesday at 2 p.m. with Adam 12 on RadioBDC. Also listen live at radiobdc.com.