2017-18 BOYS’ HOCKEY PREVIEW
John Cetrino for the Globe
First possession . . . 15 seconds into overtime . . . glory.
With Mic Curran’s overtime strike against Central Catholic on the TD Garden ice last March, Arlington High netted its first Super 8 title — just the third 1A crown for a public school program in tourney history, joining Reading and Arlington.
But it is Central that starts the season ranked No. 1 in the Globe’s Top 20. Juniors Sean Brown and Will Winship highlight a Raider attack that will likely score in bunches with the return of their top three scorers from last season.
Central coach Kim Brandvold rattled off a list of other programs he considers contenders, Malden Catholic, Pope Francis, and BC High. And he expects at least one public school program to emerge too.
Who are the candidates? Burlington, ranked eighth, is one.
Seniors Sean Casey, Jeff Russo and Frankie Bonanno, who teamed up for 76 points last season in the Red Devils’ skated to the Division 1 North quarterfinals, form a prolific first line. Bonanno registered 21 assists while Casey and Russo each added double-digit goals.
However, Burlington’s strength goes much deeper than its first line.
The Red Devils return one of the state’s best goalies in senior Paul Barbieri, who registered a 1.77 goals against average with a .917 save percentage a year ago. Burlington also welcomes back five defensemen.
“The strength of our team is that we have experience in all three areas: in the goal, on defense and up front,” said Burlington coach Bob Conceison.
“We are a team that can skate and hit you with some quickness when we’re playing our best; puck movement and speed are the keys to our game.”
That experience and depth has paid off early for the Red Devils (3-0), who have outscored their first three foes, 10-1.
Bay State Conference contenders Braintree and Framingham will also be in the mix.
The two programs battled for the Division 1 South crown a season ago, with the Flyers pulling out a 2-1 double-overtime victory in the sectional final.
On Wednesday night at Loring Arena, the Flyers upended Braintree, 3-0, behind a pair of third-period goals by Mike Tersoni (27 points last season).
“That’s a guy that we’re going to look for all year long to make sure that he produces on the offensive end,” said Framingham second-year coach Will Ortiz.
“He showed that he can be a productive player.”
Tersoni said the Flyers are more a “grit” team.
“Get down in the dirty areas . . . and just keep fighting until the end. It’s a war every game,” he said.
Framingham also returns senior Alex Moore, a four-year starter in goal. He delivered 30 saves on Wednesday night.
The Wamps return four stalwarts, headlined by seniors Dara Canavan and Shawn Leslie, who combined for 49 points in 2016-17.
“I think the gap has closed a lot in the last few years [between the publics and the Catholics],” said Braintree coach Dave Fasano.
“You’ve always had the Hinghams and the Readings. Now Burlington’s there every year, Braintree’s there every year, Framingham’s there every year . . . we’re all going to be fighting at the end and the best team will be left standing.”
Junior Aidan Flynn also provides a spark offensively after a six-goal, 12-assist line last winter. Braintree also has a lockdown goaltender in senior Owen Cuddyer (1.47 GAA last season).
Goaltending will also be a critical piece for Arlington’s attempt at a repeat.
The Spy Ponders are missing the majority of their offense from their championship run. With coach John Messuri needing time to groom his new-look offense that graduated eight skaters, senior goalie Jack Pinard will be a focal point.
“Jack’s going to have to deal with a lot more than he dealt with last year,” Messuri said. “He’s going to see more quality shots, and he’s going to have to be the forgiver of sins for a while.”
With a number of Catholic programs sitting atop the rankings, JJ Harding and No. 4 Austin Prep will look to capture the Division 1A trophy after falling in last year’s play-in game.
One of the state’s most explosive players alongside Brown and Winship, Harding tallied an eye-popping 42 points last season.
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