D1/D2 Elite 8: Duxbury and St. John’s Prep Advance to Final 4

Stoneham, MA – MassNZ was back again for a second night in a row at Stoneham Arena to take in a D2 Elite 8 matchup between the Chieftains of Masconomet and the Dragons of Duxbury. Masconomet enters the tournament as the 15-seed and Duxbury as the 10-seed and both knocked off higher seeds to get here for a chance to play their way to the TD Garden. In pregame there was an audible buzz, the Masco student section was loud and proud early and Duxbury brought a strong contingent as well.

In the first period, both teams were playing fast right out of the gate as they looked to exit their defensive zone with pace and create chances up ice. The teams were trading chances at both ends in the opening minutes and it would be Masco to break the seal. Senior defender Anthony Cerbone flipped a pass up to a streaking sophomore Miles Mireault who slipped one through on the partial breakaway to make it 1-0 Chieftains. Duxbury came back strong with a response shift and just two minutes later they would get the equalizer. On the power play, senior David Pittenger found senior Brady Walsh at the top of the zone and he fired one home top shelf to even the scoring at 1-1. For the balance of the period it was end-to-end action with odd-man chances and close calls but no additional scores added to the scoreboard. Walsh was called for a penalty at the end of the period for some extracurricular bumping which would be assessed in the second.

In the middle frame, Walsh went to the box but his teammates killed off the penalty, and from there they rode the momentum and created several good scoring chances. A few minutes later Masco made a push and earned a power play of their own but that also went for naught as the Dragons defense was stern. Both teams were trading chances all period but the defenses were great at limiting opportunities around Grade A areas. Despite the even play, there would be a goal added by senior Cormac Weiler of Duxbury as he crept to the left post and shoveled home a loose puck to make it 2-1 Duxbury with two and a half minutes to go. That would be our score after two; both teams were looking for the knockout blow.

In the third period, Duxbury turned up the neutral zone pressure and forced Masco to largely play in their defensive zone. They showed active sticks and aggressive play at the top of the zone and that meant the shot totals dropped significantly for Masco. For most of this period it was a clinic in clean zone exits and hard work along the boards to win battles and dig pucks out. It stayed scoreless in this frame until 10 minutes in when a 2-on-0 breakout left Walsh alone in front and he stuffed it home at the left post. There seemed to be much consternation in the stands that the puck didn’t go in the net but the referees were convinced that it had: hence the score was 3-1 Dragons. Sure enough, that score would hold despite Masco pulling their goalie with 1:52 to go and blitzing the net with shots from all over. Duxbury took the win and advanced to the Final 4 to take on Boston Latin on March 10, time and location TBA.

Three Stars:

  1. F Brady Walsh, Duxbury
  2. F David Pittenger, Duxbury 
  3. G Anthony Rabeni, Duxbury

D1 Elite 8: SJP Tops Hingham 3-0

Stoneham, MA – MassNZ stuck around for the second half of the doubleheader featuring the top-seeded St. John’s Prep Eagles taking on the eight-seeded Hingham Harbormen in a highly anticipated matchup of D1 powerhouses. There was a buzz in the rink pregame as both fan bases packed the rink 30 minutes prior and started chanting as early as 45 minutes pregame. The SJP fans aka The Nest were decked out in…what else…a USA theme They took up at least two sections at the far end of the rink wear the Eagles defend twice. The Hingham faithful aka The Red Army came in well-branded in a season of red and white with jerseys, hats, scarves and all kinds of other refinery and packed an entire section on the corner where Hingham defended twice. We saw a large number of other MIAA players, including players from teams still in the D1 tournament as well as some whose seasons had ended but they all wanted to see this game. There is no other support quite like you see in this MIAA hockey community. These players grew up playing against each other and want to be there when their buddies succeed. Absolutely love to see it. The buzz built up to a fever pitch at puck drop – we were ready, the student sections were ready, let’s play hockey.

In the first period, the action started fast and furious as both teams had a jump in their step and the physicality started early as SJP initiated and Hingham responded. This game had more pace and strength than any playoff game we have seen to this point and we would expect nothing less from these two programs. It was decidedly even early until SJP took advantage of a loose puck in the crease. Junior Mason Luciano saw the puck sitting near the goal post and snapped it past sophomore Michael Karo to make it 1-0 Eagles. That would be the only scoring in this first period but it set the tone for the type of game that would follow. SJP was relentless on the forecheck and delivered solid hits along the boards to wear down Hingham’s resolve. The Harbormen answered back with their superior speed and went in on the breakaway shortly after the goal, nearly tying this thing up and earning a power play out of the deal. There were a few other close calls as senior Christian Rosa rang the crossbar midway through the frame. We have a feeling this isn’t the last goal we will see tonight, these teams are just too determined. Onto the second…

In the middle frame, Hingham came out of the room with a steely determination. They were heavier, they were stronger and they were aggressive which led to a few shifts in the SJP defensive zone. The Harbormen were able to create pressure, but in true Eagles fashion, they packed the middle and dove to block shots to keep the crease clear for junior goalie AJ Farese. There were plenty of chances at both ends but the advantage in terms of puck possession favored Hingham slightly over these 15 minutes. You could tell how disciplined and intentional both teams were being in the defensive zone: safe zone exits, no overhandling: just get the puck up and get it out. Both teams had their chances with pucks squibbing just wide of the crease off the rush but ultimately nobody was able to bury one and on we went with the score still 1-0 SJP.

In the third period, it was put up or shut up time for Hingham and they answered the bell early. They started the period with a couple of good defensive shifts followed by pinning St John’s Prep deep in their zone for a couple of minutes. The Prep fought back and evened the tilt in the ice and as the frame wore on they began to tighten up the pressure. Hingham was doing everything they could to break through the neutral zone, but it was tough sledding. The Harbormen engaged their feet off both wings and did create a couple of scrums out front, but Farese was quick to pounce on the puck to get faceoffs. Time was ticking away as it started getting late in the frame and you could feel the urgency coming from the Harbormen bench. They smartly called timeout with 1:52 remaining and pulled their goalie as the upcoming draw was in the offensive zone. Just 38 seconds later, senior Johnny Tighe won a battle for a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated the puck into enemy territory, tossing it into the empty net to seal this game. Following the goal, the SJP coaching staff called their timeout with 1:15 to go and it seemed to pay off as senior all-everything captain Jake Vana found a sliver of daylight short side on the rush to make it 3-0 with 26 seconds to go. That would be your final score as St. John’s Prep will advance to the Final Four to take on Catholic Conference rival Xaverian on Sunday in a rematch of the D1 State Championship game from two years prior.

Three Stars:

  1. G AJ Farese, St. John’s Prep
  2. F Mason Luciano, St. John’s Prep
  3. F Johnny Tighe, St. John’s Prep