Central Mass. Top 10: Several need strong finishes to reach post-season

Fran Sypek
Fran Sypek
Fran has covered hockey at all levels, NHL, AHL, junior, college and high school for the Springfield Republican from 1978-2013. His column "Hockey Talk'' appeared in the Sunday Republican. The hockey beat took him from Maine to Arizona in the United States and from Newfoundland to Alberta in Canada. Fran was the recipient of the Matthew Ryan Award for Outstanding Coverage of High School Hockey and the Janet McCormick Award from the Springfield Olympics. He then shifted from pros to college when the University of Massachusetts restored its program and joined Hockey East. Later, he continued covering the Boston Bruins and the Springfield Falcons. Fran's covered future NHL players from Western Massachusetts in Paul Fenton, Bob Kudelski, Rick Bennett and Bill Guerin. He is a member of the Bessone Award committee, which helps select the top high school hockey player in Western Mass. Fran was a goalie for Holyoke Community College in 1973-74 and graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1977. Fran is currently a free lance writer living in Bondsville, Mass and grew up in Chicopee, Mass, has visited all 50 states, and is an avid photographer.

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Central Mass. Top 10 Poll

RankTeamPrevious RankingWLT
1Shrewsbury11430
2North Middlesex21502
3Algonquin31033
4Wachusett4862
5Oakmont51042
6Leominster61061
7Worcester71142
8Nashoba91351
9Littleton81052
10Grafton10971

With a week to go until the regular season ends, teams are jockeying not only for higher tournament seeds, but also to qualify. For several teams, the race to get in appears to go down to the wire.

No. 1 Shrewsbury is expected to be the top seed and has already clinched. So have No. 2 North Middlesex and No. 3 Algonguin in Division 3. In Division 3A, No. 5 Oakmont, No. 6 Leominster, No. 7 Worcester, No. 8 Nashoba and No. 9 Littleton are in.  Several teams remain on the bubble entering the final week.

No. 4 Wachusett lost a lead and settled for a tie with Western Mass. power Westfield and that tie could be damaging to its Division 3 hopes. Wachusett needs two more wins to get in. No. 10 Grafton remains one victory away from qualifying.

Northbridge remains in the hunt and needs two more wins. Fitchburg needs one win and Lunenburg three to qualify.

Highlights

– Oakmont’s Kyle Klahre leads the region in scoring with 11 goals and 39 assists for 50 points. Teammate Kyle Thibault has 21 goals and 16 assists for 37 points to give Oakmont a solid 1-2 scoring punch entering the postseason.

– Shrewsbury will be led by Jack Quinlivan, who has 14 goals, 23 assists for 37 points, while teammate Trevor Shea has 17 goals, 16 assists for 33 points.

– Matt Tozeski scored three goals, including the winner with 60 seconds remaining, to lift Algonquin to a 5-3 victory over Leominster.

– Connor Bernard scored the winner with 17 seconds remaining during the second period to spark Wachusett to a 3-1 triumph over Auburn.

– Ryan Mlynaryk scored a pair of goals and set up another as Northbridge edged Hopedale, 3- 2. Sam Luukko collected the game-winner early in the third period. Jared Pitman and Shane McQuarrie scored for Hopedale.

– Liam Comeau and Connor Bernard staked Wachusett to a 2-0 lead, but Westfield came back to earn a 3-3 tie. Paul Happy also scored for Wachusett. Liam Whitman, Chris Sullivan and Mario Batallo (equalizer with 2:05 left) scored for Westfield.

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