One Social Media wit referred to to the MIAA Division One North Sectional Tournament as the Middlesex League Invitational when the field was announced on Saturday. For the first time in the 24-year history of the Division 1A Tournament, no Middlesex team qualified but there are six in this draw – including two-time defending State Champion Burlington.
Monday, Feb. 24
Westford at Waltham, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 26
Winchester vs. Newburyport, 5 p.m., Stoneham Arena
Waltham/Westford winner vs. St. Mary’s, 7:45 p.m., Stoneham Arena
Burlington vs. St. John’s (S), 7:10 p.m., Chelmsford
Melrose vs. Chelmsford, 5:10 p.m., Chelmsford
Arlington Catholic vs. Reading, 6 p.m., Woburn
Arlington vs. St. John’s Prep, 8 p.m., Woburn
Wilmington vs. Matignon, 5 p.m., Watertown
Medford vs. Acton-Boxboro, 7:45 p.m.,Watertown
1. St. Mary’s of Lynn (14-4-2)
The Catholic Central Large’s second-place team just missed the 1A cut. Senior captain and goalie Bailey MacBurnie (1.71, .929), who has seven shutouts, may give the Spartans a leg up on the field.
A balanced attack features the line of junior Shawn MacBurnie (12-15-27), freshman Dante Maribito (8-16-24), sophomore Jackson Allard (14-9-23) and senior captain Jordan Manthorne (10-6-16). Senior captain Chris Price, junior Clay Yianacopolus (5-5-10) and eighth-grader Max McKay (7-3-10) anchor the defense.
“We are very proud and honored to be the Number One seed for the Division 1 North tourney . The field is filled with very talented teams and we need to be at our best to be successful,” said coach Mark Lee.
2. Arlington (12-3-5)
The close-to-the-vest, defensive style of the Middlesex League should serve the ML Liberty Division’s second-place club well. Defense has been a season-long strength as coach John Messuri’s club has yielded just 38 goals, or 1.9 per game.
Arlington’s reward? Wednesday’s first-round match-up against perennial 1A participant St. John’s Prep.
3. Wilmington (12-3-7)
The two-time defending Division 2 State Champion Wildcats enjoyed a very good debut campaign in Division 1, mounting a 12-game unbeaten stretch while finishing third in the ML’s Freedom Division.
“D1 North is loaded with a lot of strong teams. There should be a lot of great games. We hope our past tourney success will help us manage in the high-octane atmosphere of the tourney,” said long-time coach Steve Scanlon. “One quality I like in my guys is their ability to come back, when they get down. They don’t go to pieces if they fall behind. That can be vital in the tourney.”
Wilmington boasts an X-factor in tournament tested senior goalie Drew Foley (1.68, .934, 3 SO). Offense comes from senior forwards Cody McGowan (15-14-29) and Luke Foley (14-13-27) and junior forward Steve DeFuria (10-6-16). Senior Jim Davey and junior Chris Sartori are staples on defense.
4. Melrose (12-4-5)
In just his second year at the helm, coach Vin Mirasolo has transformed the Raiders into a Middlesex Freedom Division force. They get a shot to reverse a regular-season loss to Chelmsford Wednesday. Seniors Eric Mercer, Jon Botelho and Mike DiRaffaele, juniors Jack Hickey and Zack Mercer, and senior goalie Joe Taglieiri have been solid.
5. Medford (12-5-3)
One of the better stories of this season has been the return of ex-NHLer Shawn Bates to his alma mater. The GBL may not be what it once was, but the Mustangs supplemented their schedule with games against Middlesex and MVC/DCL opponents and scored late ties against both Arlington and Burlington.
6. Arlington Catholic (13-6-1)
A split in their final 10 games removed the Cougars from the 1A conversation but Dan Shine’s third-place Catholic Central Large club is not to be overlooked. Senior goalie John Richard (1.85, .919, 3 SO) anchors a stout defense that yielded just 34 goals.
Junior forwards Ryan Smith (13-15-28), Ryan Tierney (9-15-24) and Ryan Spagnoli (10-8-18) and sophomore forward Andy Somerville (8-10-18) fuel the offense. Senior captains Brian Goggin and Jon-Luke Dee are top defensemen.
7. Burlington (10-3-8)
The Red Devils open against St. John’s of Shrewsbury. How do they execute a three-peat?
“We need to be in low-scoring, defensive battles in order to compete, especially with the skill level of the five Catholic teams in the bracket. The coaching staff is looking at this as an exciting challenge; we will make sure that the players are ready to accept this challenge as well,” said coach Bob Conceison.
Weird record aside, this is a talented club. Top scorers are sophomore forwards Anthony Nikolopoulos (15-8-23) and Robbie McLean (6-17-23). Senior captain Adam Crowley and junior Mike Bibbey patrol the blue line in front of senior goalie Mike Gulaserian (1.83, .922, 4 SO), who’s had a stellar season.
8. Winchester (11-5-5)
The Sachems overcame a slow start to their season to finish second in the Middlesex Liberty behind Reading. Junior goalie James Offner has played well and senior Nolan Redler is one of the state’s more dynamic forwards.
9. Newburyport (12-7-2)
The Clippers make history Wednesday as the first Cape Ann League team to skate at the D-1 level in post-season play. They closed strong with back-to-back wins against Matignon and Franklin and are driven by senior forward Travis Wile (10-15-25) and junior forward Ben Ventura (9-16-25). Freshman defenseman Ben Mirageas (7-11-18) is joined in back by junior Matt Kelleher (5-11-16).
10. St. John’s (S) (10-5-7)
The Pioneers stumbled a bit down the stretch but their strength of schedule – games against eight 1A team – matches any in the Sectional and they will test Burlington. Junior forwards Patrick Storer (11-12-23) and Kevin Quinlivan (10-10-20) and senior defenseman Bryan Nelson (9-13-22) are the top two-way players for first-year coach Mike Mead. Senior Mario Pizzeri (4 SO) provides the Pioneers a shot to win every night.
11. Acton-Boxboro (10-6-4)
The Colonials pushed Central Catholic for the MVC/DCL One title all season before succumbing in last Friday’s season finale, 3-2. Senior
captain Ben Barton (17-10-27) is AB’s pre-eminent offensive performer, assisted by senior Hunter Arnold and junior Julian Stewart. Seniors Cam Giles and Bobby Meinhold are top defenseman fronting senior goalie Brian Reilly (2 SO).
12. Reading (12-8-2)
The Rockets overcame a mid-year seven-game winless streak to win the Middlesex Liberty. Senior forwards Jake Barbera (18-16-34) and Mike Thomson (17-12-29), junior defenseman Mike Seibold (3-20-23) and senior goalie Ian Lapham (2.23, .903) have excelled.
“Reading is a little young and inexperienced but have some skill. We are opening with a tough opponent (Arlington Catholic.) Numerous teams could win this tournament,” said coach Mark Doherty.
13. Chelmsford (9-6-6)
The Lions are not to be overlooked and defeated Wednesday night’s opponent Melrose during the regular season, 2-1. Key players include senior forwards Mike DiDonato (10-10-20), Jesse Lye (11-5-16) and Danny Ferri (16 points). Blake Alber and Tim Huggins have both logged time in goal.
14. Matignon (10-9-1)
Former Matignon great Dan Lupo returned to take over the program and guided the Warriors to their first tournament appearance in five years. The team features core seniors J.T. Nichols, Brian Raimo and Jeff Renzi supplemented by underclassmen John Andrews, Mike McPherson, John LaPiana, Joe LaPiana , Cam Monagle and Matt McPherson. Goalie Ben Parker has been a force.
15. St. John’s Prep (9-9-2)
Do not – we repeat, do not – go to sleep on the Eagles, a perennial 1A qualifier stripped clean by graduation last season. They’ve been playing tournament-style hockey for nearly a month just to qualify by going 4-1-0 down the stretch. Seniors Jim Currier (11-23-34) and Mark Etherington (10-14-24) lead the offense. Seniors Ean Mendeszoon and Evan Leclerc are top defenders in front of freshman goalie Zach Laramie.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to compete in the D1 tournament. Being a .500 team we will need to play our best hockey to compete with the top teams in the tournament,” said coach Kris Hanson.
16. Waltham (8-8-5)
The Hawks topped Monday night’s foe Westford Academy in the regular season, 5-3, but were just 1-5-3 in their last nine. They lean heavily on senior forwards Ben Macewen (9-19-28) and Kevin Snow (15-10-25) and junior goalie Shamus Egan (3 SO).
17. Westford (7-7-6)
The Grey Ghosts defeated South D-1 No. 3 seed Milton on the season’s final day to qualify. Leading scorers are Cam MaDonald, Ryan Hesseltine and Anthony Gulliver and goalie Kyle Martin has excelled – including 59 saves in a 3-3 tie with Springfield Cathedral.
“Division 1 North should be a very exciting bracket We have played a very difficult schedule this year so we feel we are prepared for the level of competition that we will see in the tournament,” said coach Bob Carpenter.