There will be no secrets when South Sectional champion Hingham (15-8-3) meets North Sectional kingpin Arlington Catholic (16-7-2) for the Division One championship Sunday night at TD Garden (5:45 p.m.).
The teams tangled precisely one month ago in the Buddy Ferreira Classic, a 2-0 Hingham win, on Feb. 14. Both were left on the outside looking in at the 1A on Selection Sunday and each counts a 1A play-in qualifier and Sectional top seed among its post-season victims. Hingham ousted Xaverian in the South title game, 3-0, and AC bounced Burlington in the North quarterfinals, 2-0.
Both programs are seeking a fifth State title. AC won the 2010 D1 crown, the 1997 1A championship and D2 titles in 1990 and 1978. Hingham — the division’s lone Independent — has the 2010 1A crown, the 2001 D1 title, and D2 championships in 1997 and 1992 to its credit.
While the Harbormen may have had trouble gaining traction for much of the season — they were 7-8-1 after a Feb. 7 loss to 1A semifinalist Springfield Cathedral — they surely know who they are now and head into the title game on an 8-0-2 roll during which they have pounded opponents by a cumulative 41-15 count.
Coach Tony Messina’s club came together at the Ferreira against Catholic Central Large competition, defeating AC and Archbishop Williams to advance to the title game where they played 1A semifinalist Austin Prep to a 1-1 tie (AP won the title via shootout).
“We feel very fortunate to have caught fire at the right time. Our seniors and captains have been instrumental in leading the way. We have several inexperienced players and younger players who needed some seasoning. Our goal was to be a better team every day and the work ethic has been the key to turning our season around,” Messina said.
Hingham has averaged a tick under five goals per game in the tournament while picking off Weymouth (5-3) and highly-regarded Wellesley (4-0) out of the Bay State; Old Colony league co-champ Barnstable (7-2); and Xaverian of the Catholic Conference.
Senior captain Mike Saleski (4-12-16), a defenseman, and senior alternate captains and forwards Dan Shea and Jack Forbes have provided needed stability on a team chock full of underclassmen, including 17 juniors and sophomores. It was Shea who delivered the game-winner against Xaverian.
Sophomore Matt Demelis (18 goals) and junior Billy McNally (16 goals) both have four post-season goals and sophomore Matt Egan (15 goals) has delivered three. Shea, senior Ethan Iaria and sophomore Jack Hennessey have added two apiece. Saleski is the linchpin of an active defense, joined by fellow senior Nick Droster and sophomore standout Marc O’Rourke. Junior goalie Matt Personeni posted the shutout of Xaverian.
AC’s long-time coach Dan Shine said his club struggled establishing its identity for much of the season but that the Ferreira Classic wins against Duxbury and Waltham that followed the loss to Hingham put the Cougars “in a very positive frame of mind” and has triggered a six-game winning streak
“We have had a terrific balance during the tournament everyone contributing, rooting each other on, practicing hard each day and supporting each other. Players have taken a great deal of pride playing team defense. We have 14 seniors on this squad and it’s been a pleasure to be their coach,” Shine said.
Catholic Central Large runner-up AC (16-7-2) has yielded only three goals in the tournament and Shine said senior Dylan Morris “has been pristine in goal.” Billerica (4-2) and Andover (3-0) of the MVC/DCL One and Burlington (2-0) and Arlington (4-1) of the Middlesex League have fallen to the Cougars.
Offense is generated by senior captains Ryan Smith (19-18-37) and Ryan Spagnoli (10-10-20) and senior Ryan Tierney (10-9-19) as well as juniors Andy Somerville (12-22-34) and Bernie McGovern (8-24-33). Senior defenseman and captain Jack Rogers (6-9-15) is a consistent contributor in the offensive end and the anchor of a unit that yields fewer than two goals per game. Smith has been on fire with four tournament goals. senior Paul Frisoli and junior Matt Solviletti have also made key contributions.
“We beat them in a close game at the Buddy Ferreira Classic. We know the second time around will be even tougher. We’re expecting another close game that comes down to the wire,” Messina concluded.