Mass. D1A State Final Preview: Can St. John’s halt MC’s drive for five?

Kevin Doyle
Kevin Doyle
Kevin joined HNIB in 1990 and is a Senior Writer and Director of the Northern New England and Mass/R.I. High School Division camps. A veteran editor/writer of 40 years in the print and digital mediums, he has edited and produced original content and coordinated production for local and global publications and websites. He holds degrees from Merrimack College and Boston University and won multiple industry awards as Sports Editor of The Daily News of Newburyport and News Editor of The Amesbury News. He is the 2016 recipient of the North Shore Lifetime Commitment From the Community award presented by Moynihan Lumber and a 2017 Newburyport High School Wall of Fame inductee. He resides with his family in Portsmouth, NH. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @kdoyle40

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No. 2 Malden Catholic (19-1-2) has made the TD Garden its home away from home for the past five years, capturing the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Division 1A titles and positioning itself for a fifth straight Sunday night (7:45 p.m.). In doing so, MC has won 22 consecutive 1A games, including Wednesday night’s 6-3 semifinal decision of Austin Prep.

The Lancers are attempting to join Catholic Memorial (1991-95) as the only program to claim five consecutive 1A titles and to become just the third program in State history to win five straight State titles regardless of division. Matignon did so in Division One from 1980-84.

Conversely, when No. 4 St. John’s Prep (17-5-1) hits the Garden ice tonight for the first time since its 4-3 OT loss to MC in the 2011 1A title match, it will be seeking its first-ever 1A championship and the program’s first State title since 1985.

The Catholic Conference rivals played twice during the regular season. MC registered a 4-2 home win in mid-January, then the teams played to a 2-all draw in Wilmington a little more than two weeks later.

The Eagles are brimming with confidence and well they should be following Wednesday night’s 4-3 OT semifinal upset of the tournament’s top seed, previously unbeaten Springfield Cathedral. The winning goal came off the stick of junior third-liner Jeff Cowles, illustrating the Eagles’ growth throughout a season that started with many questions for coach Kris Hanson and his staff.

In fact, the third line Cowles, junior Sam Stone and junior Mitch Shaheen has been all over the scoresheet throughout the tournament, accounting for five goals and a dozen points. Sophomore second-liner Kyle Hentosh had the series winner in the Eagles’ two-game quarterfinal sweep of league rival B.C. High, a team they had lost to twice in the regular season.

Hentosh is joined by juniors Kyle Lynch and Billy Falter on that productive second line. The all-senior first line of Tyler Scearbo, Nick Latham and Ted McNamara has driven the offense from the start.

Steady junior goalie Kyle Martin has quietly emerged as the Eagles’ No. 1 keeper and is fronted by a defense that has just a single senior, Jack Montesanto, and is stocked with solid underclassmen such as junior Brian Groom and freshmen Paul Edson and Tim Usalis.

While Malden Catholic’s offense may not be as explosive as those of its recent predecessors, coach John McLean’s club is nevertheless averaging more than four goals per game. However, these Lancers hang their hats on defense and play it better than most, having yielded a mere 26 goals in 22 games and just seven in eight Catholic Conference games — four of them by St. John’s.

If the season-long goalie rotation holds to form, senior Alex Reissis will get the call in goal after sophomore Kyle Casey handled matters in Wednesday’s 6-3 semifinal win against Austin Prep. Senior captains John McLean and Will Lawrence and junior Pat Harrington are the core of that suffocating defense that rarely gives ground and polices the slot with authority.

Junior captain Matt Filipe is the leader of a balanced attack. Filipe, seniors Austin Goldstein and Jake Witkowski, and junior Jake Adams are all double-digit goal-scorers. A second layer of juniors Corey Goldstein, Cam Walter and Brendan White and sophomore Justin Collins provides quality depth.

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