Massachusetts Boys Division 1 Preseason Top 20
|12||St. John's (S)||15||8||3|
|15||St. John's Prep||15||5||4|
Where to begin? How about where we finished off last year when BC High scored in the final minute of regulation and won in OT, 2-1, to deny Pope Francis its first-ever Division 1A championship.
Both teams are loaded once again, but we’re going to flip the script.
Independent No. 1 Pope Francis (21-5-3) – the loosely-formed Catholic West Conference having been dissolved – was the division’s highest-scoring team a year ago. The Cardinals return three of the state’s most dynamic forwards in Makem Demers, Max Cocchi and Jon Tavella, who combined for 40 goals and 110 points as juniors. The defense is deep and the goaltending is stout.
The same can be said of reigning Catholic Conference kingpin No. 2 BC High (19-4-1). Last year’s 1A crown was the program’s fifth and there’s no reason to think that the Eagles won’t be in the mix for a sixth come March. Brothers Thomas, Peter and Joseph Kramer (24-51-75) combined a year ago) drive the offense. The defense and goaltending appear sound.
Their first meeting could occur on Day Two of the annual Peter Frates Classic on Dec. 28 at the Essex Sports Center in Middleton.
No. 3 Marshfield (15-6-6) of the Atlantic Coast owns the deepest roster in the division. Coach Dan Connolly returns 19 players from last year’s South Sectional champion, including six forwards that scored in double digits. Senior Jack Gatie (1.70 gaa, 4 SOs) looms large in goal for the Rams.
Pay attention to Middlesex League Liberty Division power No. 4 Arlington (12-7-4), which captured the 1A championship two seasons ago. A contingent of three-year junior and senior veterans from that team still pack the roster and that alone makes coach John Messuri’s club dangerous.
Middlesex Freedom power No. 5 Burlington (19-5-0), a Top Six 1A selection last year, graduated heavily. However, if there is one hallmark of coach Bob Conceison’s tenure it is that the Red Devils never rebuild. There are always capable players waiting patiently to get their shot.
Don’t sleep on No. 6 Xaverian (12-7-5) out of the Catholic Conference. The Hawks should take flight with more than a dozen returnees, led by standout senior Josh Barton (32 points) and a tandem of tested goalies in seniors AJ Scott and James Herring.
For a while there last year No. 7 Braintree (11-7-6) of the Bay State Herget owned a record that more closely resembled a soccer side. The Wamps closed with a rush, however, and 12 players return from the South Sectional finalist.
Independent No. 8 Hingham (14-6-6) reached the final game of the Elimination Bracket in last year’s1A tourney. Coach Tony Messina’s crew returns 10 and will need someone to step into the void left by graduated goalie Robbie Kornack (10 SOs).
No. 9 Andover (13-7-2) of the MVC/DCL One qualified for the program’s first-ever 1A Tournament last season. This team’s strength is on offense and coach Chris Kuchar is ready to unleash a speedy swarm of talented forwards.
No. 10 Catholic Memorial (10-10-2) aspires to much more than last season’s South Sectional quarterfinal appearance. Coach Larry Rooney’s club is stocked with 16 veterans and features balanced offense and a stacked back line that will serve it well in the Catholic Conference.
No. 11 Austin Prep (13-7-1) of the Catholic Central Large has holes to fill but the defending league champ is the odds-on choice of coaches to repeat in the CCL Large again and that carries some weight.
Independent No. 12 St. John’s of Shrewsbury (15-8-3) features six forwards that combined for 51 goals for last year’s 1A qualifier. Defensive development will dictate the Pioneers’ path this winter.
No. 13 Waltham (18-5-2) of the MVC/DCL One will count on a core group of returnees who were crucial to the Hawks winning their first North Sectional championship in 16 years last March.
No. 14 Winchester (15-8-1) of the Middlesex Liberty reached the North Sectional title game last season and returns many players key to that success, starting with sophomore goalie Rob DiVincenzo.
This will be an intriguing season for No. 15 St. John’s Prep (15-5-4) of the Catholic Conference. The Eagles lost heavily to graduation and transfer and will lean on a core group to remain a challenging out.
No. 16 Reading (10-9-2) of the Middlesex Liberty gained valuable experience on the fly a year ago and is poised to contend for a league title and more.
No. 17 St. Mary’s (12-7-4) of the Catholic Central lost a 1A play-in game last year then fell in a North quarterfinal. There’s some unfinished business here. The Spartans boast offensive balance.
No. 18 Central Catholic (22-3-0) is under new management as D.J. Conte has taken over as head coach. His team will have plenty of new faces as the Raiders suffered some heavy roster losses.
No. 19 Franklin (12-6-4) of the Hockomock’s Kelly-Rex Division returns a large group of regulars who will be supplemented by juniors and seniors moving up.
No. 20 Newburyport (13-4-6) of the Cape Ann League recorded the program’s first D1 tournament win in its fifth D1 season. Fourteen regulars are back for the North Sectional semifinalist.