MIAA Boys Division 1 State Final: Can Winchester Contain #1 Seed St. John’s Prep?

Gary Demopoulos
Gary Demopouloshttp://www.hnibnews.com
Gary Demopoulos has been covering prep school hockey for the HNIB News for over 30 years, and has been the editor of the HNIB News since 2005. A former sportswriter and news editor at the Woburn (MA) Daily Times Chronicle, he has been the HNIB News' key reporter for Mens Prep School hockey since 1988, as well as womens hockey, both at the prep school and high school levels. for almost 20 years. Gary also helps organize and oversee HNIB's many summer tournaments and festivals for scholastic players.

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One team many expected would be here. The other, maybe not as much, when the 2023-2024 high school season got underway way back in March.

But here we are, the 2024 MIAA Division 1 state final. On one side you’ve got #1 seed St. John’s Prep, tabbed by most prognosticators in the pre-season as one of the favorites to get to the TD Garden. The other, a gritty Winchester team entering as the #11 seed, a team that has answered every bell so far in the post-season.

Will Winchester (16-9-1) be able to disrupt what has been a smooth running machine in the post-season for the Prep? Or will the Eagles’ senior-laden talent and speed be too much?

We will find out on Sunday. Faceoff is scheduled for 5:30pm at TD Garden.

St. John’s Prep (21-3-0) actually lost its opening game of the season to Hingham, then reeled off 12 straight wins. The Eagles then fell in OT to Catholic Conference rival Catholic Memorial, and followed that with a 3-1 loss to Arlington Catholic.

Since then the Eagles have won nine in a row, outscoring its opponents to the tune of 43-9. They have allowed just one goal in their last three tournament games, including shutouts in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds over Hingham and Xaverian.

Curt Colarullo, whose Arlington Catholic squad beat the Prep 3-1 back on February 3, had this to say about the Eagles heading into this state final.

“St. John’s has so much talent. They can come at you with four lines,” he said. “They are fast. They attack the offensive zone with speed, get the puck to the net and swarm. Top to bottom, they are all very good players.”

Johhny Tighe
St John’s Prep

Veteran St. John’s Prep coach Kristian Hanson has a plethora of offensive weapons in his arsenal, led by senior captains Jake Vana (34 pts), Christian Rosa (33 pts) and Johnny Tighe (25 pts).

Mason Luciano
St. John’s Prep

Cam Umlah (21 pts), Mason Luciano (10 goals), Cooper Hosmer (16 pts) and Caleb White (15 pts) are also heavily involved.

Jack Doherty
St. John’s Prep

On the blue line, senior Brady Plaza (4-19-23) has blossomed into the of the state’s top blueliners. Senior captain Jack Doherty (17 pts) is another mainstay in the defensive zone.

In goal, junior AJ Farese has been a workhorse.

Colarullo is also very familiar with Winchester, having lost to the Red & Black, 3-2, in overtime in Sunday’s semifinal.

“Winchester has a great transition game,” the AC coach said. “Their defense did a great job of turning the puck around and getting it ot the wings high in the neutral zone. They need to take away the middle of the ice. Keep the pressure to the outside. Bend, don’t break. St. John’s will get their shots. They (Winchester) will need to to limit the number of second chance opportunities on rebounds.”

The Red & Black have won three of of their four tournament games in overtime: 3-2 over Waltham in the opening round, 3-2 in double OT over Arlington in the Round of 16, and the 3-2 win over Arlington Catholic. In the quarterfinals, Winchester was impressive in a 4-1 win over Catholic Memorial.

Danny Collins
Winchester

All three members of Winchester’s big first line each have an overtime game-winner in the post-season. Senior captains Danny Collins (37 pts) and David Strong (25 pts) are joined on the top unit by sophomore Luke Sardone (25 pts).

David Strong
Winchester

Secondary scoring has come from the likes of Chris McCarthy (16 pts) and Caiden Brady (14 pts).

In the Winchester net, junior Aiden Emerick has emerged as a huge key to the team’s success.

Captain Jack Duncan and sophomores Adam Krogmeier (14 pts) and Nolan Wrenn have had solid seasons on defense.

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