MIAA Boys Division 1 State Final: Pope Francis, Xaverian Take Different Roads To Championship Game

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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There is a quite a contrast to Sunday’s meeting of fourth-seeded Pope Francis and seventh-seeded Xaverian for the MIAA Boys Division 1 state champioship at TD Garden.

On the one hand, you have a Pope Francis team that returned just about everyone from its 21-22 squad that reached the Round of 16 in last year’s tournament.

On the other hand you have a Xaverian team that played for the Division 1 state title a year ago (losing to St. John’s Prep), but lost 15 seniors from that club, meaning by necessity that a lot of younger players would be put into key roles in the lineup this season.

The Cardinals have been every bit as good as expected. They come in at 20-2-4 overall, fresh off a 1-0 semifinal win over defending champion St. John’s Prep, and possess a deep lineup.

The Hawks are 16-8-0, but seem to be playing their best hockey down the stretch. They got past Reading, 1-0 in overtime, in the semfinal round.

Everything points to this being a close, hard-fought game.

“Expect a low-scoring game that comes down to the wire,” said St. John’s Prep coach Kristian Hanson, whose team lost to Pope Francis this past weekend, and also played Xaverian twice in Catholic Conference play, winning both. “Neither team will give up an inch. We could be looking at another 1-0 game, possibly in overtime.”

The Cardinals program is no stranger to overtime in TD Garden. Who can forget the 2019 state final and their four OT epic against BC High?

Coach Brian Foley’s well balanced scoring attack has several different options and is spearheaded by the likes of senior captain Josh Iby (18-18-36), junior Mossy Kearney (16-23-39), sophomore CJ Watroba (22-15-37), senior captain Ryan O’Leary (9-21-30), sophomore Nick Petkovich (12-15-27) and junior Jacob Petrin (12-9-21)

Pope Francis has a deep blue-line crew which also gets involved offensively. Senior Colin Foyle (19 pts), junior Jake Jarrell (15 pts), sophomore Matt Bolduc (15 pts), junior Zach Buffone and junior Bryce Russ (10 pts) will be tasked to neutralize the Xaverian attack.

In goal, sophomore Nick Ritchie was spectacular in Sunday’s shutout win over St. John’s Prep and should get the call.

Despite their heavy graduation losses, Xaverian still has that much-needed senior leadership up front in seniors Gavin Moynihan (9-21-30), Liam Capplis (9-11-20) and Joe DiMartino (13-6-19). DiMartino had the OT game-winner vs Reading and has a knack for scoring big goals for the Hawks.

Here is a look at DiMartino’s overtime winner against Reading:

Junior Jesse Peck and sophomore Devin Gosciak, both of whom have 10 goals this season, must be watched as well. Sophomores Colvin Callahan and Jackson Morse, and freshman Jack Fitzpatrick all reached double digits in points as well.

Junior Cole LeBlanc (5-8-13) leads a young but solid blue line group for veteran coach Dave Spinale, a unit that also has juniors Matt Dion and Taejun Tow, and sophomores Nate Patch and Michael McGrath.

In this first year with the Hawks, junior Cole Pouliot-Porter has been nothing short of spectacular in the Xaverian cage, especially in the post-season run.

To reach the final, the Cardinals have marched through Bishop Feehan (6-1), Wellesley (3-2 in OT), Marshfield (3-2) and St. John’s Prep (1-0).

Xaverian has post-season wins over Shrewsbury (9-1), Belmont (5-2), Catholic Memorial (2-1) and Reading (1-0 in OT).

“A phenomenal job by coach Spinale to get back to the final,” Hanson said. “Xaverian plays with passion and intensity in all three zones. They can’t take their foot off the gas. Year in and year out, Pope Francis is a contender. Coach Foley is a great coach and his teams play the right way. They have a nice combination of skill, discipline and accountability. Winning it all is hard. [It is] a combination of skill and luck, and sometimes you need one more than the other!”

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