Poll the other 16 coaches who are participating in the Division 2 South tournament and they will be nearly unanimous in saying that Canton is the overwhelming favorite to repeat. After all, the Bulldogs extended their unbeaten run to 43 games before suffering their lone loss of the last two seasons.
Still, there are plenty of contenders looking to be the team to take down the defending champs. Here is a look at the field:
No. 1 Canton (17-1-3): The Bulldogs don’t have the burden of carrying an unbeaten record into the postseason this time around, but Brian Shuman’s squad still will have the target on their backs.
Seniors Johnny Hagan and Chris Lavoie have been the top scorers and go-to players all season, but Shuman said the play of senior defensemen Jack Connolly, Owen Lehane and Ronan O’Mahony has been just as key, along with senior goalie Joe Cammarata stepping up in his first season as a starter.
Shuman said the Bulldogs’ success this season “can be attributed to the many contributions of a lot of guys. We ran 3-4 lines all season and six defensemen. We will continue to try and benefit from that depth in the postseason.”
No. 2 Plymouth North (15-3-2): It already has been a historic season for the Blue Eagles, who captured the Patriot League Keenan Division for the program’s first league title since 1992, when the school still was combined with Plymouth South and playing in the Old Colony League.
The key to success for North has been the dominant top line of seniors Jason Norwood and Jake Fleet with sophomore Kevin Norwood. Sophomore Evan Hallissey has been another contributor to the offense.
The Blue Eagles also have gotten a big season from junior Jack Arnold, a three-year starter in goal, and a strong defense led by seniors Connor MacLeod and Tristan Vogelsang, juniors Joe Lawrence and Jamie Keep, and sophomore Matt Venetta.
No. 3 Norwood (14-3-3): Mustangs coach Chuck Allen won’t need to do much scouting for his first tournament opponent, a very familiar foe from the Tri-Valley League.
“We’ve already played (Westwood) twice, beat them twice by a goal,” Allen said. “They’re a good team, plus we’re playing them in their home rink (Canton Ice House).”
The Mustangs, who suffered two of their losses to Div. 3 South top seed Hopkinton, will go into battle led by a pair of TVL All-Stars in senior Anthony Marchant (9-24-33) and junior Jake Russo (15-10-25). Senior Harry Gover and junior Nick Spadorcia have been other solid scorers.
Junior Jack Lydon (3-12-15) has led the defense for Norwood and was named a TVL honorable mention.
No. 4 Whitman-Hanson (15-4-1): The Panthers finished third in the Patriot League Keenan Division behind champion Plymouth North, as well as defending Division 1 state champion Duxbury, and veteran coach Chris Googins is hoping that tough league schedule will pay dividends in the postseason.
Chris Stoddard is the senior captain and among the top forwards along with senior alternate captain Adam Solari and senior Ed Collins.
Juniors Jack Allen and Kevin Willis lead the defense in front of junior goalie Bob Siders.
No. 5 Southeastern (13-4-1): Fresh off winning another State Vocational Championship, the Hawks – who also draw players from West Bridgewater and Bristol-Plymouth – can turn their attention to the postseason.
Senior captain Matt Lavoie is the leader for the Hawks, along with juniors Adam Falcione and Liam Lydon.
Coach Mark Cabral sees SE’s first-round opponent, Scituate, as a sleeper pick in the bracket. “The rest of the field is wide open and between teams suffering from the flu and injuries this year it’s tough to tell who is strong and who isn’t.”
No. 6 Medway (12-3-5): Strong goaltending has been a hallmark of Mustangs playoff teams over the years, and this season should be no exception. Sophomore Evan Monaghan was named Tri-Valley League Small Goalie of the Year while backboning Medway to the division championship.
Sophomore defenseman Sam Marchionni (7-4-11) also was a TVL All-Star, with sophomore forward Alex Infanger (9-17-26) and junior forward Cole Theodore (11-9-20) earning honorable mention for TVL Small Coach of the Year Derek Harrington.
Senior forward Jack McCarthy (8-3-11), junior forward Declan McCarthy (10-2-12), sophomore forward Jack Carr (5-7-12) and sophomore defenseman Sean Murphy (3-7-10) add scoring depth.
No. 7 Dedham (13-4-3): The Marauders are coming off their most successful regular season since 2000-01. That also was the last time Dedham won a postseason game, something the Marauders hope to change.
The top line of seniors Alex Georgantas (28-19-47), Jack Roslonek (16-24-40) and Michael Flynn (6-20-26) have sparked the Marauders all season. Senior Connor Stamm has been solid in goal, helped by a trio of defensemen in junior William Parr (1-8-9), senior Reid Slavin (5-12-17) and junior Griffin Moulton (2-5-7).
“We feel if we play our game, with our depth and veteran leadership, we feel we have enough to make some noise,” Dedham coach Dan Lynch said.
No. 8 Dighton-Rehoboth/Seekonk (14-5-1): The Warriors are confident heading into their first postseason game in four years, and coach Tom Fecteau hopes talent will overcome that lack of playoff experience on his roster.
“All I can ask of my players is to play with intensity and discipline, compete at a high level and play effectively in our own zone,” Fecteau said.
Freshman Liam Fecteau (17-25-42) has been the key offensive leader for D-R/Seekonk, which has had a number of young players step up to fill in after some critical injuries to still put together a strong season. Forwards Devin Dailey (sophomore, 16-13-29) and Noah Bastis (freshman, 10-13-23), as well as junior defenseman Wyatt Nastar (4-21-25), add to the depth. One big key, according to coach Fecteau, will be the play of senior Paul Jarvis (1.73 GAA) in net.
“We know we will need to play well defensively and limit our penalties,” Fecteau said. “Our goalie, Paul Jarvis, has had a good season and we are looking for a quality effort from him once again. All year long, he has given our team an opportunity to win. He has been the backbone of our team.”
No. 9 Medfield (11-5-4): Warriors coach Toby Carlow said he didn’t know much about D-R/Seekonk, his team’s first-round matchup, other than noting they always will need to be wary of a tough game from a higher seed.
As for his team, Medfield will look to forwards Mike Tyer (senior captain, 12-15-27), Phil Parker (junior, 15-11-26) and Sam Palmer (junior, 7-10-17), as well as senior defensemen John Schofield (4-9-13) and Jim Cosolito (2-10-12). Junior forwards Mike Vachon (10-6-16) and Chris Lawson (5-11-16) also added double-digit points.
“The bracket is loaded with a lot of good hockey teams,” Carlow said.
No. 10 Brookline (13-7-1): Much like their first-round opponent Dedham, the Warriors will look to extend their best season in almost two decades.
“Brookline set a goal at the beginning of the season of advancing in the tournament,” coach Michael Yanovitch said. “The team has played up to its competition during the year and looks to play with urgency in the tourney. Rolling three lines with a fourth that has had some players step up at the end of the season will be an advantage.”
The obvious leader is sophomore Grayson Badger (26-15-41), along with his linemates senior Colin Finnegan (12-12-24) and junior Aiden Chin (9-9-18). Freshman Emmet Teahen has emerged as a strong second-line center with freshman Steve MacDougall and sophomore Rohan Gervais.
Defensively the Warriors will look to four-year seniors Eli Bak and Zack Cohen, as well as junior Ellis Vish (6-6-12) and sophomore Jacob Gurdin. Backing them up is senior goalie Gil Markman, a transfer from Pope Francis who has experience playing in the Super Eight tournament.
No. 11 Apponequet (10-5-4): The Lakers, who co-op with Old Colony, put together a solid first season under coach Ed Botelho to qualify for the tournament out of the South Coast Conference after a year’s absence.
Look for junior Jacob Gauthier (16-13-29), freshman William Harrop (14-11-25) and senior Ethan Harrop (9-13-22) to be the clear offensive leaders for Apponequet. Junior Marc Drouin (8-3-11) is another leading goal scorer.
Senior Carson McGrath (8-6-4) has seen most of the action in goal for the Lakers.
No. 12 Scituate (12-7-1): If the saying that “defense wins championships” holds true, the Sailors might in good shape. Coach Brian Hurcombe says his team has a strong, active defense that has been tough to score on this season (1.95 goals per game), and it will be needed in close, low-scoring games as the Sailors have struggled at times putting the puck in the net themselves.
Senior captain Nick Spinella (14 points) is the top scorer, while the Sailors also get senior captain Jack Thompson back from injury in time for the playoffs.
“The offense is generated by three hard-working lines and they will need to crack the code in order to make a run,” Hurcombe said.
No. 13 Wareham/Carver (11-8-1): The Vikings enter the playoffs with only three seniors, but they are key players at their respective positions as the team qualified for the third year in a row. Quirino doCanto is a high-scoring forward who earlier this season surpassed 150 career points. Meanwhile, Brian Gallagher has been the anchor of the defense in front of senior goalie Alex DeMarco.
Junior Tyler Lovendale also reached 100 career points this season and will join doCanto in leading the offense.
No. 14 Westwood (10-8-2): It’s known as “the streak” and it’s a big deal in Westwood, where the Wolverines have qualified for the postseason for 38 consecutive seasons, an MIAA record.
“I’m very proud of the team for battling all season to get over .500 by gaining key points down the stretch to qualify for the tournament a 38th consecutive season,” Westwood coach Matt Sebet said. “How deep our run goes will rely on our goaltending/team defense and timely scoring.”
Senior captain Ben Goodrich (2.17 GAA, 3 SO) is in net, protected by seniors Nikita Manakin, A.J. Maalouf, and junior captain Kevin McGough. A trio of juniors – captains Nick Horsfall (7-15-22) and Colin Fahey (10-5-15), as well as Johnny Nolte (7-9-16) – are the top offensive players.
Sebet noted the Wolverines are looking ahead to the challenge of facing a Norwood team after losing twice in the regular season.
No. 15 Bishop Feehan (10-8-2): The Shamrocks won the Eastern Athletic Conference title in its last season of existence before they head off to the Catholic Central League beginning next season. They would like to carry that momentum into the playoffs and possibly bring a sectional title along with that.
Seniors Jason Sullivan (13-16-29) and Kevin Borah (12-12-14) have been the sparks at forward along with junior Kevin Barrera (14-11-25). Senior Thomas Potenza is a strong skater and leader of the defense in front of sophomore goalie Ryan D’Amato (1.50 GAA).
“The team has come together nicely over the last half of the season,” said Feehan coach Kevin Dunn, noting a 6-2-2 record down the stretch. “We are playing with confidence in front of (D’Amato).”
Dunn hopes Feehan’s strong skating and passing style of play will spark a postseason run.
No. 16 North Attleboro (7-7-6): The Red Rocketeers had their season come to a stunning end with a loss to Hockomock League rival Taunton in a preliminary round game. Senior Dennis Morehouse (13-20-33) led the way for North Attleboro offensively, along with seniors Jake McNeany (5-7-12), Jack Connolly (11-6-17) and senior defenseman Will Yeomans (2-9-11).
Senior Nick DiGiacomo (2.63 GAA) saw most of the action in net for the Red Rocketeers.
No. 17 Taunton (9-9-3): The Tigers already made history, scoring their first-ever win against Hockomock League rival North Attleboro in a preliminary round game. Now they set their sights on another league foe, this time defending state champ Canton.
Senior Sean Bunker will be a big key in net for Taunton, while senior Michael Albert (14-22-36) is the offensive spark after cracking 100 career points during the season. Sophomore Jack DeMoura (1-21-22) has proved to be a valuable distributor, and classmates Nathan Fernandes (5-10-15) and Loran Corcoran (7-9-16) have added offensive depth along with freshman Connor McGrath (6-6-12).
Junior Brady Nichols (14-17-31) anchors the defense and has been a big two-way player for the Tigers.