The 17-team Division 3 South bracket already is under way following a single preliminary-round game, but begins in earnest with first-round action Thursday and Friday for the remaining 16 teams. No surprise, but most coaches point to defending champ and top seed Hopkinton as the favorite, with Hanover and Norwell as other top contenders. Bishop Stang, Foxboro and North Quincy are among the potential sleepers.
Here is a look at the 17-team field:
No. 1 Hopkinton (19-1-0): The Hillers didn’t miss a beat coming off last year’s Division 3 South title and run to the state final, posting the best record in school history and tying for the most wins in the state among boys teams.
Senior forward Kyle Rogers was named Tri-Valley Large MVP and formed a solid combo with senior Sean Walsh, who became the program’s all-time leading scorer. Will Quinlan, Dan Kirk and Tommy Hamblet round out a solid group of senior veterans up front, while freshman Pavit Mehra has added spark to the lineup for coach Chris MacPherson.
Defensively the Hillers look to senior Drew Saporoschetz and juniors Andrew Gilbert, Ronnie Shamus and Cam Jerrett in front of senior goalie Gray Bailey.
No. 2 John Paul II (16-2-2): Lions coach Chris Kent was pleased with the hard work put in throughout the lineup.
“The effort that is put into practice translated into the games, which contributed to their success,” Kent said. “The kids in this program have developed a very cohesive, disciplined game.”
Junior Gunnar Stevens (1.25 GAA, .940 SP) has been a stalwart in net for the Lions, while the offense has been carried by seniors Ben Baxter (28-13-41), Joey Manning (10-24-34), Kurtis Weber (10-15-25), D.J. Marrs (6-12-18) and Sean Roycroft (4-5-9). Juniors Sam Delman (8-6-14) and Declan Tolley (3-12-15), as well as sophomores Michael Kornek (11-13-24) and Charlie Baroni (7-10-17) also have been key players, along with eighth-grader Avery Richardson (6-10-16).
Defensively, sophomores Anthony Kent and Jack Sherwood have been the top players for the Lions.
No. 3 Hanover (16-3-1): The Indians will be looking to make a deeper run this season after being upset in the quarterfinals a year ago.
Senior Ethan Davis, as well as juniors Manning Morris and Nate Delprete, have been the most consistent scorers this season for coach Jonny Abban’s squad. Sophomores Christian Sacco and Robbie Hanna have added depth.
Defensively, junior Ryan Larvey and sophomores Zach Lee and Thao Lanagan have been solid two-way players. Seniors Matt Rowe and John Aidonidis are the goalies.
No. 4 Dartmouth (16-3-1): The Indians ended their season with a pair of losses, but still earned a high seed in the bracket and will be among the teams to watch.
“We are still confident in our ability to make a run in the tournament,” Dartmouth coach Mike Cappello said. “Our strength all season has been our speed and depth, but we will need more than that to move through the tournament.”
Senior Angelo Nicolosi (13-28-41), sophomore J.C. Frates (18-14-32) and senior Payton Allen (18-11-29) are the top scorers for Dartmouth, but several others have contributed. Sophomores Reid Martin (5-15-20), Damien Medeiros (6-13-19) and Nick Howarth (9-8-17), as well as junior Sam Canniff (5-12-17) provide solid depth.
John Kerney (1.28 GAA, .919 SP) has had a strong season in net for the Indians.
No. 5 Somerset Berkley (16-4-0): After ending its previous co-op with Case, the Raiders made the move back down to Div. 3 South this season and look to be in good shape after also winning the South Coast Conference championship.
Senior Dylan Belchior is the starting goalie for Somerset Berkley, which gave coach Kevin Snyder his 200th career victory earlier this season. Forwards Will Simons and Jonathan Pacheco, as well as defenseman Vincent Russell are the team’s only other seniors. Junior Evan Affonso is another player to watch.
No. 6 Norwell (16-3-3): There might not be a hotter team in the tournament than the Clippers, who ended the regular-season on an 11-game win streak that included a victory against Hanover in the Gould Memorial Cup. Norwell also took the Old Oaken Bucket trophy against neighboring rival Scituate during the season.
Clippers coach Jim Casagrande points to senior captains Harry Reed, Matt Ward and Luke Norton as the key players entering the postseason.
No. 7 Foxboro (10-4-5): As one of the lone Division 3 teams in a Hockomock League filled with larger schools, the Warriors once again enter the tournament battle-tested.
“This is the first time in program history where we don’t have to a play a preliminary game and it’s the highest seed the program has ever achieved, so we’re excited about that,” coach Mark Cedorchuk said.
Senior captain Espen Reager continues to be the rock for the Warriors in the net, while the offense has been led by the likes of senior captain Ronnie MacLellan, senior Kyle McGinnis, junior Kirk Leach, and sophomores Eion Reager and Jack Watts.
“D3 South is a deep bracket with a lot of good teams, I know our guys are looking forward to the challenge,” Cedorchuk said.
No. 8 Nantucket(12-6-2): The Whalers made history as the first champion of the new Cape & Islands Lighthouse Division, an encouraging sign for coach Scott Corbett entering the postseason.
“Our season went better than I think most people thought it would go,” Corbett said. “We had the toughest schedule a Whalers team has played. I knew going into the season we would have the talent to be able to be successful, it was just a question of how quickly we could get the players to buy in and become a cohesive unit.
“It took about a month to get us where we needed be both individually and as a team. We are playing well and with confidence right now.”
The Whalers rely heavily on the top two lines, which include senior captains Gavin Fey (9-6-15) and Jeffrey Duame, juniors Jack Gammons (9-9-18) and Marsh Hickman (10-11-21), and sophomore Hudson Perry (6-9-15). Junior Alex Freeman (7-5-12) is the top blueliner, but will be joined by junior Sam O’Keefe, who missed much of the season with an injury. The Whalers also will ride the play of junior James Culkins in net.
Stang has good balance throughout the lineup, starting with sophomore Matt Dore (1.44 GAA, .942 SP) in net, out to defenseman junior Ryan Martin (3-12-15), and then led by forwards Ben Saunders (junior, 10-9-19) and Justin Gouveia (sophomore, 11-6-17). Senior forwards William Lafrance (5-6-11) and Matt Walsh (1-8-9) are the captains.
“Our strength is our goaltending, team defense, and overall depth,” Gouveia said. “We play four lines and six defensemen, so it truly is a team effort.”
No. 10 Abington (11-6-3): The Green Wave enjoyed a turnaround from a four-win campaign a season ago to get back into the tournament under first-year coach Bryan Woodford. Now they’re looking to get another crack at Foxboro after falling to the Warriors in the Dan Jordan Cup final last week.
“We need to neutralize their size with our speed to win,” said Woodford, who is looking forward to playing on the bigger ice in Canton.
Junior left winger John Polito is Abington’s top goal scorer, and senior right wing Colin McDonald the overall points leader. Senior captain Joe McCarthy has brought leadership and disciplined play on and off the ice. Sophomore Mikey Pineau has sparked the second line at center. Senior captain Drew Wilson is in net.
No. 11 Blue Hills (12-8-0): The Warriors finished second in the Mayflower Athletic Conference and return to the postseason after missing out a year ago.
Coach David Tapper’s team has been led by the two-way scoring punch of sophomores Jake Curley (28-17-45) and Chris Sarno (14-31-45), as well as senior defensemen Brendan Spinale (6-20-26) and Joe Picard (3-14-17). Forwards Chris Lee (junior, 3-6-9), Joe Mercuri (freshman, 2-5-7), Josh Tucker (senior, 1-7-8) and Tristan McDonough (sophomore, 4-3-7) also have added scoring.
Sophomore Frankie Pungitore is in net for the Warriors.
No. 12 Martha’s Vineyard (11-7-2): Veteran coach Matt Mincone says it has been an “up and down” season on the island, but the Vineyarders are hoping to hit their peak again entering the tournament.
Sophomore Graham Stearns (2.63 GAA) will be a key player for the Vineyard, and Mincone will be looking for strong play from seniors Hoffie Hearn, Kenny Hatt, Jackson Pachico and Jackie Pizzano, all three-year players on the blue line.
Seniors Colby Zarba and Logan Araujo, junior Hunter Meader and sophomore Cam Geary are the top forwards. “They are spread out in the lines but will also be key cogs in any success we may have,” Mincone said.
No. 13 Rockland (10-7-3): Bulldogs coach Mike Flaherty is excited to be in the postseason with a young group that includes nine freshmen and an eighth-grader among their 17 skaters.
Junior Nick Blonde (15-17-32) is one of the key upperclassmen and the top scorer at forward, followed by sophomore Jake Higgins (9-13-22) and freshman Joey Salamone (15-4-19).
“These three guys have been great up front all season long and really helped us replace losing a 30-goal scorer from last season,” Flaherty said.
Junior Nick Leander (0-5-5) and freshman Sean Geary (3-6-9) have anchored the defense in front of junior goalie Thomas McSweeney (2.45 GAA, .905 SP).
No. 14 North Quincy (10-8-2): The Red Raiders were able to navigate a season full of adversity to qualify for the postseason. “I can without a doubt say this has been the most challenging year for a team that I have been around in my 11 years at NQ,” coach Matt Gibbons said.
Senior defenseman Andrew Hally was lost to injury early in the season, then came the devastating neck injury suffered on the ice by senior Connor Kulig and the remarkable story around his recovery. Junior Charlie Maher also suffered a broken hand later in the season.
“Through all of this these young men have scratched and clawed their way to a tournament bid. I couldn’t be prouder of this group,” Gibbons said.
Top players for North Quincy include senior captain and defenseman Cormac Flaherty, junior forwards Mike Izzo and Ronan Kelly, and sophomore defenseman James Hooley.
No. 15 Greater New Bedford (10-8-2): The Bears had a tough season in the South Coast Conference, but went 7-0-1 in non-league games to punch their ticket for the fourth year in a row after going 17 seasons without a tournament berth before that.
Senior Austin Shorrock (2.33 GAA, .925 SP) has been the backbone of the team’s success, particularly since coach Mike Frey’s team regularly skates three freshmen on defense, including No. 2 scorer Brayden Webster (9-9-18).
Junior Matt Medeiros (14-9-23) is the top scorer, followed by juniors Matt LeBoeuf (7-8-15) and Mason Dupre (6-7-13).
No. 16 Holliston (10-8-2): After posting just one victory a season ago, the Panthers put together a great turnaround under coach Dan Geary to get through the competitive Tri-Valley Large and qualify for the postseason.
Senior captains Robby Saponaro, Sam Farrell, Cooper DeCristofaro and Connor Hefferan was the veterans who helped lead the Panthers back into the postseason. Junior Nico Quatromoni started for the third straight season in net.
No. 17 Silver Lake (10-9-2): The Lakers battled out of the tough Patriot League as one of the one Division 3 teams to get into the tournament as the final season.
Coach Dan Scott’s squad has been sparked by the play of senior captains Kevin Cardarelli and Nicholas Solari, as well as senior Bobby Guilford. Freshman Aidan Dunphy has been a dynamic two-way player from the blue line.
Sophomore Grady Sullivan has seen most of the action in net for the Lakers.