MIAA Boys Division 4 Tournament – State Final: Watertown, Sandwich Look To Make History Under New Statewide Tournament Format

Jim Clark
Jim Clark
Jim Clark joined Hockey Night in Boston in December 2019, and has covered high school hockey in Massachusetts for more than three decades. He also covers high school hockey and is a multiplatform editor for the Boston Globe, and previously spent two decades as high school hockey reporter at the Boston Herald, where he also served as the high schools editor from 2000-06. Clark was honored by the Mass. State Hockey Coaches Association with its William Stewart Award for contributions to the sport in May 2019, and also received the Joel Perlmutter Award for media coverage in 2006. A graduate of UMass, he also spent eight years as sports editor/reporter at the Sentinel & Enterprise in Fitchburg, and has extensively covered high school hockey in Central and Western Mass. as well as Connecticut.

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When the MIAA shifted to the statewide tournament format before the 2021-22 season and expanded to four divisions, there was plenty of intrigue over how the new Division 4 would shape up.

As it turns out, being a small enrollment school playing in a league full of bigger, tough competition was a good formula for postseason success. And now the first Division 4 final will kick off a six-game slate of championship game action at TD Garden when Watertown and Sandwich face off Sunday beginning at 9 a.m.

Despite finishing only a game over .500 in the regular season, Watertown (14-9-1) earned the #2 seed based on the MIAA’s new power ratings formula. Much of that can be attributed to the Raiders’ grueling schedule in the Middlesex League, with seven of their losses and the lone tie coming against Division 1 or 2 schools.

Sandwich (17-4-3), the #4 seed, didn’t quite have as much of a grind, but the Blue Knights still faced their share of battles throughout the season. There was the tie vs. Marlboro and loss to Hanover in the Jim Gormley Cup – the two teams that happen to be playing in Sunday’s second game for the Division 3 state championship. The Knights also had a loss and tie against D1 Falmouth, with the other losses against Hopedale and North Reading, both D3 squads.

Watertown is seeking its first state championship since winning Division 3 in 2015. But a lot has happened since then. A decline in numbers forced the Raiders to play a JV schedule for one year while the program rebuilt under coach John Vlachos, who is now in his fifth season.

“We’ve been talking about this for four years,” said Vlachos, who credited the team’s offseason work ethic and sticking with the program.

Mason Andrade

The Raiders punched their ticket to the Garden with a 4-3 win over Stoneham, a Middlesex Freedom rival with whom they also split a pair of regular-season games. Sophomore Alec Banosian scored a pair of goals in that win and also set up senior Mason Andrade’s winner early in the third period.

Banosian (15-10-25) and Andrade (11-13-24) are the wings on a line centered by junior Anthony Venezia (6-21-27), the team’s top scorer. Seniors Colin Campbell (6-8-14) and Michael Cormier (6-4-10), juniors Aidan Campbell (3-11-14) and Daniel Tattrie (5-6-11), and sophomore James Erickson (7-8-15) also play key roles on a balanced offense that exploded for a combined 20 goals in tournament wins over South Shore and Dedham. Watertown then had to grind out wins over Grafton/Blackstone Valley (2-1) and Stoneham.

But Vlachos credits his defense as the key to success. Senior captain Nathan Master (5-9-14) is a converted forward and rotates on the blue line with junior alternate captain Jack Dickie (7-9-16) and sophomore Mauricio Souza (5-5-10).

Vlachos has gone with a goalie rotation all season. Junior Casey Williams (1.53 GAA) got the win against Stoneham, which likely makes senior Jared Norton (1.74 GAA) the starter vs. Sandwich.

For the Blue Knights and coach Jordan Mohre, it’s been a similar formula to reach the Garden for the first time since winning the D2 state championship in 2008.

“We are right where I thought we would be,” Mohre said following Sandwich’s double-overtime win over top-seeded Norwell in the state semifinal. “We’ve played against good teams along the way. As you get into these tough games, you rely on your systems and that’s where your foundation is. When you win, it furthers that foundation even more.”

Colin McIver Sandwich

Sandwich has a little more firepower in its top line centered by junior Colin McIver (17-19-36), who has nine points in four tournament games. Sophomore LW Jack Connolly (16-16-32) scored twice, including the game winner against Norwell in the semifinals, and sophomore RW Chris Cardillo (20-15-35) is dangerous as well. Adding scoring depth are seniors Caleb Richardson (9-5-14), Kevin Jordan (5-5-10) and Matt Hemeon (3-7-10), and sophomore Avery Richardson (5-5-10).

Drew McKinnon Sandwich

Senior Drew MacKinnon (9-11-20) is fourth on the scoring list and anchors the defense with senior Anthony Kent (1-5-6) and junior Harley Ellis (3-7-10).

Backing them up is junior Mitchell Norkevicius (1.59 GAA), who has played almost every second in goal this season for the Blue Knights.

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