Western Mass. Top 10 Poll
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Who’s No. 1? This week, it’s Minnechaug, the third team to stake its claim to the top spot in the weekly poll. The No. 1 Falcons have been the most consistent team in the Berry Division. No. 2 Longmeadow moved up one spot, and previous No. 1 East Longmeadow dropped to third.
That’s the way things are shaping up in the competitive Berry Division. As teams head for the stretch run, those three teams figure to wage a fierce battle for first place.
No. 4 Westfield, which still has one of the region’s best defensive teams, can’t be counted out come tournament time. Last season’s Sectional Champion and State Finalist Agawam, may not even qualify for the tournament.
Minnechaug has shown the ability to erase deficits and rally for come-from-behind victories. The latest was a tight-checking 3-2 decision over Westfield in which the Falcons saw themselves on a short end of a 2-0 score Seniors Liam Walsh and Nate Champagne are both playing solid defense for the Falcons.
The win was gratifying for the Falcons – Westfield eliminated Minnechaug from the Western Massachusetts Division 3 tournament last season in the semifinals. It was also Minnechaug’s second win this season over Westfield. That has not happened in more than a decade.
Goalie Aleks Vanderleeden is on fire. Since a setback to Longmeadow on Dec. 26, he has a .938 save percentage over seven games, allowing only 11 goals during that span, and his .924 overall save percentage leads all goalies in the region.
Longmeadow’s Jack Tabb only started playing goal two years ago. He strapped on the pads because his team needed someone to stop the puck. Had he thought of himself rather than his team, this year’s Longmeadow team might not have been so successful.
Longmeadow secured a tournament berth Saturday following a come-from-behind 4-2 victory over visiting Wachusett. The Lancers overcame a 2-1 deficit by scoring three times during the third period, including two by Michael Tabb. Jack Tabb made 15 saves in one of the Lancers’ best defensive efforts this season. Nick Santaniello scored the game-winning goal at 5:29 of the final period.
No. 5 Amherst leapfrogged over No. 6 Chicopee Comp after the Hurricanes edged the reigning Division 3A champion Colts, 3-2. Nathan Masteralexis scored two goals, and set up the game-winning goal in the third period by Nick Freniere.
Parker Nunes had 35 saves for the Colts. The Hurricanes were able to shut down the Colts’ high-scoring duo of Jeremy Lewis and Cam Kagan. Penalty killing was the key to the win. Amherst negated all six of Comp’s power plays, including three during the final period.
Lewis scored his 100th career goal in a 9-2 win over Easthampton. He has 15 points over Comp’s last three games. Amherst secured a spot in the tournament with a win over Greenfield.
No. 7 Chicopee continues to get strong play from Jeff Zebrowski. No. 8 Wahconah snapped a two-game losing streak with a win over No. 9 West Springfield. West, in the midst of a difficult schedule, dropped a pair of games this week. No. 10 Belchertown had a strong week to get back into the poll.