St. John's Eagles Boys Ice Hockey '07-'08

St. John’s Prep seniors, from left, Colin Prior, Christian Cowles, Dan Haugh, and Steve DiCarlo have been contributed  to a powerful Eagles offense this season. » Matt Viglianti, Staff Photographer

Prep should get high seed in Super 8 tourney

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Wednesday, February, 20 By Phil Stacey
Sports editor

St. John's Prep doesn't just deserve to be in the upcoming Super 8 state hockey tournament.

They should be one of the top seeds in it, too.

By finishing the regular season with a flourish | wins in seven of their last eight contests, including the last six in a row | after a grueling Catholic Conference schedule, the Eagles find themselves with a 12-5-3 mark as they await their postseason fate.

Earning a coveted Super 8 berth is now a foregone conclusion. When the pairings come out Saturday afternoon, the Eagles will be looking for a seeding high enough to justify the regular season success they've had.

In this hockey scribe's eyes, the No. 3 seed sounds about right.

"I'd love it if that were the case," said Prep left wing Steve DiCarlo, a senior left wing from Peabody. "The end of the season turned out very well for us; I think we're definitely a top six (Super 8) team."

If you follow high school hockey, you know that 10 teams are picked for the Super 8, the most elite postseason tournament in the Commonwealth. After being ranked 1-through-10, the first six teams receive byes while the bottom four take part in "play-in" games, determining the two final teams for the Super 8 draw. The No. 7 seed plays No. 10, while No. 8 takes on No. 9, with the winners advancing and the losers falling back into the 'regular' Division 1 tournament.

It's a foregone conclusion that Catholic Conference champion Catholic Memorial (12-1-4) will be the top seed in the Super 8 tournament. Reading (20-1), winners of the Middlesex League, will likely draw the No. 2 spot.

Here's where it gets tricky.

Hingham can make its case to be the No. 3 seed. The Harbormen are 16-3-2 and beat St. John's Prep in the Eagles' season opener (4-1). But they also lost to three likely Super 8 teams (CM, B.C. High and Waltham) and tied another (Needham) while also settling for a tie with Duxbury.

Defending Super 8 champion B.C. High (currently 10-4-5) also has a solid case. They dealt Reading its only loss (3-1), tied Catholic Memorial (1-1) and also defeated Needham (4-3). However, they were swept by St. John's Prep and lost to Division 2 Coyle-Cassidy, 2-1, earlier this month.

Malden Catholic (10-4-4) split its two games with St. John's Prep this season, but finished behind them in the Catholic Conference in fourth place. They also lost three of four games earlier this month, including one vs. St. Mary's of Lynn. Needham has an amazing 10 shutouts en route to a 16-2-2 record, but lost to B.C. High and Xaverian and doesn't play nearly the killer schedule St. John's does. Neither does Waltham (15-3-3), which got drilled by the Eagles at home, 7-2, two weeks ago.

That leaves us with St. John's Prep.

Coach Kristian Hanson's team has met all of the criteria that the Super 8 committee uses in determining teams and seedings. They had a fine regular season record, finished second in the state's hand-down toughest conference (tied with B.C. High at 3-4-1, behind only 7-0-1 CM), couldn't have a better strength of schedule and finished the regular season playing their best hockey of 2007-08.

The Eagles swept two games with B.C. High, beat Malden Catholic in their second meeting and easily handled two other potential Super 8'ers, Waltham and Austin Prep (7-3). They have allowed just 11 goals over their last six outings, recorded the most wins in a season for a Prep team in four years and, unlike several other teams in this discussion, didn't play a single game this winter against a non-Division 1 opponent.

"After going through our Catholic Conference schedule, which has five of the state's best teams, we were pretty confident that we could beat anyone," said the Prep's leading scorer, senior captain Christian Cowles (21 goals, 35 points).

The Georgetown native felt that losing the regular season finale a year ago to Notre Dame (Conn.) hurt the Eagles in the long run.

"We weren't ready to play that first Super 8 game against Austin Prep (a 2-1 loss) after that," said the Georgetown native. "But this season we beat Notre Dame (4-2 on Monday) to finish the year with those six straight wins, and know I know we're ready for the (Super 8) this time. We're all on the same page."

Cowles credits two big reasons for the Prep's strong play over the last month: a defensive unit that keeps getting better and better, and the systems that Hanson and his fellow coaching newcomers have preached.

"Nick Riccio and Eddie Estey are the veteran guys back there who really carried the defense early on. And guys like Matt Warden and Connor Brophy were on the JVs a year ago, but have done a great job making that transition to varsity this year," said Cowles.

"Coach Hanson and his staff have done a great job teaching their systems to us, and everyone has bought into it. He really knows what he's talking about."

The Eagles have done all they can do as far as the regular season goes. Now it's just a matter of waiting until Saturday to find out where they'll be seeded.

"Team attitude and heart have a lot to do with us being (in this position)," added the 6-foot, 175-pound DiCarlo, who is waiting to hear back from colleges such as Brown, Bowdoin, Providence, Boston College and Holy Cross.

"From the beginning of the season, our goal was to get back to the Super 8. Now we want the best seed possible and to show what we can do this time around."

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