Rick Anastos and his Mansfield High School hockey team is in a quandary. Nobody knows for sure just who will be in uniform, who will show up for the opening round of the MIAA Tournament.
The Hornets have been tormented by injuries, illnesses and suspensions over the past month, such that MHS has won just one of its final nine (1-6-2) games of the regular season. "Honestly, I don't know, I have no idea," said Anastos of who will be available for duty.
The Hornets (10-7-3) are the No. 10 seed in the Division 1-South field and will be meeting No. 7 Norwood (11-5-4) in a first round game, on Wednesday at Asiaf Arena with a 7:30 p.m. start.
Suspensions to three players have shortened the top-notch talent that the Hornets put out on the ice to start the season. "Our mindset is to go into the game with whomever suits up," said Anastos. "We realize that we might have to change a few things.
"That being said, we can be a team that bounces back, we feel that we have as good a shot as anybody," the Hornets being Division 2-South semifinalists last season.
Mansfield is relying upon senior goalie Dan Moyer (2.70 goals against mark, .880 save percentage) to keep the Hornets competitive. "He's played incredibly well," said Anastos. He will have to because in the recent slide, the Hornets have been limited to three goals or less eight times, being shutout three times.
On the season, senior Kyle Hurley (nine goals, 20 assists), juniors Jared Collins (13 goals, 14 assists) and Adam Blackman (21 goals, 17 assists) and sophomore Billy Grant (11 goals, five assists) have been atop the MHS scoring list.
When the Hornets were at their best, their best defense was a good offense, forechecking and putting pressure on in the attacking zone. Of late, though, "at times our defense has played well," said Anastos. "The thing is if you take three of your top six players off the ice, it's greatly effected our team."
The route to success in the Division 3-South Tournament for the Bombardiers cannot be an avenue into the penalty box. "We talked about that, we've emphasized that," said AHS coach Mike Cripps of the mandatory need to not surrender many first-period scoring chances, not allow goals and not put the team in short-handed situations.
The Bombardiers (9-8-3) are the No. 17 seed in the field and will take on No. 16 seeded Abington tonight at 8 at the Gallo Arena in Bourne.
"For the most part, we've gotten back to where we expected to be defensively," said Cripps, senior goalie Andrew Campion being steady in every start and the Bombardiers having limited 12 of their foes to three goals or less.
"We've gone over that, to not give up the puck in our own zone, to be physical, but also play smart hockey," added Cripps, especially in the tournament where every mistake is magnified.
"Andrew (Campion) has not had many off nights, so we have to hope that he's on and everything else falls into place," said Cripps.
AHS has nine skaters with double figure scoring totals, six of whom have seven goals or more - seniors Chad Nadeau (nine goals, nine assists), Zach Larkin (eight goals, 14 assists), defenseman Travis Tanguay (eight goals, nine assists) and Tyler Durable (seven goals, four assists) along with junior Luke Chomyszak (seven goals, four assists) and sophomore Keagin Larkin (eight goals, six assists).
"If they can get to the front of the net, we can be successful," said Cripps, "but the most important thing is that we play good defense and protect our own end."
Bishop Feehan Shamrocks
If there was one zone of prime importance this season for the Shamrocks, it was from behind the blue line in. Bishop Feehan had to protect its own end and with sophomore Mike Capprini (2.22 goals against mark, .919 save percentage), the Shamrocks felt that they had a chance for victory most every outing.
Bishop Feehan (12-7-1) is now the No. 8 seed in the 18-team Division 2-South Tournament and will be seeking revenge for a 2-0 loss to North Quincy earlier in the season when the teams meet in an opening round game, the date and site of which have yet to be determined.
The Shamrocks closed the season by winning four of their final five games and notably have limited 15 of their foes to three goals or less.
"The way that we settled into the season, we had to control our own end of the ice," said Feehan coach Kevin Dunn. "We had to keep people on the outside (of the blue line). We felt that we don't have to score many goals if we don't give up many."
As the season bore out, the Shamrocks have seven skaters in double scoring figures - senior Mark Payson (nine goals, eight assists), junior Jack Hanson (12 goals, 14 assists), junior Jake D'Ercole (12 goals, seven assists), junior Matt Jesser (three goals, eight assists), junior defenseman Bret Piotti (four goals, nine assists), sophomore Mike Geraghty (12 goals, seven assists) and freshman Kyle Brown (four goals, 12 assists).
"It's all five guys in front of the goalie playing defense, not just the defensemen," emphasized Dunn. "Our defense has really come along, it's strong. We have to play consistently well in our defensive zone coverage."
The Warriors don't get much respect, having qualified for the Division 3-South Tournament under the Sullivan Rule, having just six wins on the season. What the record doesn't tell you is the attention to detail and defense that the Warriors have exhibited.
Foxboro has limited 17 of its foes to three goals or less and the Warriors (6-11-3) will take a four-game winning streak into Tuesday's opening round game (at 6:30 p.m.) in Canton against Blue Hills Regional.
Foxboro's late season surge (outscoring foes 17-4 in the four games) has coincided with the promotion of freshman John Cronin into the starting goal role. He has a 3.30 goals against mark with an .880 save percentage.
Notably, only Nick Luciano returned with appreciable playing time on defense from last season. Up front, senior Kyle Sperzel (11 goals, 12 assists) and sophomore Liam Lynch (12 goals, 10 assists) have been Foxboro's most consistent and best marksmen.
In order to succeed, though Foxboro will have to stay out of penalty box and keep the game close during the first period. "The last four games are defense has been playing great," said Foxboro coach Jim Genovese, "and Cronin has played well down the stretch.
"I've talked to people about Blue Hills and we just have to play our type of hockey and do the little things. Defense is the one thing that we pride ourselves on - that's the most important zone, that's what we always work on."
North Attleboro Rocketeers
Senior captain Anthony Manganaro was the lone veteran returning on defense and senior goalie Matt Raposo (3.06 GA mark, .860 save percentage) was a given commodity in goal for the Rocketeers.
A late season surge (3-1) with 14 goals scored over that span put North into the Division 2-South Tournament, but it was a defense that kept a dozen foes to three goals or less that kept the Big Red competitive night in and night out.
The Rocketeers are the No. 13 seed (10-9-1) and will have the challenge of playing No. 4 seeded, 14-win Medway on the road on a date and at a site yet to be determined by the MIAA Tournament Committee.
"It's taken a while to get the game plan going," said North coach Steve Snizek of integrating some new parts into the defensive scheme, notably converting right wing Ryan Maher and center Brandon Poilucci into defensemen. "We started off with a young back four."
Junior forwards Sean Young (19 goals, 19 assists) and Marshall Blackman (13 goals, 11 assists) have been North's go-to players on offense, while sophomore Andrew Casson (five goals, six assists) and freshman Erik Clements (nine goals, six assists) have contributed too.
"We do have enough of a scoring threat," said Snizek. "Raposo has kept us in games, he's been tremendous. And to think that we lost four of our five starting defensemen coming into the season, our defense has been improving."
The Cougars are making their first-ever MIAA Tournament berth in nine seasons of varsity play, Tri-County's first season too without being a co-op team with Millis. The Cougars (9-7) are seeded No. 15 in the Division 3-South Sectional and will meet No. 18 East Bridgewater tonight (at 6 p.m.) at the Gallo Arena in Bourne.
Only rugged senior T.J. Dalzell (three goals, seven assists) returned on the defensive backline for the Cougars, but Mike Goss has filled in very admirably as his pairing and senior goalie David Cawley has a 2.80 goals against mark - Tri-County having held 12 foes to three goals or less.
"Cawley has been tremendous," said Tri-County coach Mark Spillane of the netminder keeping the Cougars competitive, his GA mark being the best in the Mayflower League.
Senior center Collin Spillane (11 goals, eight assists) is Tri-County's go-to scorer, but junior Connor Harrington (five goals, 13 assists) and freshman Justin Most (10 goals, 11 assists) have a flair in the attacking zone.
"We have to play good defense coming out," said Spillane. "We can't give up early goals or take penalties. You need to score goals to win, but you can't give up too many either."
King Philip Warriors
The Warriors are on a roll heading into the Division 2-South Tournament, being unbeaten in their final five games (4-0-1) of the regular season, scoring 23 goals over that span. And even more impressive to coach Paul Lyons is the fact that junior goalie Molly Potts and the Warriors have limited all five foes to three goals or less.
The No. 23 seeded Warriors (10-9-1) will be on the road at No. 10 Cohasset in the 28-team field on a date and at a site yet to be determined.
KP has the most prolific scorer in Eastern Massachusetts skating up front, senior Danielle Hamilton (38 goals, 11 assists). The steering rod for KP's success has been the workhorse role by senior defenseman Haley Anchukaitis (seven goals, 13 assists), while the Warriors have gathered in some terrific scoring exploits from sophomore forward Casie Curtin (15 goals, 11 assists).
Coach Greg Arnold's skaters are a dangerous team because they can score goals and score in a hurry, having nine games in which they have scored five goals or more. Mansfield/OA won its final two games on the road in order to qualify, not only that, but scoring 14 goals during that span.
Mansfield/OA is the No. 25 seed in the Division 2-South field with a 10-10 record and will meet No. 8 Medway on a date and at a site yet to be determined.
Senior Shannon Connolly of Mansfield has tended goal, posting a 4.07 goals against mark on the season. All of the team's best scorers are Oliver Ames products - senior Jacqui Podolsk (five goals, 13 assists), sophomore Jamie Gotwald (20 goals, 18 assists) and a pair of freshmen, Nicole Johnson (28 goals, four assists) and Taylor Brown (13 goals, six assists).