On the latest episode of New England Hockey Journal’s “RinkWise” podcast, NEHJ’s Jeff Cox joins the show to preview the upcoming prep hockey playoffs alongside host Kirk Luedeke.
The discussion focuses on the NEPSAC Elite 8, Large School and Small School Tournament winners, held at campus sites from March 2-6. Cox also runs through his annual NEHJ prep awards, citing his reasoning for selecting the winners, while also providing insights on the runners up for each.
The two also discuss the MIAA playoffs for Divisions 1 through 4, which were pending the final championship berths in semifinal games when the episode was recorded earlier in the week. From Catholic Conference favorites St. John’s Prep and Xaverian Brothers to upstarts BC High and the lone public school in the final four- the Arlington Spy Ponders- Cox and Luedeke discuss some of the key players and events that got us to this point in the season.
Highlights from the podcast:
Salisbury winning the Elite 8 championship, Andrew Will’s coaching:
Jeff Cox: The cream rises to the top there. Andrew Will is the best coach there is in prep school hockey. He had his team playing well at the at the right time. They were paying attention to details. Their habits were good. You really noticed it in that first, that quarterfinal game I was at versus Dexter: sticks on pucks, getting in lanes, back, checking, you know, just all the little things Salisbury did. And it’s just a true testament to Coach Will, and this wasn’t as I think I said this before, but this wasn’t his most talented team.
He’s had a lot of teams that were more talented than this from top to bottom, but this team really bought in and played played well down the stretch and to go on the road and beat three really good hockey teams is impressive. Great atmosphere at Dexter on Wednesday in the quarter finals. Unbelievable atmosphere at Belmont Hill. And you were at the Kimball Union game. I was at it at the Avon-Belmont Hill game that day for the semis…three really great road wins. You know, that’s a that’s a lot of travel and and it’s good teams that they beat all on the road. To me, that might be the most impressive championship he’s had just because he got the most out of this group and had to win all three games on the road.
Predicting the MIAA Division 1 championship matchup prior to semifinal round:
JC: Xaverian and St. John’s prep to me are still the cream of the crop and the MIAA. They’re older, they’re veteran. They’re deep. They’re well coached. They have good defense, they play good sound structure defensively.
But, you know, great job by John Flaherty at BC High, you know, a couple of times or in the year in the power rankings, I couldn’t imagine they were below .500. But if they were, they were in a different conference. They’re not below five hundred. And, they played some really tough teams out of conference. I saw them lose to Arlington. I saw them lose to Winchester in overtime…their non-conference games were no slouch, either. And the the goaltending wasn’t great during the regular season for them at times, but Jackie Burke, Dorchester kid, back to back shutouts, 1-o.
On the MIAA computer rankings getting it right on the playoff brackets, matchups:
JC: One thing that kind of strikes me across the leagues is, you know, the this is the first year the computer ratings determining who the top 32 teams were in each division, and the top teams and the computer ranking are mostly still around but, BC High (No. 13 seed) is the underdog in Division 1. But you look across the board a lot of ones, twos, threes, four are still in it. And you know, that just goes to show you that the computer ratings got it right. I don’t know if there is a perfectly fair way to do it or not, but you know, I like it more than, you know, eight guys sitting around a table determining it because, especially in a small state like Mass., there’s there’s politics involved and trying to help out friends. And when it is computer. It’s, you know, ahead of the time you knew what it was going to be and you can’t argue with the computer. You might not think it is right, it might not pass the eye test, but it’s everyone knows going in what the what the formula was to get into the tournament or be a high seed. And that’s what I like about the computer ratings.
On other MIAA Divisions and key players:
JC: Tewksbury survived an overtime thriller, double overtime thriller, against a good Duxbury team. They have some guys that people are going to want to watch Sunday at the TD Garden.
(In) Division 3. Obviously, you know, one of the teams, it’ll be Marlborough…Marcus Chrisafideis…I loved his first goal: he just drove the net, tipped it in on the centering feed. And then the second goal was just an absolute snipe off of a pass from below the goal line by Mark Evangelous. Jeremy Lacroix, the third guy on that first line, really impressive. That that whole first line was great (against Lynnfield), but obviously Chrisafideis is Marlborough’s star; he’s a player to watch in Division 3. Mikey Monroe for Hanover, the ’07 that plays for the Junior Eagles. If they advance to Sunday, he’ll be a player for everyone to watch. They play good Scituate team that beat Marshfield, so they have their work cut out for them to get to Sunday.
But there’s some great players Jason Cooke and Caden Connors and Nick DiCioccio and some of those guys up at Tewksbury. They have a lot of talent on that team, so that’ll be a fun team to watch. They made it to the TD Garden the year before COVID disrupted things, so that’s a program that used to get into the (TD Garden) and, you know, Canton’s, another program that’s used to getting into the Garden. So really looking forward to how things pan out tonight and can’t wait for Sunday. It’s always one of the most fun days of the high school year seeing teams celebrate on the ice for great achievement all year long.