Four teams in our coverage area — St. John’s Prep, Beverly, Marblehead and Swampscott — have already secured themselves a postseason berth. A fifth, Danvers, will do so by earning one more point in any of its five remaining regular season games.
For each of these squads, the next step in their journey is about securing the highest possible playoff seed. All have winnable games down the homestretch ... but there are also some potential landmines that could put a stink-filled pair of game-worn hockey socks in their plans.
That’s why these five games aren’t only crucial contests for the teams involved, but should also be on the must-see list of North Shore hockey krishnas.
The fantastic five are:
TONIGHT: Marblehead (12-3) vs. Swampscott (11-4) at Salem State (8 p.m.): You can always expect high emotions when the Big Blue and the Headers match up, but tonight’s meeting takes on much more significance since it will essentially decide who emerges as the Northeastern Conference South champion for 2012-13.
Unbeaten in league play, Marblehead (5-0) would have to rate as the favorite going in. The Headers have lost only once since Dec. 27, going 9-1 in that stretch. They’ve already beaten Swampscott once this season (6-3) and go into tonight’s clash knowing that Swampscott will be without its best player, injured defensive star Trevor Massey. A victory tonight would give them a four-point edge over their arch rivals in the league standings with just two games to play, meaning they could do no worse than a share of the league crown.
But Swampscott (4-1 NEC South), who’ll wear its home whites tonight, will come in with something to prove. Having dropped three of their last five games while scoring only 10 goals in that span, there’d be no better time for the Big Blue to get cranking again than against their heated rivals.