SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

February 26, 2013

The Blue Line Report: Analyzing the local final five

If it’s Tuesday and you’re reading The Blue Line Report a day earlier than normal, then it must be for a good reason.

Is the chance to see if your favorite North Shore team can raise the state championship hardware over their heads in two-and-a-half-weeks reason enough?

If so, then read on.

Here in The Salem News readership area we have five teams in three divisions, all shooting for the proverbial brass ring. Below, by order of division, is an in-depth look at this quintet as we try to glean just how far each of them can go.

ST. JOHN’S PREP EAGLES

Record/Seeding: 17-2-1; No. 1 seed in Super 8 tournament

Goal differential: + 63 (89 goals for, 26 against)

Forward lines: LW Tyler Bird (10-14-24)-C Brian Pinho (14-25-39)-RW Jack McCarthy (11-7-18); LW James Currier (5-11-16)-C Nic Gianelli (3-7-10)-RW Andrew Brandano (13-8-21); LW Mark Azarian (2-2-4)-C Derek Osbahr (4-1-5)-RW Nick Bragole (2-4-6); LW Justin Longo (6-11-17)-C Cam Shaheen (8-2-10)-RW Paul Crehan (6-8-14).

Defense pairs: Brent Murray (0-6-6) & Evan Leclerc (1-5-6); Ean Mendeszoon (1-7-8) & James Brightney (2-3-5); Evan Dinu (0-1-1) & Ryan Byrne (0-3-3)

Goalie: Billy Price (14-2-1, 1.35 GAA, .923 save pct., 2 shutouts)

Potential postseason breakout hero: James Currier. A sparkplug for the Eagles’ ‘Yellow Line’, Currier has quickly become a figure along the wall on power plays, capable of generating scoring opportunities by setting someone up or getting the puck on goal himself.

They’re at their best when: They simplify things. Flash-and-dash aren’t (and don’t need to be) a large part of their game plan; doing things like chipping the puck out of the zone and making the simple pass have worked wonders.

X-Factor: The Eagles steadfastly refused to allow any team to score more than two goals in a game against them all winter.

Analysis: Everyone seems to be talking up Malden Catholic as the team that’s going to come all the way from a Super 8 play-in game to win their third straight state championship. With other strong teams such as B.C. High, Springfield Cathedral and even Catholic Memorial in the field, it enables St. John’s Prep an almost unheard-of luxury: a No. 1 seed that is being overlooked. The draw sets up nicely for the Eagles, with Central Catholic in the best-of-three round and, should they win that, a semifinal date with either Austin Prep or Reading to earn a spot at TD Garden on St. Patrick’s Day.

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