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January 22, 2014

The Blue Line Report: Measuring playoff stock heading into second half

We’re now into the second half of the regular season schedule, a time for the boys of winter to either start to sew up a playoff berth or make a frantic push to (hopefully) punch their own ticket to the invite-only postseason dance.

Beverly (12-0-1) became the first North Shore qualifier when they trampled Wakefield more than a week ago. Other locals will join them before all of the bids are due Feb. 21 — but who?

There are some teams that, barring minor miracles, could get that coveted chance to skate on the TD Garden ice on Championship Sunday. For others, it’s going to take some work — and for a certain few, a lot of work.

So let’s take this opportunity to examine a half-dozen area clubs that have a realistic shot of earning a postseason bid and what they need to do to qualify:

MARBLEHEAD (9-3)

Analysis: It’s not a question of if the Headers will get in but when; a lot of new varsity faces have meshed quite nicely with the half-dozen or so regulars who returned this winter. Marblehead is scoring better than five goals a game and has picked it up defensively of late with back-to-back shutouts. Getting scoring from guys like seniors Tim Kalinowski and Erik Powers, as well as freshman Braden Haley -- all of whom have 12 points -- have given this team a shot in the arm to go along with brothers Tom (26 points) and Matt Koopman (21) and offensive-minded blueliner Liam Gillis (18). Senior goalies Myles Barry and Harrison Young also seem to be rounding into form, which is great for the Headers but bad for future opponents.

Key upcoming games: Saturday vs. Winthrop (2:50); Wednesday, Jan. 29 at Beverly (7); Wednesday, Feb. 12 at Danvers (5); Monday, Feb. 17 at Amesbury (3).

MASCONOMET (6-2-2)

Analysis: Terrific team defense -- the Chieftains have surrendered just one goal in each of their last four games -- has put the Tri-Town team in prime position to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. Goalie Mitch Nekoroski (1.81 GAA) isn’t seeing many shots, but is making big saves when called upon. Joe Griffin, Mike Jesi, Jake Jesi, Nick Pease, Jeff Panella and Jake Giacchino take care of business from a defensive standpoint. Mike Castro’s 13 points lead a balanced scoring attack for a Masconomet team that has three solid lines and speed all over the place. The ability to win faceoffs has has proven huge and will continue to do so in the coming weeks.

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