Key upcoming games: Tonight at Stoneham (6); Saturday vs. Beverly (1), Wednesday, Jan. 29 at Peabody (5:15), Saturday, Feb. 1 vs. Gloucester (2:50), Wednesday, Feb. 12 vs. Marblehead (5).
Analysis: Don’t laugh; if Brett Harring’s recent shoulder injury isn’t major and he can be back between the pipes for the majority of the second half, the Witches -- who still have a dozen games to play -- have a shot to get into the playoffs for the first time since current St. John’s Prep coach Kristian Hanson was behind their bench. There are certainly winnable games on Salem’s remaining ledger. The key will be the tougher contests; earning points against the Reveres, Swampscotts, Lynns and Lowells of the world will do wonders towards inching closer to the postseason. Matt Jalbert, Danny Heck, Sam Petri, Mike Gillis, et. al. need to keep producing offensively while the entire team must stay defensively responsible.
Key upcoming games: Saturday at Lynn (6:30); Wednesday, Jan. 29 at Swampscott (5); Saturday, Feb. 1 at East Boston (4:40); Wednesday, Feb. 12 at Rockport (8).
Analysis: Head coach Mark Leonard could be right when he says “we have to be the best 3-win team in America at this point.” The Tanners have had five games they’ve led or tied in the third period, only to eventually fall short. The problem has been goal scoring, or more specifically timely goal scoring; when the Tanners really need to bury a marker, they haven’t been able to do it. Like Danvers, they’ve also struggled putting the puck home in the first period (only 4 all season). Following Monday’s surprising tie with a strong Lincoln-Sudbury club, Peabody now faces a monumental task of winning at least six of its last eight games, plus one tie, to qualify. Even if they get hot, their final two contests are home dates against Marshfield and Beverly, teams that are currently a combined 20-4-1. The resurgence of junior Stephen Ferrante in goal and continued strong play up front from Reed Foster, Mike Vadala and Derek Demild can only help.