Boys' Hockey Championship Preview

St. John’s Prep the last stop on Malden Catholic express

By Jake Seiner
Globe Correspondent / March 20, 2011

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Much in the same way the skaters on its exalted top line have weaved end to end on opposing defenses all year, Malden Catholic’s reign as the top team in high school hockey has been a coast-to-coast adventure this season.

Tonight at TD Garden, St. John’s Prep will be the only obstacle left standing between the Lancers and what most tabbed as their destiny back in early December: Super 8 champions.

Malden Catholic (20-2-2), backed by a Hockey East-bound top line of senior Mike Vecchione (New Hampshire), senior Brendan Collier (Boston University), and sophomore Ryan Fitzgerald (Boston College) have put together a historic season up front, combining for more goals (73) than nearly two-thirds of the teams in the state.

The Lancers topped Prep (18-5-1) twice during the regular season, but both wins came before the Eagles hit their late-season stride. St. John’s Prep has reeled off nine straight wins, eight of which have been by more than one goal.

Particularly hot is Harvard-bound senior Colin Blackwell, who has a tournament-high 14 points, including three goals and two assists in a 5-1 win over Weymouth in the Super 8 semifinals Wednesday.

“[Prep is] playing outstanding right now,’’ Malden Catholic coach Chris Serino said. “They’re putting the puck in the net. They’re not allowing goals. It’s going to be very, very tough. We’ll need our best game.’’

In the Division 1 final, Wakefield will look to put the final touches on a masterful turnaround season against South representative Marshfield (18-3-5).

The Warriors skated to a 5-11-3 mark a year ago, finishing seventh in the nine-team Middlesex League. Under the direction of coach Derek Edgerly, the program rebounded to a fourth-place finish and rolled into the finals with a 14-6-4 mark.

For Marshfield, this year’s run to the title game is about finishing what last year’s squad couldn’t. The 2009-10 Rams pulled off a 3-1 upset of top-ranked Bridgewater-Raynham in last year’s South quarterfinals, only to drop a 2-1 contest to Archbishop Williams in the semis.

The South bracket wasn’t strong enough to contain Marshfield this year, as the No. 3 Rams knocked off No. 2 Barnstable and No. 1 Springfield Cathedral.

Both Tewksbury (18-5-1) and Franklin (17-4-2) head into the Division 2 finals having played their toughest tournament games against in-conference competition.

Tewksbury won all but one of its four tournament contests by multiple goals, with the exception coming against Merrimack Valley Conference/Dual County League rival Boston Latin. The Redmen went 1-0-1 against Latin during the season, and slid by with a 1-0 victory in the quarterfinals before trumping Beverly and Saugus to get to the finals.

Franklin, meanwhile, comes in as the runner-up to Mansfield in the inaugural Hockomock Rex-Kelley Division. The Panthers stormed by Plymouth South, 5-2, in the South finals after topping Hockomock rival Oliver Ames, 2-1, in the semis.

In Division 3, Marblehead (19-4-3) and Westfield (15-5-3) both advanced to the finals after near-misses a year ago.

The Magicians were the only team above .500 in the Northeastern’s South Division this year, with senior defenseman Jake Kulevich, senior forwards Chris McLeod and Ryan Dempsey, and senior goalie Tony Cuzner nabbing four of the six all-conference spots. Kulevich (5 goals, 21 assists) also earned league MVP honors.

Westfield avenged a West finals loss to Longmeadow a year ago by knocking off the Lancers in this year’s West finale, and advanced to this morning’s game with a win over Hudson.