By Matt Williams
Teams in the Bay State have been officially skating together for a little more than 10 days, and this weekend is an unofficial holiday for folks that have been waiting many months for the return of a full slate of games.
Here are a few storylines we’ll be keeping an eye on heading into the 2013-14 high school season:
1) Who emerges to challenge Malden Catholic in the Catholic Conference?
Every team in the league has gone through changes in one form or another. The Lancers overcame a rough first half and won a third straight Super 8 title even though they lost the league crown to St. John’s Prep.
It seems like BC High is in the best position, but Catholic Memorial may not be far behind with plenty returning in the back end. Xaverian could also be improved, and while the Prep has a lot of shoes to fill it seems crazy to overlook the Eagles.
2) Is Austin Prep ready to make the leap?
The Cougars had an increidble season last year, going all the way to the Super 8 final at TD Garden. With the skaters they have returning, and goalie Elijah Harris, they may be the Super 8 favorite on paper. The only real question is how they respond up front with Nolan Vessey, who graduated and is playing for the South Shore Kings before matriculating to Maine.
3) Who is the favorite in the Middlesex League?
Wilmington won the Freedom Division last year, with Division 1 state champion behind them. Both the Wildcats and Burlington were hit hard up front by graduation, and Wakefield plus Liberty Division rivals Reading, Winchester and Woburn will be vying for both the league crown and the possible Super 8 berths that could come with them.
4) Who’s the best girls team in the state?
St. Mary’s of Lynn reclaimed the Division 1 crown last season, but a lot of folks believe D2 champion Duxbury sits at the top of the girls hockey hierarchy for 2013-14. The Dragons and Spartans don’t cross paths, and we figure they’ll both be somewhere in the top three all season long.
5) How will realignment impact Division 2?
With defending champion Wilmington plus traditional power Newburyport heading up to D1, it looks like Beverly is the preseason favorite in D2. Tewksbury always has to be considered dangerous, and it’ll be interesting to see how D3 power Marblehead (an NEC rival of Beverly’s) does come tourney time up in D2.
1. Malden Catholic
2. Austin Prep
3. BC High
4. Central Catholic
5. Springfield Cathedral
6. Catholic Memorial
8. Archbishop Williams
1. Fairfield Prep
2. Notre Dame West Haven
3. New Canaan
7. East Haven
9. Northwest Catholic
10. Notre Dame Fairfield
1. Manchester Memorial
5. Manchester Central
8. Bishop Guertin
1. Mount St. Charles
2. Bishop Hendricken
3. La Salle
6. West Warwick/Exeter/Grenwich
2. St. Dom's
1. South Burlington
9. North Country
10. Champlain Valley