Monday, May 27, 2013

CMass Lax Power Rankings: Playoff Time

Junior middie Kevin Butler has stepped up for St. John's in recent weeks.

By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

The playoffs begin this week, and several teams in Central Mass have title ambitions.

In our final Power Rankings of 2013, the Pioneers of St. John's hold onto the top spot thanks to a edging both Grafton and Algonquin in the past two weeks, and going out of CMass to knock off state power Acton Boxborough.

Power Rankings and playoff outlook after the jump.

1. St. John's: 15-3, 1-0 Catholic Conference
2. Grafton: 16-3, 10-0 Mid Mass
3. Algonquin: 14-6, 12-0 Midland A
4. Shrewsbury: 15-5, 9-3 Midland A
5. Westboro: 10-8, 8-4 Midland A
In the Hunt: Littleton(16-2), Nashoba (9-9), Nipmuc(13-5), Northbridge (12-6)

The Favorites: St. John's

The Pioneers played one of the most difficult schedules in Central Mass, and still rank near the top of every statistical category in the region. The attack is the best in CMass with Drew Smiley, Hunter Burdick and Josh Freilich scoring at an alarming rate, but the midfield has come alive offensively, led by the emergence of junior Kevin Butler.

On the back end, the Pioneers boast one of the region's top goalies in A.J. Arnold, and Aidan Fox has certainly made his case as one of the best defenders in CMass after solid performances against Algonquin and Grafton. Add in the fact that the Pioneers have gone to the wire with the best teams in Eastern and Western Mass, and you have an explosive and battle tested group.

The Contenders: Grafton, Algonquin, Shrewsbury and Westboro

St. John's is a cut above, but not by much. Both Grafton and Algonquin proved they could play deep into the fourth against the Pioneers, and neither will be an easy out. Grafton's All American duo of Tyler Reilly and Bryan Rotatori will be hard to contain, and lesser known players like Sawyer Coleman and Chase Kapuscienski have really stepped their games up this year.

Algonquin's once dormant attack suddenly looks potent, due in no small part to Mike Wood's recovery from a rib injury and Jake Scearbo's assertiveness. And, with a goalie like Giles Ober, the T-Hawks will certainly be able to hang with almost anybody.

Shrewsbury is dealing with some injury issues, but the Colonials are in a similar boat as Westboro. Each plays solid defense and relies on timely goal scoring to win close games. Shrewsbury's duo of Luke Warner and Cam Kerr up front are always difficult to handle, but Westboro is one of the best possession teams in the region with Tom Lawton taking face-offs.

Ultimately, matchups may dictate which team will go farther, but the draw did no favors for either of them. Westboro will likely have to deal with St. John's in the second round, and Shrewsbury has a sneaky tough game in the first round against...

The Dark Horse: Nashoba

The Chieftains have flown under the radar a little bit this year, but they've got the scoring punch to send a team or two home early. Nashoba scored a huge win over Westboro in early May, and proceeded to play Algonquin to the wire shortly thereafter. Yes, they had a letdown against Groton-Dunstable, but facing Nashoba's attack is a tricky proposition right now.

The Chieftains have several guys that can beat you to the cage, starting with leading scorers Trevor Pilkington and Kyle Elkins. Add in the powerful Mike D'Entremont and distributing Eric Demmer, and there are a lot of elements you have to deal with when defending Nashoba.

Shrewsbury is still trying to get healthy, and Nipmuc has come back down to Earth. If there was a Dark Horse run to be made, it would seem Nashoba is in a position to make it at No. 14.

Now, take a look at the official tournament draw. You can tell by the links I clicked in that screen grab that I will be heading out to Shrewsbury to cover their game against Nashoba Wednesday. Good luck everyone!