Monday, June 10, 2013

D2 Lax Semifinal Preview: St. John's vs Longmeadow

St. John's junior middie Kevin Butler recorded a hat trick the first time the Pioneers faced Longmeadow.

By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

If Central Mass is to send a team to the state finals for a third straight year, St. John's will need to avenge a previous loss and hand Longmeadow its first loss of what has been a spectacular 2013 season for the Lancers.

Last Time Out

These two teams played at St. John's for the unofficial title of "best team west of 495" on May 15th. Then, the Pioneers put Longmeadow in a quick 3-0 hole, but an Eric Barsalou hat trick and domination at the face-off X and of ground balls propelled the Lancers to a hard fought 10-8 victory.

Can St. John's Create Extra Possessions?

As I said above, Longmeadow created a ton of extra possessions for itself by dominating face-offs and winning nearly all of those "50-50" ground balls. It was still a close game because of the sudden emergence of junior Pioneer middie Kevin Butler, who recorded his first career hat trick that day, but down the stretch St. John's rarely had possession of the ball.

If the Pioneers are to flip the script on Longmeadow, they will need to find some way to neutralize Lancer middie Drew Kelleher. The talented Kelleher dominated face-offs and collected 10 ground balls the first time around against St. John's. Pioneer coach Terry Leary commented after that game that it felt like "number nine for them (Kelleher) just got every ground ball."

Waking Up the St. John's Attack

St. John's has the best attack in Central Mass, but the Lancers held it largely in check the first time around. All-American Hunter Burdick got on the board early against Longmeadown, but star junior Drew Smiley and senior Josh Freilich were both held goalless.

The first time around, Butler and fellow middie Ryan Patrick stepped up, but the Pioneers are an attack-driven team, and when Smiley and Freilich aren't scoring, or at least creating for others, they have trouble beating better teams.

Longmeadow, in the midst of a special season at 23-0, certainly qualifies as a better team.

The CMass vs WMass D2 state semifinal will be played at Worcester's Foley Stadium Tuesday at 7 pm. The girls' D1 state semifinal, played just before at 5 pm, will also feature Longmeadow as they try to knock off repeat CMass champion Algonquin. 

The winner of both games will move onto the state final at Foley Stadium on Friday.