Sunday, April 19, 2015

CMass Lax Power Rankings: 4/19/15

Algonquin senior Alex Sabel (22) scored an overtime game-winner against rival Shrewsbury last week.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Welcome to a special holiday edition of our Central Mass Lacrosse Power Rankings. Due to the fact that tomorrow is a Marathon Monday, and that I will be attending a game between two of the best teams in the region (more on that later), I felt it would be best to release these rankings a half-day early.

Without further ado, here are this week's Power Rankings, along with some notes about some of the big games this week.

1. St. John's (Shrewsbury): 4-1, 1-0 Catholic Conf. Division 2

Last Week: No. 1

The Pioneers took care of business, blasting overmatched St. Peter-Marian and Wachusett by a combined score of 36-4 last week. We already knew that St. John's could score, but if the Pioneers continue to lock it down on the defensive end, they'll again be a legitimate state title contender come playoff time. We'll see if that trend continues as a much tougher week awaits them with games against Grafton (Monday), Groton-Dunstable (Wednesday) and Shrewsbury (Saturday) in the next six days.

As you may or may not have guessed, I will be at that St. John's-Grafton game in Shrewsbury. A pretty big game considering that my No. 2 team is...

2. Grafton: 7-0, 6-0 Mid-Mass. Division 3

Last Week: No. 3

The Indians completed a season sweep of rival Worcester last week, tightening their grip on the Mid-Mass. crown to the point where a league title seems to be a mere formality. Grafton is undefeated and playing as well as anyone in the region but, like St. John's, face a daunting stretch this week. The Indians will travel to face the Pioneers Monday, then continue their road trip with games at fellow Division 3 contender Weston on Thursday, and Amherst-Pelham Friday.

3. Algonquin: 4-2, 3-0 Mid-Wach A. Division 2

Last Week: No. 5

Gonk broke through Tuesday, as senior Alex Sabel (pictured) delivered an overtime game-winner against rival Shrewsbury. The win gave Algonquin an early lead in the race for Mid-Wach A, and proved the T-Hawks are again a force to be reckoned with in Central Mass, and beyond. They followed up that performance with some dominant defense against Groton-Dunstable, and scored a massive win over Western Mass power Minnechaug.

Still, the Tomahawks will face their largest challenge of the season this Tuesday when they travel to face reigning Division 1 state champion Acton-Boxborough.

4. Shrewsbury: 5-2, 3-1 Mid-Wach A. Division 2

Last Week: No. 2

After a tough loss to the T-Hawks, Shrewsbury's week got a whole lot better, as the Colonials kept pace in the league with a tight win over Westboro, and coach Nate Skermont was named the 2014-2015 Lacrosse Coach of the Year by the MIAA. This week the Colonials will be fighting for playoff positioning in Division 2 Central/West against Western Mass powers Longmeadow (Wednesday) and Minnechaug (Thursday), and cross-town rival St. John's (Saturday).

I'll be at that game as well, so it looks like a big week in Shrewsbury for me.

5. Westboro: 4-1, 2-1 Mid-Wach A. Division 2

Last Week: No. 4

Westboro bounced back from its loss to Shrewsbury with a 9-8 win over upstart Tantasqua, and the Rangers aren't going anywhere just yet. The Rangers won't have any league games this week, as their only contest will be on Friday against Nipmuc, so they should be well rested when they get back into Mid-Wach play against Groton-Dunstable (Tuesday the 28th) and Algonquin (Thursday the 30th).

In the Hunt: Tyngsboro (5-0), Marlborough (5-1), Worcester (3-2), Nashoba (3-3), Tantasqua (2-2)

The Tigers are one of just two remaining undefeated teams in the region (Grafton being the other), and lead CMass in scoring at around 15 goals per game. Many will question Tyngsboro's early schedule, but the Tigers are undeniably one of the most explosive, and most balanced, teams in the region. Whether it's Kyle Laforge, Russ Gillis, Austin Coene, Nick Foley or  Matt Butler, Tyngsboro has guys that can beat you and put the ball in the net.

Marlborough is another team that has benefited from a light early schedule, but Tuesday will bring a great challenge for the Panthers when they host Worcester. A win there would make it hard to doubt the Mid-Wach C favorites any more, but the game may be just important for the Warriors, who are coming off a solid showing, but ultimately, a defeat against rival Grafton. Worcester faces a big week with playoff implications as they travel for the aforementioned game against the Panthers, and for a Thursday date with Nashoba.

Speaking of the Chieftains, it appears they're here to stay, after knocking off Wachusett 8-7 last Thursday. It was Nashoba's second close win in the league (the other being a 9-8 win over Groton-Dunstable), and could be just what the Chieftains need to make a tournament run. Casey Elkins netted the game-winner for Nashoba Thursday, and has teamed with Eric Demmer to form a formidable 1-2 scoring punch. Add in a solid group of poles led by the Arsenault brothers, plus fantastic goalie Robbie Atwood, and you have a complete and growing team in Bolton.

Tantasqua is kind of in the position Nashoba was last year. The Warriors have been competitive in their losses, even to great teams, falling by identical 9-8 scores to Grafton and Westboro. Still, it will take a breakthrough win before we can consider Tantasqua a true contender. As of now, the Warriors seem to be Worcester's biggest competition for the No. 2 spot in Mid-Mass., so it will be interesting to see how two late-season games between those teams go.

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