Monday, April 11, 2016

CMass Lax Power Rankings: Week 2

St. John's senior middie Andrew Cox will be key for the re-built Pioneers this year.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Thanks to inclement weather, last week was largely a wash (pun sort of intended) for Central Mass lacrosse, but we did get a few games in, and there was some shakeup in our Power Rankings.

Let's not waste any time with introductions. Here are this week's Power Rankings, complete with a power program rising, and two new teams in the Top-10.

1. Grafton: 1-0, 0-0 Mid-Mass. D3 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 1, defeated Amherst-Pelham 17-2.

The Indians haven't been tested yet, but they'll get three league games in four days to start the week, beginning with Nipmuc this afternoon, continuing with a trip to Northbridge tomorrow, and concluding with a home game against Tantasqua on Thursday.

Grafton would be wise not to look ahead to that Thursday matchup with the Warriors, though it's undeniable that the game between last year's Mid-Mass co-champions will be one of the biggest battles of the early season.

2. Algonquin: 1-0, 1-0 Mid-Wach A. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 2. Defeated Westboro 9-6.

Reigning SuiteSports Player of the Year and All-American Mike Martens was hobbled by an ankle injury throughout the preseason, but he quieted any talk that he might not be the same player this year with a five-goal explosion against Westboro in Gonk's opener.

A healthy Martens is good news for the T-Hawks, who continue Mid-Wach A play this week with home games against Groton-Dunstable Tuesday and Nashoba Thursday. A pair of wins there would give Algonquin the quick start it is looking for in league play.

3. St. John's (Shrewsbury): 1-0. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 6, defeated No. 10 Worcester 11-1.

St. John's shoots up in our rankings because of the way it handled a pretty good Worcester team, scoring 11 on a stout defense and shutting down an offense with immense potential. It looks like the Pioneers are back to their old tricks, as senior middie Andrew Cox score four goals in the opener, but the offense showed great balance, as three other scorers threw home multiple goals.

Oh, and goalie Matt Mongeau looks like he's going to continue the tradition of great goalie play at St. John's. Not every question has been answered, but one game in and this already looks like the kind of St. John's team we're used to seeing.

4. Marlboro: 2-0, 0-0 Mid-Wach C. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 3, defeated Oakmont 15-14.

The Panthers' big game against Littleton was rained out Tuesday, but they did manage to squeak out a win against what should end up being a pretty good Oakmont team. They're still young, and maybe a little smaller than some of the other power teams in the region, but this team has a ton of firepower.

Bromfield and Fitchburg loom on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, before we finally get to see the Panthers travel to Littleton on Friday.

5. Tyngsboro: 2-1, 1-0 Mid-Wach B. D3 Central/East

Last Week: Ranked No. 5, defeated Bromfield 10-2 and Shepherd Hill 10-8.

The Tigers bounced back from their season-opening loss to Marlboro with a pair of nice wins, including an impressive win over an underrated Shepherd Hill group. All-American Kyle Laforge seems to have found his rhythm, scoring 10 goals the last two games, and going over 100 for his career in the process.

Another big early season test awaits the Tigers tomorrow at home against high-scoring Littleton.

6. Wachusett: 3-0, 1-0 Mid-Wach A. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Unranked, defeated N. Middlesex 13-8, Shepherd Hill 11-4 and No. 4 Shrewsbury 10-9 (OT).

I'd been hearing preseason hype about the Mountaineers coming into this year, and boy did they justify it with one heck of a week. Holding Shepherd Hill in check is impressive enough, but scoring a win against Shrewsbury made this team impossible to ignore.

Give credit to junior Griffin LaPosta, who scored four goals, including the overtime game-winner against the Colonials, for powering the offense on that day, but this team features several guys that can beat you. With Mike Fritschy, Andrew Gaffney and company, Wachusett could be the surprise of the season in Central Mass.

But if last week wasn't enough for you, they have three more huge games this week. A trip to Westboro on Tuesday and home game against Groton-Dunstable Thursday will go a long way toward the Warriors' league title bid, but Saturday's game at St. John's will tell us a great deal about both teams.

7. Tantasqua: 0-0, 0-0 Mid-Mass. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 7, weather delays.

So, yeah, we still haven't seen the Warriors in action, but that will (hopefully) change this week when Tantasqua plays a pair of huge league games. First, the Warriors host Worcester on Tuesday, followed by the aforementioned slugfest that should be their trip to Grafton on Thursday.

8. Westboro: 1-1, 1-1 Mid-Wach A. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Unranked, defeated No. 8 Groton-Dunstable 9-3, lost to No. 2 Algonquin 9-6.

The Rangers debut in our poll because they knocked off our previous No. 8, and played our No. 2 very respectably. This is a perennially competitive program, and it seems first-year coach Tim Montgomery will have his team in the thick of the Mid-Wach A race.

Tuesday's home game against Wachusett could let us know which of these teams is a real league title contender, and Thursday's home date with Shrewsbury will let us know if the Rangers can win a physical game against one of Central MA's best.

If goalie Jeff Bernard continues to play well, and Trevor McNamara continues his hot start, there's no reason Westboro can't contend for the rest of the season.

9. Shrewsbury: 0-1, 0-1 Mid-Wach A. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 4, lost to Wachusett 10-9 (OT)

The Colonials got off to a rough start against Wachusett, but there were bright spots, namely the play of attackman Matt Ward. The junior scored four goals and dished out a pair of assists against Wachusett, proving he is ready to be the engine that drives this offense.

It may be back to the drawing board defensively, but if there's one coach and team you can count on in Central Mass to get a defense right, it's Nate Skermont and the Colonials.

Shrewsbury will get a chance to bounce back with a pair of league road games this week, beginning with Nashoba on Tuesday and continuing with Westboro on Thursday. Saturday's game against Marshfield should be an interesting test as well, against an EMass D1 playoff team from last year.

10. Littleton: 2-0, 1-0 Mid-Wach B. D3 Central/East

Last Week: Ranked No. 9, defeated Arlington Catholic 13-2.

Littleton just cruised last week after beating Leominster the week before, but things really amp up this week with three big matchups. Tuesday the Tigers travel to face Tyngsboro (the other Tigers, if you will), then they return home for what should be a shootout against Shepherd Hill. Friday brings a home game against Mid-Wach C favorite Marlboro.

With Griffin Shoemaker, Jared Collari, Anthony Rausa and the rest of the play makers this team has, don't be surprised to see Littleton push some more highly-regarded teams to the edge. Keep a close eye on tomorrow's game at Tyngsboro, as it could go a long way toward determining the Mid-Wach B champion.

Dropped Out: Groton-Dunstable (8) and Worcester (10).

Also In the Hunt: St. Bernard's (2-0), Shepherd Hill (2-2) and Nashoba (0-0).

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