Monday, May 16, 2016

Central Mass Lax Power Rankings: Week 7

St. John's goalie Matt Mongeau
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

We're too late in the season for pointless introductions, so let's just get to this week's Top-10, where there's some shakeup both at the top, and near the bottom.

1. Algonquin: 12-2, 8-0 Mid-Wach A. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 1. Defeated No. 6 Groton-Dunstable 8-4, Nashoba 14-9 and South Hadley 19-9.

The T-Hawks bounced back from a brutal defeat at the hands of Hingham to lock up at least a share of the Mid-Wach A crown with wins over Groton-Dunstable and Nashoba.

Algonquin can clinch the league title outright with wins over either Wachusett (Tuesday) or Shrewsbury (Thursday) this week, or finish the year perfect in Mid-Wach A play if they defeat both of them.

Things pick up out of league play Saturday when the T-Hawks travel to St. John's for one of the best rivalry games in the state. Gonk will then finish its season next week with a trip to Grafton next Wednesday, so there could definitely be some shakeup in these rankings again.

2. Westboro: 10-2, 6-2 Mid-Wach A. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 2. Defeated No. 5 Wachusett 14-5 and Shrewsbury 10-9.

The Rangers got back on track with a pair of league wins last week, dominating Wachusett and edging a Shrewsbury team in desperation mode. Westboro will have a chance to close out Mid-Wach A play in style with a home game against Nashoba Tuesday and a trip to Groton-Dunstable Thursday.

An interesting trip to Leominster looms Saturday, before the Rangers close out their regular season next Monday with a highly-anticipated rematch against Grafton.

3. St. John's: 10-4, 1-0 Catholic Conf. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 4. Defeated Nashoba 13-1 and No. 3 Grafton 9-6. Lost to St. John's Prep 11-8.

I'm going to chalk up the Pioneers' loss to struggling St. John's Prep Saturday as the product of finishing a tough game against Grafton about 18 hours before, and having graduation ceremonies for their seniors the day after. Still, St. John's knocked off an improving Nashoba team, then overcame Grafton and the elements on Friday night.

Goalie Matt Mongeau has been on his game lately, as has senior pole Devin Greene, and when the Pioneers are clamping down defensively, we know Drew Kozub, Jack Donahue, Andrew Cox and company can score with anyone.

St. John's will have some time to get over that upset loss, as their next game will be Thursday at Western Mass power Longmeadow. Then, Central MA's premier rivalry takes place Saturday when the Pioneers host Algonquin.

4. Grafton: 11-3, 7-0 Mid-Mass. D3 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 3. Defeated Franklin 10-7. Lost to No. 4 St. John's 9-6.

The week started out splendidly for the Indians, who controlled  things against Eastern Mass power Franklin for most of Monday afternoon. Unfortunately for Grafton, a combination of wet conditions and a dialed in St. John's team grounded the Indians Friday night at home under the lights.

Give the Pioneers their due, but for the second consecutive year, Grafton seemed to play its worst game of the year in some pretty adverse conditions. In the rain and wind, Grafton couldn't buy a ground ball, and numerous errant passes and unforced drops doomed the Indians before a fourth quarter run by Cole Fontana and Josh Birdsall made it close.

Still, the win over Franklin keeps the Indians relevant statewide, and they're last five games are all big ones. This week Grafton will close out Mid-Mass play with trips to Worcester and Nipmuc on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, before heading to Wachusett Saturday.

5. Groton-Dunstable: 9-5, 3-4 Mid-Wach A. D3 Central/East

Last Week: Ranked No. 6. Defeated No. 5 Wachusett 13-4. Lost to No. 1 Algonquin 8-4.

The Crusaders scored a huge win over Wachusett, blowing the Mountaineers out behind Michael Tammaro's four goals and three assists. G-D also played top-ranked Algonquin respectably, and appears ready for the tournament.

But, before that, the Crusaders have a chance to make some more headway in the league, as Tuesday brings a trip to Shrewsbury, then the Crusaders host Westboro Thursday. Finally, G-D will head to North Middlesex Friday to close the week, before finishing their regular season next Monday at home against Nashoba.

6. Littleton: 13-2, 6-1 Mid-Wach B. D3 Central/East

Last Week: Ranked No. 7. Defeated Shepherd Hill 13-5 and Hudson 19-6. Lost to No. 10 Tyngsboro 15-8.

7. Tyngsboro: 12-4, 6-1 Mid-Wach B. D3 Central/East

Last Week: Ranked No. 10. Defeated Hudson 18-3, No. 7 Littleton 15-8 and North Middlesex 13-10.

Tyngsboro has won nine in a row, and currently holds the title of "hottest team in Central Mass." I could easily see people ranking the Tigers even higher, but I wanted to keep the whole season in perspective. Tyngsboro and Littleton split their season series and will likely share the Mid-Wach B crown, but Littleton still has the better overall record, and as winners of eight of their last nine, those Tigers are no slouches themselves.

Both these teams look like definite contenders heading into the D3 Central/East tournament, where star juniors Griffin Shoemaker and Kyle Laforge could make names for themselves statewide.

8. Marlboro: 12-2, 6-0 Mid-Wach C. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 8. Defeated No. 9 Worcester 12-7, Bromfield 8-7 and Fitchburg 18-2.

The Panthers opened the week with a big win against Worcester, but got a scare from struggling Bromfield the next day. Back-to-backs have been hard on this young team, but Marlboro has the firepower to beat nearly anyone on a given day.

Tuesday brings a trip to Hudson, followed by a home game against Lunenburg Thursday. Things will get really interesting next week as Marlboro hosts both teams from Shrewsbury to close out the regular season.

9. Wachusett: 9-6, 3-5 Mid-Wach A. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 5. Defeated St. Peter-Marian 18-3. Lost to No. 2 Westboro 14-5 and No. 6 Groton-Dunstable 13-4.

The Mountaineers got back in the win column yesterday against winless SPM, but Wachusett had previously been in free-fall mode, losing three consecutive games, and dropping four of its last five in Mid-Wach A play.

The once humming Mountaineer attack has been grounded in recent weeks, but they'll get three chances to right this ship this week against tough competition. Algonquin comes to town Tuesday, before a trip to Nashoba on Thursday. Wachusett closes the week with a home game against No. 4 Grafton on Saturday.

10. Tantasqua: 8-5, 4-3 Mid-Mass. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Unranked. Defeated South Hadley 8-7, Northampton 6-5 and Agawam 12-7. Lost to Minnechaug 14-3.

The Warriors began a stretch of play against Western Mass foes with a loss to powerful Minnechaug, but picked up three really nice wins the rest of the way. While the Tantasqua offense has gotten a lot of attention, it's been the defense that has keyed this midseason turnaround, and put the Warriors in position to make the tournament.

This week brings another trip out west, as the Warriors head to Amherst today, then come back home for a critical league clash with Nipmuc Tuesday, and face Hopedale at home Thursday. Finally they host another Western Mass team in Pope Francis on Saturday.

Dropped Out: Worcester (9)

Also in the Hunt: Nipmuc (9-5), St. Bernard's (11-4), Shrewsbury (6-9)


Anonymous said...

Agree always tough for even D1 athletes to rebound 18 hrs later after an emotional win but with less unforced turnovers and made shots in the crease this would have been an SJ win. Both SJ and Grafton played in rain not sure you can give credit or tee up excuses for either. Note one thing; when SJ plays with emotion they are tough (BC and Grafton). When they don't they under perform (Westboro, Prep). Minnechaug - just better!

Joe Parello said...

Definitely hear what you're saying about both teams playing in the same conditions. Not trying to make excuses for Grafton, just trying to illustrate that they didn't play their best game, and that St. John's dealt with the weather better.
And yeah, St. John's can run a little hot and cold, but I'll take a team like that come tournament time, when all the games matter.
Pumped to see how both teams rebound from bitter ends to their weeks.

Anonymous said...

I have seen Grafton play twice against Cohasset and Franklin. I was shocked when I saw them lose to Westborough and Saint Johns. Even though Saint Johns and Westborough had great wins. I think Grafton is still the best team In cmass, if they are playing up to there level as they were when I saw them at Cohasset and Franklin. After looking at there schedule If they can pick up a win against Westborough and then beat Gonk they will be back on top. I didn't see them play against SJ Friday night, but congrats to SJ on a huge win.

Anonymous said...

Great Job Again Joe.

I'd love to see a CMass D3 tourney!!! Oh Dreams!! Graf, GD, Lit, Tyngs, etc...

On the grander scale it seems the smaller schools have similar talent to the larger schools but maybe not the depth to hold on for all 4 qtrs (I have not seen Grafton play so, for all I know, they may have a solid 2nd, and very serviceable 3rd line of mids. and extra poles and attack).

Playoffs are coming. CMass should be well represented!

All the best


Anonymous said...

All good Joe !! SJ suffered the same vs Westboro (they were more ready to play). Like you said early in the year - new coaching and I am sure you have seen by now 20 underclassmen.