And then there were two ...
Medfield High School is known for having outstanding sports programs and that held true this winter with gymnastics, indoor track, swimming, boys' and girls' basketball and boys' and girls' hockey all making state tournament appearances.
But only two teams are still in play as of March 3 and both teams take the ice tonight.
The MHS boys' hockey team began its 2011 MIAA Division 3 South state tournament run with a on Feb. 28 in the South Sectional preliminary round. The Warriors will face-off against a familiar opponent tonight, rival Medway at 8:30 p.m. in first round action for both teams. The MHS girls' hockey team opens its MIAA Division 2 South Sectional state tournament play with a 5 p.m. game against Ursuline Academy of Dedham in Walpole.
(14) Ursuline Academy (9-7-4) vs. (3) Medfield (14-2-4)
Iorio Arena, Walpole, 5 p.m.
Division 2 South Sectional State Tournament, First Round
Medfield enters the state tournament as the MIAA Division 2 South Section's third seed after posting a 14-2-4 record this season and winning the Southeastern North Division after . Ursuline Academy is in the tournament as the section's 14th seed out of 18 teams and finished last in the Catholic Conference with a 2-4-1 league record (only four teams make-up the division). Both teams earned preliminary round byes and advance to first round play. Here's a breakdown of each team:
Medfield: Warriors head coach Molly Norton has coined the expression "Warrior Hockey" to describe her team's play when they're executing and finding success on the ice. The style of play Norton refers to starts with effort. Medfield has done a great job of outskating its opponents, leading to more scoring chances and more puck possession on the ice. Goaltender Mimi Borkan, a sophomore and conference all-star, has been the backbone of the Warriors' success this season. Borkan can pickup her defense when it breaks down or misses an assignment. Norton has said Borkan has had to "stand on her head" on more than one occasion for Medfield this season and is a huge part of why they're the number three seed in the tourney.
While Borkan is the star between the pipes, Amanda Cronin is the star on the ice. Cronin, a pure skater and natural scorer, plays defense for Medfield and is the definition of a two-way player. She has the ability to break-up a play in her defensive end and skate coast-to-coast to beat the opponent's goalie for a goal. Cronin netted 20 goals this season to go with four assists. Other key contributors for Medfield: Nicole Reardon (12 goals, 9 assists), Kara Pelosi (three goals, four assists), Jeanette Barone (three goals, five assists) and Meara Stack (three goals, eight assists). Medfield is solid on both sides of the ice and has quality skaters on all four lines.
Ursuline Academy: The Bears put an explosive offense on the ice but the team struggles a bit defensively. Ursuline, finishing fourth in the Catholic Conference with a losing record, still posted a 9-7-4 mark for the season and played well against some of the better teams around the state, including hanging with Norwood in a 4-2 loss on Jan. 31. The team has netted 66 goals on offense this season but has given up 60. That's a lot of offense but a lot of breakdowns on defense as well.
Prediction: In common opponents, Medfield and Ursuline both beat North Quincy and both beat Boston Latin. This game will likely come down to the 3-2, 4-2 variety and be close throughout three periods of play. The winner? Whichever team plays better defense and limits the other team's chances. That's been Medfield's MO and style of play throughout the season and I expect it to continue with Borkan in net and Cronin providing leadership in the defensive zone. Ursuline's offense will undoubtedly challenge Medfield's offense and the Warriors will have to be extra sharp in their own end to avoid any breakdowns that could lead to the puck in the back of their net. Medfield to win and advance to the MIAA Division 2 South Sectional quarterfinals, scheduled for Sunday.
(7) Medway (13-6-1) vs. (10) Medfield (12-5-3)
Veterans Arena, Franklin, 8:30 p.m.
Division 3 South Sectional State Tournament, First Round
It's a familiar match-up between familiar opponents in the D3 South Sectional State Tournament first round Thursday as a pair of Tri-Valley League rivals face-off.
Medfield finished third in the TVL behind league champion Westwood and second-place Medway, despite beating the Mustangs twice in the regular season. The Warriors beat Silver Lake Regional, 6-2 in the preliminary round on Monday and Medway defeated Wareham, 6-1 to advance to the first round. The challenge Medfield faces is being able to beat the Mustangs for a third straight time.
"Beating a team, especially Medway, is difficult to do," said Medfield head coach Toby Carlow.
Difficult? Yes. Unlikely? Not so fast. The Warriors have played some of their best hockey against the Mustangs in a 4-2 win on Jan. 5 and a 4-1 victory on Feb. 15. But going for the trifecta will be Medfield's most challenging game against a Medway team who will be looking to avenge those two losses. Here's a breakdown of each team:
Medfield: The Warriors were playing great hockey through the first two months of the season, staying right with Westwood atop of the TVL and ahead of Medway. But Medfield hit a rough patch in February, blowing a big lead in the third period against Dover-Sherborn to tie, 6-6 on Feb. 9 and losing to Ashland, 3-1 on Feb. 12 – both were games MHS should have won and both those wins would have secured second place in the league and better seeding in the tournament. Alas, that's not the way it went and looking back, it didn't really matter because Medfield was firing on all cylinders Monday against Silver Lake, especially on offense as six different players scored in the preliminary round victory. The one concern Carlow had of his team coming out of Monday's game was his team's discipline and inability to stay out of the penalty box.
The Warriors gave up two power play goals, not coincidentally the only two goals scored by Silver Lake and committed six penalties in that game. Medfield will have to remained focus no matter the situation: playing with a large lead, playing from behind, playing against a physical team – which Medway is. Connor Roddy played exceptionally well in net for Medfield on Monday and will have to keep it up if the Warriors are to continue in the tournament. Tyler Etzkorn had a big game offensively for Medfield against Silver Lake and the team always has Jim Magrath to turn to in key situations.
Medway: The Mustangs come in as the section's seventh seed and are physical bunch of hockey players. Medway does not shy away from finishing its checks and will look for the big hit along the boards or in open ice if it means making a statement. The Mustangs finished second in the TVL and statistically field one of the best offense-to-defense ratios in the area. Medway has scored 97 goals this season while only letting up 37, that trumps Medfield's 83 goals for and 48 against. But Medway has dropped two straight to the Warriors this season and neither game has been close. The Stangs will be out to get one back on the biggest stage to this point of the season for both teams.
Prediction: Both teams pride themselves in their play on both sides of the ice and will clash for a third time this season in a game which is surely to be about as physical as they come. Familiarity breeds contempt and there is certainly no love loss between these two teams. The question is can Medfield remain focused and cool under pressure when Medway inevitably gets under its skin. If the Warriors can avoid the penalty box they are more than capable of beating the Mustangs a third straight time. The key will be defense and goaltending – if Medfield can win those battles, than the offensive firepower of Magrath, Mike Brown, Ben Cox and Etzkorn should be able to get the job done. This game will be much closer than the previous two, but I'm going to side with the Warriors. Medfield to win and advance.
Smith's state tournament prediction record: 2-1
Smith's regular season prediction record: 54-15