These newcomers to our league have a chance to go wire to wire in their first season of CELL. Despite a couple very close games, they’ve yet to be defeated. Given the fact that this session has shown 16 pretty darned good team going hard at each other each week, this is no small feat. Regardless of how this coming weekend plays out, I’d urge all MIAA teams to not even consider looking past St. John’s Shrewsbury this spring…they’re for real.
This team seems to have no clearly identifiable weakness. Goaltender Shane Walsh is a mature, confident and very capable goaltender who consistently put the team in a position to win. Quinnipiac-bound Owen Boss may be the CELL league’s most prolific scorer, possessing soft hands, a strikingly accurate shot, and an ability to get the ball on cage seemingly at will. Skidmore-bound Jon Bouvier does much of the same, just in a different way; he is smoother and a little more fluid, but certainly also knows how to both fill up the net, and feed so others can do the same. Luke Deflumeri rounds out the most dangerous group of scorers. Together, the trio head up an offense that has put up the most goals in the league to this point.
Defensively, JJ Jablonowski and Noah Bryant lead the group, and Trevor Brooks also makes consistent contributions. This trio, coupled with the aforementioned Walsh, make the team one of only four that, as of this writing, have held opponents below 200 goals in total.
The reigning CELL Champs have had a tougher go than they might have expected entering the season. They’ve played the Pioneers just once, and were beaten decisively, by an 11-4 final. They also had quite a series with the Colonials, a team comprised mostly of older Acton-Boxboro players. In the regular season, the Colonials beat Upper Winged River twice, by a final of 10-9 and then 9-4. This past weekend, Upper Winged River must’ve blown the conch shell beforehand, as the majority of the most prominent contributors assembled. Still, it took a concerted effort to finally get the best of the Colonials, by a final of 9-7.
Upper Winged River has displayed a balanced scoring attack, with four players (Abe Dekin, Joey Kraft, Anthony Stillwell and Tommy Miller) topping to 40-point mark. Injury and sporadic attendance have hampered this Upper Winged Rivers squad a bit throughout the session more than some others, but when they’re close to full strength as they were this past weekend, we’re once again reminded that this team is the reigning Champ for a reason. Defensively, Gregg Dennison is back from injury, Ryan Rahbany is back from a mandated week off and Zach Mickle and Dom Pasquale will also do their part to keep Upper Winged River playing in a manner indicative of the sub 200 points-allowed squad that it is.
The Warriors saved their best for last, showing when the stakes are highest, the team is capable of digging deep and winning the close one. In fact, entering the playoffs, the Warriors actually had more goals scored on them (249) then they’d scored on others (248). Given this fact, the squad was dangerously close to .500, but at 13-11, they squeaked into the Playoffs as the #7 seed.
Only two players, Timmy Goodfellow and Aidan Chitkara, topped to 50-point mark; Shane DeRubeis is their only other player above 40. Despite the somewhat modest top-end individual offensive output, each of these players need to be accounted for. Defensively, Alex Mele and Brett Morris have made opposing teams’ offenses have to work for their goals, as has Philip Koechling, who is a tremendous vocal leader between the pipes. Phil has displayed pronounced toughness throughout the second session of CELL, and frustrates opposing shooters with his ability to play angles, anticipate shot placements, and throw his substantial frame in front of everything opponents send his way with near-reckless abandon.
The Warriors are a high-volume, high-energy crew that plays with selfless intensity. They will not be an easy out because they simply won’t quit. Their voices will echo throughout the arena on Sunday, and while they’re clear underdogs on paper, I strongly suspect this team isn’t worried about that one bit. After all, they were underdogs last weekend too, and they pushed past two higher seeds to advance. It’ll be fun to see if they can do it again.
The fact that the Patriots advanced was surprising to say the least. In the regular season, opponents outscored the Patriots by a total of 15 goals. Midfielder Matt Park led the offensive output, with 53 goals and 64 points while Mentor Coach John Alfano posted 59 points in the crafty, creative way he’s ought to do. Youngster Luke Fremault has been getting better each week, and also provides good production to supplement the output of Park and Alfano.
The X factor on this team is probably its defense. Quinnipiac-commit Keegan Palmer is an absolute force when present, and Sam Duffy and Ryan Lebrun also play with a type of controlled anger that often intimidates opponents. Chris Perri is one of the older and more experienced CELL goalies, and he has looked the part week in and week out. They’ve had eight games decided by one or two goals this session and in those situations, Chris can be counted on the make key saves in key moments, as we’d expect from one of our better elder netminders.
It cannot be argued that some things will have the break the way of the Patriots for them to have a realistic chance of winning the CELL Championship. But this has been happening for a couple weeks now, and this lone Clam Mentor team left in the playoff picture is clearly playing their best ball. Hey, you never know. Either way, one thing that can be counted on is that this team will bring everything it’s got as it tries to shock the CELL world.