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Hockey playoff season looms on horizon

February 24, 2011

Tolman goalie Stephane Meunier and his teammates host first-place Johnston on Friday night.

Over the years, the final weekend of the high school hockey regular season had always featured plenty of drama and storylines. Regular-season titles on the line. Teams pursuing higher seeds. Others fighting for late playoff berths.
Unfortunately for local fans, there won’t be much suspense this weekend.
A big reason is because only five boys’ teams from the area qualified for their respective tournaments. Four of the five teams that didn’t make it were long eliminated from postseason consideration, while a fifth, Lincoln, saw its run at a playoff berth come to an end last weekend.
What everyone already knows is that Mount St. Charles Academy will be the top seed in the Division I playoffs, East Providence and Tolman will take on each other in the quarterfinals of the Division III tourney, and the girls’ format is pretty much set in stone.
That leaves Cumberland and Burrillville as the only teams with any question marks heading into Friday night, but both teams will only try to land a higher seeding in their respective playoffs.
Here’s a look at the state of affairs in the various divisions and how our local teams shape up in each one:
Division I
Not only do the three-time defending champion Mounties (15-1-1) have their top seed locked in, but they also have their opponent on their radar in nearby Smithfield (3-13).
The Mounties, who crushed the Sentinels by a 13-0 score in the first weekend of the season, will again face Smithfield on Friday at 9 p.m. at Adelard Arena.
Burrillville, meanwhile, is 8-8 and sits in sixth place, a point behind Cranston West, which is also 8-8, but has an extra point because of a 4-3 overtime loss to the Broncos three weekends ago.
Both teams have two games remaining this weekend against parochial school squads. The Broncos host Moses Brown (12-3-1) on Friday and Hendricken (12-3-1) on Saturday at Levy Arena, while the Falcons face La Salle (11-3-2) tomorrow at Levy and entertain Moses Brown on Saturday in Cranston.
Unfortunately for the Broncos and Falcons, the private schools come into this weekend with an imposing 40-0-1 record against the public schools, so unless the unexpected happens, Burrillville will secure the sixth seed.
Division II
Only one team from the area will appear in this tournament, Division II-North champion Cumberland, which is 12-2-2 with two games to play this weekend at Adelard Arena and could wind up with either a second or a third seed.
Division II-Central champion Coventry is 14-2 with 29 points and could wrap up the top seed tomorrow when the Knotty Oakers visit St. Raphael Academy (3-13) at Lynch Arena.
But right under them are the Clippers and the Division II-South’s Middletown (13-4) and Portsmouth (12-3-1) with 26 points each, and Pilgrim (11-5-1) and the Prout School (11-5) are next with 23 each.
The Clippers are expected to take care of business tomorrow when they host Ponaganset at 7:30 p.m. The Chieftains are 2-14 and have the worst record in the 15-team division.
But on Saturday, they will host Portsmouth at 9 p.m. in a contest that should finalize the second seed. An added bonus for the Patriots will be the Division II-South title that comes with a win over Cumberland.
Division III
East Providence’s 5-3 victory over Tolman on Monday in Smithfield gave the Townies (9-5) sole possession of fourth place and an outside shot to leap over third-place Cranston East (10-3-1) in the standings if they defeat the ’Bolts on Friday at Levy and the Tigers again on Saturday at Lynch.
But the Townies would also need struggling Warwick Vets (2-13) to upset the Bolts on Saturday, and Cranston East crushed the Hurricanes by a 10-3 score earlier in the season.
The Tigers (8-6) also have two games to play, and like the Townies, their first one is a tough test. They will host the first-place Johnston/North Providence co-op squad (13-1), which grabbed a 4-1 win over the Tigers last Saturday in Smithfield, tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. on their ’Senior Night’ at Lynch.
If the Tigers defeat the Townies on Saturday and both teams finish in a tie for fourth place, a coin flip will probably be used to determine the fourth and fifth seeds. But since both teams call Lynch Arena home, it really wouldn’t matter.
Girls’ Division
Again, there’s very little suspense here in the state playoffs. Unbeaten Mount St. Charles (15-0) will be the No. 1 seed, Bay View (11-3) will be the second, the Burrillville/Ponaganset co-op squad (11-3) is the third, and La Salle (11-5) is the fourth.
Burrillville/Ponaganset will duel the defending champion Mounties tomorrow in a featured 7 p.m. showdown in Smithfield and then host the Cranston co-op squad (3-11) on Saturday.
But even if the Broncos win both games, they would need Bay View to suffer an upset loss to either winless Smithfield on Friday or the Warwick co-op team (5-9) on Saturday. Bay View holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Broncos with 3-1 and 2-1 victories during the season.
In the Division II playoffs that contain the bottom five teams in the standings. North Smithfield (7-8) is the top seed and will play either the Sentinels or the Barrington/Mount Hope co-op team (2-12) in the opening round.
The Northmen will battle Barrington/Mount Hope tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Warburton Rink behind the Thayer Arena.

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