Monday night was “qualification night” for two of the three area teams who were playing and on the tournament bubble.
Dartmouth (9-7-2) punched its ticket to the South Sectional Division 3 tournament with a 9-2 victory over Seekonk/Dighton-Rehoboth.
Apponequet/Bishop Connolly/Old Colony returned to the tournament for the first time in three years after its 6-0 win over Diman. The Lakers ran their overall record to 8-8-2 overall, but 8-6-2 for tournament consideration with two games to play.
In an effort to help teams with small league schedules to get games, the MIAA allows teams scheduling those team to not count them towards tournament qualification. Before the season, the Lakers chose not to count games against Bishop Stang and Dartmouth.
The third potential qualifier was GNB Voc-Tech, which lost its game at Southeastern/West Bridgewater. The loss left the Bears one point shy of qualifying and they have two games to get that point via a win or tie.
GNB Voc-Tech plays at South Shore Vocational (2-14-1) on Saturday at 6 p.m. and at Upper Cape Regional (9-8-1) on Monday at 10 a.m.
Dartmouth, which plays Bishop Stang Wednesday at 8 p.m. for the Spartan Cup, will be making its 11th tournament appearance in the last 12 years.
Apponequet/Bishop Connolly/Old Colony will be returning to tournament play for the first time since this year's senior class were freshman, but this time in Division 2.
Four leaders on the team will be returning to the South Sectionals. They are Dylan Hanson, Jarod Stevens, Andy Cox and Noah Liolios. Two other seniors, Brad Plissey and Ian Vezina didn't play in the tournament as freshmen but they have been contributors since then.
The Lakers were 6-4-1 after 11 games, then went into a 1-4-1 tailspin.
“We struggled, but we were playing a lot of good teams,” said coach Craig Correia. “We ran into a hot (GNB) Tech team when they were on a tear, then we played Bourne, Old Rochester/Fairhaven and Bishop Stang.”
The Lakers lost, 7-2, to Diman Vocational in their last tournament appearance. One big change this year was that the MIAA moved almost all of the co-operative teams into Division 2.
“We have the potential of running into a Division 2 powerhouse in the first round, rather than us playing a Division 3 team,” Correai said.
Apponequet/Bishop Connolly/Old Colony will play Seekonk/Dighton-Rehoboth Saturday and Durfee on Monday to finish the season. Two wins would give it a 10-6-2 tournament record and a middle of the bracket opponent in the first round.
Prior to the tournament, Stevens will be looking for his 100th career point. He goes into the final two regular season games with 99 points. It will be Senior Night Saturday at 7 p.m. at Driscoll Arena in Fall River.
Playing to the end
The other area team still working to make the tournament is the Bishop Stang girls team (8-7-2). The Lady Spartans will attempt to clinch a spot in the Div. 2 tournament on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Worcester against St. Peter-Marian.
Last weekend Bishop Stang was upset by Cape Cod Tech, 3-2, with the winning goal coming with seven seconds to play. That cost the Spartans a point.
Earlier this season, Scituate scored with 0.3 seconds to play and tied Bishop Stang. That cost it another point. So, instead of having a 9-6-2 record and a spot in the tournament, the search for the final two points goes on.
“The lesson is you've got to play until the end,” coach Bill Theodore said. “The kids know what the deal is. You can't go into a game, knowing what the other team's record is and think it's going to be easy. I told them after the game, on any given day, any team can win. Look through history and there are hundreds of upsets.
“It's not about just getting into the tournament, but to win as many games as you can. In this game, there are funny bounces, blocks, the puck hits a stick and goes the other way, a wrist shot rings off the pipes or a goalie stands on her head and stops everything. Hopefully, we've learned from it. They know they didn't play their best game (against Cape Cod Tech). I think they're determined. They know you can't talk about it, they have to go out and do it and I believe they will.”
The hottest team in town
That title belongs to the Old Rochester/Fairhaven Bulldogs, the same Bulldogs who started their season 1-3-0 after reaching the state championship game last spring.
Since that start, they are 11-0-2 and among the top five teams in Div. 2. Whereas, last year ORR/Fairhaven was an offensive steamroller, this season it has been the defense that has stood out.
“The biggest reason for our success has been the play of Zach Labonte and Owen Powers on defense,” Bulldogs coach Eric Labonte said. “They're logging almost 40 minutes a game. The puck isn't in the offensive zone as much as last year, so we have to play more defense. This year, we don't have that dynamic. Blocking shots has become more important.”
With its 4-2 win over Apponequet, coupled with GNB Voc-Tech's 7-1 win over Bourne, the Bulldogs won their seventh straight South Coast Conference championship, sixth under Labonte.
“Our team felt like it had no identity, but in the Plymouth North game three weeks ago (a 5-2 win), we played a near-perfect game. If we are capable of playing like that, we are capable of playing with better teams.”
Old Rochester/Fairhaven is at Armstrong Arena Wednesday at 5:30 for a rematch with Plymouth North.
Girls hockey clinic Wednesday
Bishop Stang will run a free hockey clinic for girls on the ice at Hetland Arena in New Bedford on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
“It's open to all area girls hockey players,” Theodore said. “It will be on the ice with the Bishop Stang varsity girls. Girls from the South Coast Panthers organization, starting from 7-8 years old and going to 13-14 years old, should come. They have at least four teams, but this is open to all girls.
“It'll get them some exposure and enable them to be on the ice, working with the older (varsity) girls. It'll show them they have something to shoot for, a place they can play. They should just show up and have fun.”
The Bishop Stang girls team has paid for the ice from 4-6 p.m. and will practice from 4-5 and bring the younger girls on the ice from 5-6.
The Web site Masshshockey.com lists all the boys hockey programs in the state and ranks them by RPI (Rating Percentage Index). The local teams listed are ORR/Fairhaven (42nd, 0.282), Bishop Stang (78th, 0.251), Apponequet/Bishop Connolly/Old Colony (103, 0.227), Dartmouth (113, 0.218), GNB Voc-Tech (125, 0.209) and Wareham/Carver (136, 0.202). ... In the latest Hockey Night in Boston poll, Bishop Stang (12-4-1) has returned to the Top 10 among Div. 3 schools. The Spartans are ranked 10th after their tie with No. 5 Coyle-Cassidy. Bishop Stang is unbeaten in its last five games.