Never Any Doubt as Wilmington Skaters Snag Top Seed
Wildcats earn bye in North Division 2, though some consideration was given to a boost into Super 8 bracket.
The Wilmington High School boys hockey team may be in the driver's seat, but they certainly aren’t setting cruise control any time soon.
Though the Wildcats lost just twice this season and on Saturday earned the No. 1 seed in the North Division 2 portion of the state tournament, head coach Steve Scanlon said his squad is in what he believes to be the most difficult section of the bracket.
Scanlon’s charges open postseason play on Wednesday at 6 p.m. following a bye in the preliminary round. The Wildcats face either Lynnfield, who they’ve beaten twice this year, or Danvers, who they haven’t played.
If the team wins in the first round, they’ll likely face Newburyport in a brutal quarterfinal draw. Wilmington was 16-2-2 during the regular season, but one loss and one tie came at the hands of their Cape Ann League foe.
“The road to the title is through them,” said Scanlon. "They’re the two-time defending sectional champs and they won the whole thing two years ago. Until you beat them in that kind of a game, it’s theirs for the taking.”
Newburyport was 12-4-2 on the year, and snagged the No. 8 seed. They’ll play No. 9 Masconomet on Monday night.
Saturday morning, there was talk of a Super 8 selection for the Wildcats, as they were on the ballot for the second straight year. If chosen, Wilmington would have earned a play-in appearance for the right to face off against the top teams in the state.
“It’s an honor to be mentioned with those teams, but a little unrealistic that a Division 2 team can really expect to survive much in that tournament. The depth is too much,” said Scanlon. “A few years ago Tewksbury was 20-2-0, went to the Super 8 and despite playing well, they were out-classed. So we’re happy where we are.”
With all teams assigned to neutral arenas, Wilmington was originally slated to skate at Salem State. The Wildcats disputed the assignment, as it is Danvers’ home ice and would set the stage for the No. 1 seed playing its first game in front of its opponent’s home fans.
Instead, the game was changed to Woburn, just a short drive for the Wildcat faithful.
“Woburn is better for us. Proximity to your hometown is big,” said Scanlon. “The crowds will travel when it’s close. We would get decidedly less people in Salem, so we’re hoping to bring the home crowd into Woburn.”
The team essentially sealed its playoff ranking following its 15th win, but finished the year with strong, capping a stretch that featured wins against four teams with 10 or more victories.
“Considering what we lost to graduation, we never thought we’d be in position to get a one seed again,” said Scanlon. “It could have been hard to keep focused with everything wrapped up so early. Maybe you don’t put as much stock in the remaining games but we did a good job of finishing well.”