Mack’s Mailbag: Playoff edition

I watched the Super 8 play-in games at Merrimack on (Monday) and again on (Sunday). Will a lot of those players go Division 1? How does it work? Don’t see a lot of high school players go D-1, a lot are from juniors, right?

Yes, but a lot of high school players go to juniors after high school. Obviously I’m not sure which teams you saw, but there will be players in this year’s Super 8 that will play Division 1 hockey. Ryan and Casey Fitzergald at Malden Catholic are both committed to Boston College and Brendan Collier, also at MC, is committed to Boston University. Sam Kurker (St. John’s Prep) is committed to BU as well. Tim Driscoll, who plays with Hingham, is already committed to Holy Cross. Casey Shea, who plays for Woburn (not in the Super 8) is committed to UMass Lowell.

As for non-committed players, I’ve been a big fan of Malden Catholic freshman Ara Nazarian. He’s a local kid from the Merrimack Valley, too. He plays with an edge, skates really well and he’s like a bull in a china shop. The few times I saw him play this season, he was fearless. One of the games was early in the season, and I looked at the line chart and almost couldn’t believe he was only a freshman, because he played without any fear or hesitation. Mike Kelleher is clearly the best player on his team, Central Catholic. They’re local and I’ve seen them a few times this season as well. He’ll need some time in juniors but he has potential to be a D-1 player. Another MC player, Tyler Sifferlen, is from North Andover is another solid player. Guys like Sifferlen and Nazarian will be the next wave of players to step in and receive D-1 commitments from MC after Ryan Fitzgerald, Brendan Collier and Mike Vecchione (who was committed to UNH but de-committed earlier this season). Mike Iovanna from MC isn’t a bad player, either.

Will Merrimack have to win the Hockey East title game to make the NCAA tournament?

No. While still really tough to project, I think a sweep in Maine will lock in a spot. Honestly, we won’t really know until that Friday or even Saturday of the conference finals weekend. Remember, last season we were all certain that Merrimack was headed West, but some flipping that final day and it worked out that they were in Manchester. Same here, only instead of where, we’re talking about if they get in.

Saw that Toronto fired their head coach. Did Greg Cronin get fired too?

As it turns out, Cronin and Scott Gordon were retained as assistants. Toronto GM Brian Burke likely involved with hiring both — they were brought in last summer — whereas Ron Wilson was “inherited” by Burke when he took over. Burke is a big advocate and fan of college hockey. The Leafs are generally involved with most NCAA free agents and Burke is a former captain at Providence.

Looking to go to Maine this weekend. If I book a hotel in Bangor, it doesn’t look that far but really how far is it? How long does it take to get there?

Not far whatsoever. Just an exit or so down the road. In fact, I’m staying in Bangor. More to do (I guess you can put it that way). Well, there’s more choices when it comes to restaurants. … How long it takes to get there depends on where you’re coming from. For me (Peabody, Mass.) it takes about 3-1/2 hours and that includes some stopping for gas, etc. It’s about 210 miles from my driveway.

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