When is a playoff game not an elimination game? When both the winning and losing teams advance. That's precisely what happened in the Boston area on Monday, when Malden (Mass.) Catholic School and Weymouth (Mass.) High both advanced to the state's annual Super 8 hockey tournament semifinals after Malden pulled out a topsy-turvy 5-4 victory.
Making matters more confusing was that Weymouth advanced to the championship tournament at the expense of a team which won on Monday: defending state champion Hingham (Mass.) High. Hingham edged out Central Catholic (Mass.) High, 2-1, but was kept from advancing to the Super 8 semifinals by an obscure series of tiebreakers which few in attendance seemed to have a handle on ... including the team's coaches.
At the end of Super 8 round-robin play between the four Division 1A schools, only Malden Catholic was assured of advancing with a record of 3-0. The other three teams all finished pool play at 1-2, with defending champion Hingham eliminated first on the basis of a brutal minus-eight goals differential.
Weymouth and Central Catholic, meanwhile, each finished with goal differentials of minus-one, which forced the tiebreakers into a second criteria: "total goal quotient," which is defined as goals scored divided by goals allowed. Because Weymouth had scored nine goals while allowing 10, it's total goal quotient was 0.9. Central Catholic scored six goals while allowing seven, giving it a total goal quotient of 0.86, just four hundredths away from Weymouth … and a state semifinal berth.
"Goal quotient is goals scored (divided by) goals against," Weymouth coach Matt Cataldo told the Boston Herald. "We beat out Central Catholic, with ours at .90 and theirs was .875 [it was actually 0.86]. It's an awful way for a team's season to end."
Of course, had Weymouth pulled out a nervy victory, there would have been no need for advanced mathematics. The Wildcats jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period, but Malden Catholic rallied with a big surge in the second period to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission, buoyed by a goal from forward Ryan Fitzgerald with just 4.6 seconds remaining in the period. He later added the game-winner with a wrist shot late in the third period.
"We came out in the first and played very, very well," Cataldo told the Herald. "Obviously, being up 2-0 at the break with Malden Catholic is huge, but then we came out really flat in the second period and let them take it to us."
While Weymouth wrestled with the unique emotions of celebrating a loss, Central Catholic could find little solace in being on the short end of a unique tiebreaker, which no one seemed to understand until it was calculated.
"I am disappointed that we got eliminated," said Central Catholic coach Mike Jankowski told the Boston Globe. "We knew going in that we needed a win, but we lost. We needed Malden Catholic to win by two goals, but Weymouth played a great game and congratulations to them."