Unbeaten Needham garners top seed
By Marisa Ingemi and Lenny Rowe
Globe Correspondents

Needham (19-0-1) is the top seed. Beverly/Danvers/Ipswich (17-1-3) sailed into its regular-season finale unbeaten before falling to Wellesley, 4-3. Austin Prep (13-3-2) is the defending champion.

Who’s the favorite in the MIAA Division 1 girls’ hockey tournament?

It’s a wide-open field. But Beverly/Danvers/Ipswich may be the most well-rounded team in the tourney.

The Panthers are led by the two top scorers in Eastern Mass., senior captains Isabel Primack (33 goals, 37 assists) and McKinley Karpa (32 goals, 37 assists). With 107 total goals, Beverly/Danvers/Ipswich has the most prolific attack in the division.

Needham had just one blemish on its record, a 2-2 tie against Medway/Ashland on Dec. 22, entering its regular-season finale last Monday against Notre Dame Academy, the top seed in Division 2. In an exclusion game (for Needham), the Rockets built a 4-1 lead before settling for a 4-4 draw.

Sophomore forward Gracie Bruno powers a Rocket attack that boasts a plus-68 goal differential.

Another Division 1 threat is defending champion Austin Prep.

Coach Stephanie Wood said her squad is excited for the postseason.

“We know we have to be playing our best hockey and take it one game at a time,’’ she said.

Thanks to sophomore goalie Hannah Aveni, the Cougars have allowed just 19 goals all season.

“We put a lot of focus on defense,’’ said Wood. “Not just defenders, but our whole team defense.’’

Other threats to make a run include St. Mary’s (13-4-3), Reading (16-3-1), and Duxbury (12-4-4), which has lost just once following a 1-3-3 start.

Division 2A state final between top-seeded Notre Dame of Hingham (18-0-1) and Wellesley (13-4-3), the 10th seed, could be on tap for the second consecutive year.

The defending champion Cougars (19-0-1) finished the regular season unbeaten despite a tough schedule. To make a return trip to TD Garden, coach Jean-Yves Roy feels NDA needs to keep playing its defense-driven system.

“We’ve done it all season,’’ said Roy. “It’s just a matter of being consistent.’’

Roy said the success has been a team effort, with every player buying into the system.

Junior captains Meredith Stewart, Jillian Lyons, and Emma Duffey anchor the defense, while freshman Erin Murray has emerged as a solid goalie. Freshmen Katie Pyne and Skylar Irving are top-line scorers for the Cougars.

Senior Alyssa Cimino has been a rock in goal for Wellesley. She and senior defender Cat Donahue have been on Raider teams that have appeared in three straight finals.

Winchester (12-4-4), the 11th seed, is another seasoned team that could make a run. The Sachems are well-rounded with a solid defense.

Methuen/Tewksbury (16-1-3) is young but has tournament experience.

Matignon (17-3-0) advanced to the semifinals last year with one of the smaller rosters in the state. With nearly all of those players back, plus some added depth, the Warriors could be a threat.

Third-seeded Shrewsbury (18-2-0), along with Westwood (16-4-2), and Whitman-Hanson/Silver Lake (14-3-3) are other teams to watch. Canton (10-4-6) and Pembroke (18-0-2) have shutdown goalies but will need to find their scoring touch in the tournament.

Marisa Ingemi can be reached at Lenny Rowe can be reached at