NESCAC recruits for the class of 2021

We are nearing the end of assembling the names of NESCAC recruits for the class of 2021, with 84 names in the database. The list contains several impressive names, with Trinity’s incoming class looking the strongest. Early decisions were released between Dec. 3 and 16 (round 1) and Feb. 2 and 12 (round 2); regular admission decisions were released between March 17 and 30. Transfer admissions decisions were made in late April and early May. You can submit additional names or corrections by clicking this link and using this form.

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July 20 with a Tufts recruit
July 7 with a Trinity recruit
July 6 with a Trinity recruit
June 9 with a Trinity recruit
June 6 with a Conn College recruit
June 4 with a Hamilton recruit
May 29 with a Colby recruit
May 27 with an Amherst recruit
May 16 with a Wesleyan recruit

Colby plans to build a new rink!!

Colby’s new rink will be part of a massive new athletic complex that will bring all of Colby’s indoor sports’ activities under a single roof. The complex will cost $200 million and be built over a 3-year period, with 2020 the anticipated date of completion. Eventually Colby’s long-time home rink (Alfond) will be demolished. For context, here’s a link to Colby’s plans for the new complex.

Here is an artist’s rendering of the new rink:

NCAA preview: Trinity v. Plattsburgh

Plattsburgh at Trinity (7:00 pm)

Trinity, the winner of back-to-back NESCAC championships, has a decided statistical advantage over Plattsburgh, this year’s SUNYAC champion, in virtually every important statistical category, including both offense and defense. But this first-round NCAA play-off game is to be decided on the ice rather than by past statistics. Plattsburgh has some important intangibles in its favor – like the momentum associated with a strong close (a 11-1-1 finish, culminating in the league championship) but those intangibles do not clearly outweigh Trinity’s, whose season had a similar trajectory, so perhaps a wash.

Plattsburgh has some offensive depth but no flashy scorers, with 11 double-digit scorers but with its 2 top scorers maxing out at the modest point total of 21 (Joe Drabin ’20 (11-10-21); and d-man Ayrton Valente ’18 (6-15-21)). Trinity, in contrast, has 4 30+ scorers (Sean Orlando ’17 (15-18-33); Tyler Whitney ’18 (12-20-32); Anthony Sabitsky ’18 (16-15-31); and Ryan Cole ’17 (13-17-30)) and a host of other offensive threats. On the defensive end, Trinity has an excellent corps of d-men and a solid goalie in junior Alex Morin (1.88 GAA (no. 7 in D3) and .930 save percentage (no. 14 in D3)). Plattsburgh’s greatest vulnerability may very well lie on its side of the blue line where its no. 1 goalie (and Quinnipiac transfer), Brady Rouleau, has compiled mediocre numbers (2.84 in GAA (no. 60 in D3) and .895 in save percentage (no. 87 in D3)) and the team’s overall defensive numbers are unimpressive (surrendering 3.26 GPG or tied for the no. 53 defense in D3). Rouleau can rise to the occasion, however, as he backstopped Platty to its SUNYAC championship with a 3-2 win over regular season champion, Oswego, in the conference finals and was named tournament MVP.

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NCAA preview: Hamilton v. Oswego State

Hamilton at Oswego (7:00 pm)

Oswego is an offensive juggernaut with a deep and experienced line-up, scoring at a 4.74 GPG clip and the third most potent offense in all of D3. The Lakers’ top 4 scorers and 9 of its 10 top scorers are all seniors, likely aiming to extend their college careers for another couple of weeks and to end with a flourish.

Laker forwards to watch include Kenny Neil (19-25-44 and the no. 7 scorer in D3); Shawn Hulshof (13-27-40 (tied for no. 14 in D3); and Matt Galati (13-17-30). Oswego is a veteran team, including 12 seniors and 4 D1 transfers, and with every single player being a product of junior hockey. Hulshof and Neil  are both members of the all-SUNYAC first team as is d-man Stephen Johnson.

Hamilton, in contrast, has a less showy but steady and opportunistic offense (producing goals at a 3.22 GPG pace (tied for 34th in the country). What it lacks in punch on the offensive end, it more than makes up on the defensive end, with the third-ranked defense in D3 (giving up just 1.74 GPG and featuring Evan Buitenhuis in net, who is one of the nation’s premier D3 goalies and the NESCAC PoY, and a stalwart group of experienced d-men).

In comparing stats, it is important to keep in mind that Oswego plays in a top-heavy conference where the top 3 teams are very good (Oswego, Plattsburgh, and Geneseo) and do very well in the post-season while the remaining 6 teams are middling to poor. Because the bottom 6 teams often do not pose much of a challenge to the top 3, the stats for the top 3 teams tend to be inflated by the weak competition. Stats in the NESCAC, in contrast, are depressed by parity, with very few opportunities to roll up numbers, making a statistical comparison between a SUNYAC team and a NESCAC team not necessarily determinative of the 2 teams’ relative strengths.

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NESCAC Semifinals Preview

We are guaranteed at least one first: one of the two teams playing for the NESCAC championship on Sunday will be a championship virgin. All 4 of this weekend’s participants (no. 1 Hamilton, no. 3 Trinity, no. 4 Williams, and no. 7 Wesleyan) have made it to the semifinals at least once but only two (Trinity and Williams) have survived the Saturday game, with Trinity advancing to the finals 5 times and Williams 4 times and the Bantams going on to win the championship on 3 occasions while the Ephs have failed to capture the crown on all 4 occasions. So we will be looking at a first-time finalist on Sunday and, unless Trinity prevails in both games this weekend, we could also be looking at a new first-time NESCAC champion.

Hamilton is a strong performer on home ice, with just one loss on home ice (5-1-3 in the NECAC; 9-1-3 overall) and none if its visitors has an impressive road record, with Trinity having a losing NESCAC record on the road and Williams an overall losing record on the road:

Trinity: 3-4-2; 5-4-3
Wesleyan: 3-3-3; 6-4-3
Williams: 5-4; 6-7

Statistics and history do not decide games but Hamilton has an important advantage this year, having successfully navigated the regular season and the quarterfinals to nail down that all-important home ice for the first-time ever. The open question is whether Hamilton will be writing a new chapter of NESCAC history this weekend by joining that small circle of NESCAC champions (Middlebury (8) and 3 each for Amherst, Bowdoin and Trinity) and expanding the number of members in that exclusive club from 4 to 5.

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NESCAC Quarterfinals Preview

The quarterfinal games are evenly split between 1 pm and 3 pm start times, with the early start times for 2 of the 4 games (Bowdoin at Hamilton and Tufts at Trinity) due to the host team also hosting a women’s quarterfinal game on Saturday. In 3 of the 4 games, the higher seed (Hamilton, Colby, Trinity) has a clear edge in momentum, making the home team the clear favorite.  In the fourth game (no. 5 Amherst at no. 4 Williams), neither team has any real momentum going into the quarterfinals but Williams has a slight edge due to the home ice advantage and Amherst’s struggles on the road.

So from our vantage point, we may be looking at something shocking in the NESCAC – an upset-free set of quarterfinal games. That last happened 8 years ago in the 2009 play-offs (it almost also happened in 2012 and 2013 but for the no. 5 seed defeating the no. 4 seed in each of those years). Predictions are just predictions, of course, and anything can happen on the ice, especially in this era of parity where narrow statistical analyses do not determine the actual outcome of games. Continue reading

NCAA has released its first regional rankings

Three NESCAC teams — Williams (6th), Hamilton (7th), and Amherst (10th) — are rated in the top ten (east) by the NCAA committee. These are the rankings used by the NCAA to establish the seeds and the pool C (at-large) qualifiers for the NCAA play-offs. Norwich is ranked no. 1, followed by upstart Endicott in the no. 2 spot and then a string of the usual suspects (Oswego (no. 3), Hobart (no. 4), and Babson (no. 5)).

We won’t invent the wheel because Matt Webb of D3hockey has become a great expert in all things related to the D3 NCAA play-offs and can explain very completely and accurately what these rankings mean in terms of who will make the play-offs and how each team will be seeded. To be really simple, in the case of the NESCAC, these rankings likely mean that only one NESCAC team will make the NCAA play-offs — the winner of the NESCAC playoffs. For purposes of this set of seeds, Webb assumes that the NESCAC’s no. 1 team — Williams — will win the NESCAC play-offs and make the play-offs as the automatic qualifier. The remaining two ranked teams — Hamilton and Amherst — are ranked too low to leap frog over the teams ahead of them in the rankings so likely will not be invited to the play-offs as a pool C at-large qualifier. The perils of parity . .

The NCAA will release two more sets of regional rankings on Feb. 21 and 28 before making its final selections on March 5 when  the NCAA will release its selections and brackets for the play-offs but not the final rankings on which those selections were based. There will likely to be more movement in the rankings in the next couple of weeks (Williams plays both Hamilton and Amherst this weekend, for example) and there are almost always upsets in the NESCAC play-offs as the no. 1 ranked team can attest for the past 3 years.

Athletics under the microscope at Amherst

Amherst is in the process of reassessing the place of athletics at the college, with top concerns including:

–the relative lack of racial and socioeconomic diversity among athletes (73% of male athletes are white while only 35% of non-athletes are white; only 6% of male athletes are low income while 31% of non-athletes are)
–creeping roster size (primarily a lacrosse and track issue)
–the social divide between athletes and non-athletes (reflected in the tendency of athletes to congregate in particular dorms and to dominate the party scene and exacerbated by the size of the athletes’ cohort at Amherst (35-38% of the student body))
–the tendency of athletes to concentrate in certain academic disciplines (economics, political science, and history) and to avoid some disciplines (like the sciences) and to exhibit other academic shortcomings (favoring large over small classes and writing senior theses at a much lower rate than non-athletes)
–a concern about the growth in the length of the season and number of games due to a substantial increase in post-season play
–a concern about concussions (the report cites 4 and 6 concussions for members of the men’s hockey teams in 2013 and 2014 and suggests that 3 concussions should result in the end of an athlete’s Amherst playing career)

On the positive side for athletes, the report noted that athletes have higher graduation rates than non-athletes and, likely most important from the administration’s perspective, are more likely to be donors to Amherst (for example, in 2015 76% of 1960s’ graduates who were athletes contributed versus 56% of non-athletes) and to make large contributions (a whopping 78% of the members of Amherst’s Founders Society (those whose cumulative gifts total $1 million or more) are former athletes). The documentation of athletes’ much-stronger-than-average financial commitment to Amherst over the long term is not surprising but is an eye opener in explaining just how important this ongoing commitment is to an institution like Amherst and likely many other NESCAC schools.

It is unclear what, if anything, this study and the ongoing assessment/review will mean for the place of athletics at Amherst. Williams’ undertook a similar study several years ago  with long-term negative consequences for several of the men’s “team” sports (most notably football) but with no apparent impact on men’s hockey or any of the many “individual” sports in which Williams excels (swimming, track, tennis, etc). More committees are to be involved in the review process at Amherst and many of the existing recommendations are on the soft side. Its impact on the hockey program is even harder to discern. The hockey team does not suffer from creeping roster size (quite the opposite, in fact, as the Amherst roster is more often than not one of the leanest in the NESCAC) but does suffer from the lack of racial diversity (as do all NESCAC and other college hockey teams) and is one of the teams that tends to have  longer seasons due to Amherst’s frequent post-season success. Finally, there has been considerable concern about the place of athletics at Amherst in recent months due to the recent exposure of bad behavior (of the sexist and misogynist sort) on the part of some members of the men’s cross-country team.

Here is a link to Amherst President Biddy Martin’s statement on the study, which includes a link to the study but also says that the study will only be available online for a limited (and unspecified) time period. Due to the fact that the report may soon not be accessible to the public via the Amherst website, here is another link to the study, which is entitled The Place of Athletics at Amherst College.