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A little deja vu all over again – the top three finishers are once again projected to be Amherst, Bowdoin, and Middlebury (in that order). Last year the projections were the same but with a shuffling of the order, with Middlebury expected to finish first, Amherst second, and Bowdoin third. The actual finishes were Bowdoin, Middlebury, Williams, and then Amherst although the total point spread between the top four teams was a grand total of 3 points, with only six points separating the top six teams (add Trinity and Hamilton to the mix).

These predictions are data drive as they rely heavily on last year’s productivity for each returning player. Some subjectivity enters the picture in assessing and quantifying the incoming class for each school. In this area, the data is not as hard as it is for returning players as there is no common standard for comparing data across junior hockey, prep school, and public high school leagues. Go here for a detailed list of likely incoming players for each NESCAC school and go here for a rating of the incoming class for each school based on likely impact players.

Here are the predictions for how each team will finish during the regular season (the numbers in the first set of parentheses are the raw scores for each school and roughly translate into anticipated goal differential per game; the numbers in the second set of parentheses are last year’s regular season finish):

  1. Amherst (1.48) (4th)
  2. Bowdoin (1.08) (1st)
  3. Middlebury (.74) (2nd)
  4. Trinity (.70) (5th)
  5. Williams (.27) (3rd)
  6. Colby (.10) (8th)
  7. Tufts (.06) (7th)
  8. Hamilton (-.23) (6th)
  9. Wesleyan (-.83) (9th)
  10. Connecticut Coll (-.92) (10th)

The places where the numerical ratings produced the closest calls were between third and fourth place, where Middlebury edged Trinity by 4/100s of a point for third place and between sixth and seventh place where Colby nosed Tufts by the same tiny margin for sixth place. Otherwise, the numerical gaps were not that close, with Amherst (+1.48) ranked well ahead of second-ranked Bowdoin (+1.08) and Bowdoin well ahead of third-place Middlebury (.84).

A caveat: Bowdoin does not return its number one goalie (Chris Rossi) although it returns two-year veteran Richard Nerland. But there were similar questions about Bowdoin’s goaltending last year, which did not prevent the Polar Bears from finishing first in the league. The other top seven teams return their top goalies (Cole Anderson for Amherst, John Yanchek for Middlebury, Wes Vesprini for Trinity, Ryan Purdy for Williams, Cody McKinney for Colby, and Scott Barchard for Tufts), all of whom are very good. In the last few years, the NESCAC has, in some respects, become a league characterized by unusually strong goaltending.

Here’s the team-by-team assessment (point totals and goalie stats (interlock games only) for returning players during the 2009-10 season are included in parentheses), which places these predictions in context:

1. Amherst

Coach: Jack Arena: 28th season; 340-278-45 (54.7%); key achievements: 2 NCAA quarterfinals (1999 and 2009): 1 NESCAC championship (2009); 1 ECAC East championship (1996)

Key returners:

Forwards: Joe Brock (Se) (12-13-25), Matt Rhone (Se) (12-11-23), Eddie Effinger (J) (10-12-22), Nick Brunette (So) (6-12-18), Mark Colp (J) (4-12-16)

Defense: Jamie Hawrigg (So) (4-10-14)-NESCAC second team in 2010, Jake Hannon (J) (1-6-7), Mike Baran (J) (3-3-6)

Goalie: Cole Anderson (Se)-all-American and NESCAC first team in 2009 (92.6% saves in 1332 minutes)

Key losses: Keith Nelson (F), Ted Vickers (F)

Key newcomers: Keith Kurlandski (F), Brian Safstrom (F), Ryan Edwards (F), Elliott Bostrom (D), John Russell (G)

Strengths: excellent goaltender in Anderson; second only to Bowdoin in returning firepower; solid defensive corps; very strong incoming class at all positions; returns the core of the NESCAC’s number one power play unit (scored at a 28% clip last season); the second least penalized team in the NESCAC last season

Weaknesses/question marks: late season collapse last season (won only two of its last six regular season games and was bounced out of the play-offs in the first round by Trinity); lack of fan support

2. Bowdoin

Coach: Terry Meagher: 28th season; 440-210-43 (66.6%); key achievements: 3 NCAA quarterfinals (1996, 2002, and 2010); 2 ECAC East championships (1986 and 1993)

Key returners:

Forwards: Dan Weiniger (So) (13-13-26)-NESCAC ROY in 2010, Graham Sisson (J) (10-13-23), Rob Toczylowski (So) (5-12-17), Jeff Fanning (Se) (15-2-17)

Defense: Kyle Shearer-Hardy (Se) (8-22-30)-NESCAC second team in 2009, all-American and NESCAC first team in 2010, Kyle Hanson (Se) (3-6-9), Brendan Reich (Se) (9-10-19), Jordan Lalor (J) (7-2-9), Tim McGarry (So) (0-6-6)

Goalies: Richard Nerland  (J) (88.1% saves in 549 minutes)

Key losses: Colin MacCormack (F), Ryan Blossom (F), Leland Fidler (F), Mike Corbelle (D), Chris Rossi (G)

Key newcomers: Colin Downey (F), Oliver Koo (F), Harry Matheson (F), Kyle Lockwood (F), Steve Messina (G)

Strengths: strongest returning scoring power in the NESCAC; deep and experienced defense, with excellent speed and scoring ability; all-American do-everything d-man Kyle Shearer-Hardy returns for his senior year and the final chapter in his brilliant career;  good recruiting class; returned most members of last year’s strong power play unit (23% success rate); good facilities in the newish Sidney J Watson Arena and fan base

Weaknesses/question marks: coaching (Bowdoin continues to not be able to seal the deal in post-season competition, losing in the NESCAC final to Middlebury at home twice in the past four years and getting pummeled by Oswego State in the NCAA quarterfinals last season); unsettled goalie situation with the loss of outstanding goalie Chris Rossi to graduation; a fondness for the penalty box (the third most penalized team in the NESCAC)

3. Middlebury

Coach: Bill Beaney: 24th season; 457-132-34 (76.1%); key achievements: 8 NCAA championships (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2005, and 2006); 1 NCAA finals (2007); 2 NCAA semifinals (2002, 2003); 3 NCAA quarterfinals (2000, 2001, 2010); 1 ECAC East championship (1991); 8 NESCAC championships (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010)

Key returners:

Forwards: Martin Drolet (J) (15-21-36)-all-American second team in 2010, NESCAC ROY in 2009, and NESCAC first team in both 2009 and 2010, Mathieu Dubuc (So) (16-14-30), Ken Suchoski (Se) (11-16-27), Nick Resor (J) (12-10-22), Charlie Strauss (J) (5-15-20), Tom Clayton (So) (2-13-15)

Defense: Bryan Curran (Se) (5-13-18), Chris Steele (So) (3-7-10), Matt Castonguay (So) (2-5-7)

Goalie: John Yanchek (J) (90.8% saves in 1132 minutes)

Key losses: John Sullivan (F), Charlie Townsend (F)

Key newcomers: Darric White (F), JD Vermette (F), Louis Belisle (D), Nick BonDurant (G)

Strengths: third in the NESCAC in terms of returning offensive firepower; spectacular hockey history (eight recent NCAA D3 championships (1995-99 and 2004-06)); defending NESCAC champ after two years of second-place finishes; returns entire defensive corps; returns almost all members of the PP unit that scored at a rate of almost 26%; after a shaky start last season, John Yanchek established himself as Middlebury’s number one goalie and performed superbly down the stretch; good facilities and the best coaching in the NESCAC; has the returning talent to make another run at the NCAAs

Weaknesses/question marks: light recruiting year (may not matter due to the large number of returning players)

4. Trinity

Coach: Dave Cataruzolo: 4th season; 47-29-4 (61.2%); key achievements: 1 NCAA quarterfinals (2008); 1 NESCAC championship (2008)

Key returners:

Forwards: Adam Houli (Se) (16-10-26)-NESCAC second team in 2009 and first team in 2010, Matt Quigely (Se) (7-10-17), Paul Jaskot (J) (9-10-19)

Defense: Jeffrey Menard (So) (5-7-12), Regnars Alksnis (Se) (2-8-10), Mike DeMayo (J) (2-10-12)

Goalie: Wes Vesprini (Se) (92.8% saves in 1495 minutes)-NESCAC second team in 2008 and 2010

Key losses: Richard Hollstein (F), Ryan Crapser (D)

Key newcomers: Charlie Mullan (F), Will Gray (F), Larry Bero (D), Ben Coulthard (G)

Strengths: great goaltending in senior Vesprini; solid coach in Cataruzolo; decent returning offense anchored by all-NESCAC Houli; most experienced NESCAC team; excellent penalty kill (best in the NESCAC last year)

Weaknesses/question marks: lack of fan support for the Bantams; the worst power play in the NESCAC last season (scored at a rate of a measly 11%)

5. Williams

Coach: Bill Kangas: 22nd season; 275-197-42 (57.6%); key achievements: 1 ECAC East championship (1994)

Key returners:

Forwards: Connor Olvany (Se) (10-13-23), Matt Masucci (Se) (8-11-19), Ben Contini (Se) (9-7-16)

Defense: Brian Malchoff (Se)-NESCAC first team in 2010 (5-10-15), Mike Brofft (So) (5-7-12), Justin Troiani (J)-NESCAC first team and ROY in 2009 (3-8-11), Ryan Scott (J) (2-6-8)

Goalie: Ryan Purdy (J) (93.6% saves in 1236 minutes)

Key losses: all-American Alex Smigelski (F), Marc Pulde (G)

Key newcomers: Bryden McGhee (F); Matt Doyle (F)

Strengths: superb defense anchored by all NESCAC Malchoff, 2009 NESCAC ROY Troiani, and huge Ryan Scott and backstopped by an outstanding goaltender in Purdy; excellent special teams (penalty kill was second in the league last season; the power play was third but its main weapon was the departed Smigelski); least penalized team in the NESCAC

Weaknesses/question marks: loss of all-American Smigelski; poor recruiting year; next-to-last in the NESCAC in terms of returning offense; weak fan base

6. Colby

Coach: Jim Tortorella: 16th season; 218-127-31 (62.1%); key achievements: 1 NCAA quarterfinal (1996); 1 ECAC East championship (1997)

Key returners:

Forwards: Billy Crinnion (Se) (12-19-31)-NESCAC second team in 2010, Michael Doherty (J) (8-17-25), Nick Kondiles (So) (10-11-21), Wil Hartigan (Se) (8-13-21), Dan Nelson (J) (5-11-16)

Defense: Jesse Lehman (J) (2-5-7)

Goalies: Cody McKinney (Se) (91.4% saves in 1355 minutes)

Key losses: Jeoffrey Jarnot (D), Matt Strickland (D), Michael Belliveau (F)

Key newcomers: Jackie Bartlett (F), Sam Courcelles (F), Tom Kader (D), Nick Trepp (D)

Strengths: a coach who gets the most out of his talent as was on display in Colby’s OT loss to regular season champ Bowdoin in last year’s NESCAC quarterfinals; strong goaltender in McKinney, who almost stole the game from the more talented Polar Bears in last season’s NESCAC play-offs; the blossoming of Crinnion into a NESCAC first-team player and the leading scorer in the NESCAC

Weaknesses/question marks: major losses to graduation in the defensive corps; light returning scoring; inconsistent play (Colby collapsed toward the end of last season, winning only one of its last eight games after a great start to the season, which included a 12-game unbeaten streak); next-to-the-last penalty kill in the league last season

7. Tufts

Coach: Brian Murphy: 13th season; 120-150-18 (44.8%)

Key returners:

Forwards: Tom DeRosa (Se) (15-16-31)-NESCAC second team in 2009 and 2010, Zach Diaco (Se) (15-12-27), Dylan Cooper (Se) (9-12-21), Trevor John (So) (8-12-20), Dylan Plimmer (So) (6-11-17), Mike Vitale (Se) (5-11-16)

Defense: Andy Davis (Se) (3-12-15), Jared Barker (So) (1-6-7), Nick Metcalfe (So) (1-5-6)

Goalie: Scott Barchard (J)-all-American second team and NESCAC first team in 2010 (93.9% saves in 1403 minutes)

Key losses: Doug Wilson (D)

Key newcomers: Garrett Sider (F), Cody Armstrong (F)

Strengths: outstanding group of returning forwards led by Diaco (tied for third in NESCAC scoring last year) and DeRosa (Tufts ranks fourth in the league in terms of returning offense); off-the-charts goaltender in junior Barchard

Weaknesses/question marks: most penalized team in the NESCAC last season; no on-campus rink and limited history as a hockey school

8. Hamilton

Coach: Norm Bazin: 3rd season; 24-24-3 (50%)

Key returners:

Forwards: Joe Buicko (Se) (10-14-24), Anthony Scarpino (J) (12-10-22)-NESCAC second team in 2010, Tom Chiappetta (Se) (9-10-19), Bryan Kelly (J) (9-9-18)

Defense: Joe Houk (So) (4-15-19), BJ Lalonde (J) (2-14-16)-NESCAC second team in 2010, Brandon Broad (J) (4-11-15), Andrew White (So) (2-6-8)

Goalies: Calvin Bartel (So) (90.9% saves in 815 minutes), Scott Hefferman (Se) (88.0% saves in 679 minutes)

Key losses: Chris Lorenc (F), Jerome Wallace (F)

Key newcomers: Nick Anderson (F), Mike DiMare (F), Evan Haney (F), Bennett Schneider (D)

Strengths: middle-of-the-pack returning firepower; aggressive recruiting in junior hockey implies a strong institutional commitment to third year coach Norm Bazin’s effort to revive the Hamilton hockey program

Weaknesses/question marks: major defensive weaknesses (only Wesleyan turned in a poorer defensive performance last year); unsettled goaltending (Hamilton rotated two goalies last year although Bartel emerged as the number one tender toward the end of the season)

9. Wesleyan

Coach: Chris Potter: 8th season; 50-95-20 (36.4%)

Key returners:

Forwards: Tom Salah (J) (10-12-22), John Guay (So) (9-11-20), Geoff Mucha (J) (4-11-15)

Defense: Chris MacDonald (So) (2-7-9), Henry Coxe (Se) (0-8-8)

Goalies: Glenn Stowell (So) (90.7% saves in 454 minutes), Matt Hadge (So) (84.9% saves in 310 minutes)

Key losses: Tim Archibald (G), Sam Robinson (F), David Layne (F)

Key newcomers: Nik Tasiopoulos (F), Keith Buehler (F), Tom Hartnett (F), Brad Improta (D)

Strengths: untapped scoring potential in returners senior Brett Bandazian and sophomores Adam Kaiser and Steve Rogers plus newcomers Tasiopoulos and Buehler

Weaknesses/question marks: relatively weak returning offense; goaltending problems – rotated three goalies last year and did not settle on a single netminder; the worst defense in the NESCAC last season (gave up an average of 4.42 goals/game); worst penalty kill in the NESCAC last season; anemic power play (next to the last last season, with a success rate of 11.8%); second most penalized team in the NESCAC last year

10. Connecticut College

Coach: Jim Ward: 8th season; 57-102-12 (36.8%)

Key returners:

Forwards: Julien Boutet (J) (7-11-18), Joe Capuano (Se) (9-6-15)

Defense: Sean Tuohy (Se) (2-5-7), Ross James (Se) (3-2-5)

Key losses: Greg Parker (G), Ryan Joyce (D), Brett Moore (F), Trevor Bradley (F)

Key newcomers: PJ McCadden (F), Keith Veronesi (F), Mike Sinsigalli (F/D), Kevin Reich (D), Mike Petchonka (G)

Strengths: strong recruiting class

Weaknesses/question marks: far and away the weakest returning offense in the NESCAC; loss of excellent 4-year goaltender


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