week 7: power rankings

STANDINGS

1. Williams: 20 points (9-1-2)

2. Amherst: 18 points (9-3-0)
Trinity: 18 points (9-3-0)

4. Bowdoin: 13 points (6-5-1)
Colby: 13 points (6-5-1)
Middlebury: 13 points (6-5-1)

7. Hamilton: 8 points (3-7-2)
Conn College: 8 points (4-8-0)

9. Wesleyan: 7 points (3-8-1)

10. Tufts: 2 points (1-11-0)

POWER RANKINGS # 7

All teams have now completed their bye weeks and are on equal footing in terms of games played, with exactly one-third of the season to go for all 10 NESCAC teams. Williams sits in first place and controls its destiny although it has a tough schedule, with two games with Middlebury and games with Amherst and Trinity. Each NESCAC team has six games to go, with much at stake in those three weekends. The league has divided itself into three clumps of contenders: the top three vying for the top spots (Williams, Amherst, and Trinity), the middle three competing for the last home spot and still hoping to move up in the standings (Bowdoin, Colby, and Middlebury), and the bottom four fighting for the last two spots in post-season play (Conn College, Hamilton, Tufts, and Wesleyan).

1. Amherst: After last weekend’s disappointing foray into the midwest for an uninspiring and meaningless pair of games with two out-of-region teams (Concordia (Wisc) and Lake Forest), Amherst returned to conference action with a bang, sweeping Trinity and Wesleyan on the road. And in the process, Amherst HC Jack Arena registered his 400th carreer victory with the win over Wesleyan on Sunday. Most impressive was the Jeffs 3-2 win over Trinity in an exciting game on Saturday. Amherst then finished its weekend’s work nicely on Sunday with an easy 4-1 win over Wesleyan, showing discipline and focus as it took advantage of a five-minute major against the Cardinals’ Keith Buehler early in the second period to stake the Jeffs to a 2-0 lead and establish control of the game. With the two wins, Amherst completed a sweep of this season’s series with both teams, having defeated Trinity on Nov 23 in Amherst by a score of 3-1 and Wesleyan by 4-1 on Nov 24. With the win over Trinity, Amherst moved into a tie with the Bantams for second place and of course now, with the season sweep, holds the head-to-head tie breaker vis-à-vis the Bantams. Next up for Amherst is a home game with fourth place Colby on Friday followed by a game with Bowdoin (also in fourth place with Middlebury and Colby) on Saturday. Amherst will be looking to avenge a 5-2 loss to Colby on Jan 10 and a 4-2 loss to Bowdoin on Jan. 11 and to make a move on no. 1 Williams, with their rematch scheduled for the last day of the regular season.

2. Williams: It wasn’t pretty but the Ephs picked up four important points on the weekend, barely surviving Conn College in a 1-0 game on Friday and besting Tufts in an ugly and chippy 6-2 win on Saturday, and is in first place with both Amherst and Trinity nipping at its heels. Ace goalie Sean Dougherty got banged up a bit in the Conn College game but nonetheless came back on Saturday to hold down the fort against Tufts. Missing from the Williams’ line-up in both weekend games was no. 1 scorer Craig Kitto, who was out with an undisclosed injury. The not-so-secret secret to Williams’ success this year is that it has the best scoring defense in the league by a wide margin (1.33 GPG in comparison to second place Amherst’s 2.00 GPG). Its scoring offense is less impressive at no. 5 in the league at 2.83 GPG but it does not much matter when the other team is barely scoring. It’s sad to see how little support there is for this excellent Williams team in its home town – just friends and family at both weekend games and a morgue-like quiet. Next up for Williams is a challenging Saturday-Sunday road trip to Connecticut for games with Wesleyan on Saturday and Trinity on Sunday. Apparently only the Connecticut teams plus Tufts have gone for the Sunday contest this year.

3. Trinity: The Bantams split a pair this weekend, dropping out of a first place tie with Williams and into a tie for second place with Amherst. The Bantams fell to Amherst in a tightly contested 3-2 game on Saturday, livened by the refs getting together and overturning a called goal for Trinity that would have tied the game up late in the third period. Still, Trinity had the opportunity to tie the game with two late penalties against Amherst and an extra attacker but could not find the back of the net. On Superbowl Sunday, Trinity was an offensive juggernaut, rolling easily over Hamilton by a score of 7-1 and staying in the hunt for the first place finish in league play. One does have to question of the Trinity schedulers as, by the third period, it appeared that even the tiny number of friends and family who attended the game had left the game for Superbowl good times. Trinity continues to lead the nation in D3 scorers with the top three scorers (Jackson Brewer, Mike Hawkrigg and freshman Ryan Cole) and the sixth scorer (freshman Sean Orlando) and leads the NESCAC in scoring offense by a wide margin with a 4.25 GPG average. Ben Coulthard continues to be a reliable and consistent back stop, sitting in the no. 3 spot in the NESCAC in all important statistical categories. Trinity has a few more defensive holes than Williams or Amherst but it does have a nice top-to-bottom line-up, with the added panache of an exciting and potent offense that is a lot of fun to watch. Next up for Trinity is a home game on Friday with Middlebury, with the Panthers looking to avenge an earlier 6-3 loss to Trinity, and another home game with no. 1 Williams on Saturday and an opportunity for the Bantams to avenge their 4-2 loss to Williams in Fenway Park on Jan. 7.

4. Conn College: An excellent weekend on the road for the Camels, with a nice 2-1 win over Middlebury on Saturday after giving no. 1 Williams all it could handle on Friday before falling to the Ephs in a hard-fought 1-0 game. Conn College is tied with Hamilton in seventh place for one of the last two slots in the play-offs. Senior goalie Mike Petchonka got the start in both games this weekend and was excellent. The Camels are much better than their 4-8-1 record in the NESCAC would suggest, with OT losses to Middlebury, Colby, and Trinity earlier in the season. Next up for Conn College is a trip to Medford on Friday for a game with travel partner Tufts and then the return engagement in New London on Saturday to wrap up the travel partner games.

5. Bowdoin: Bowdoin had a solid 4-1 win over in-state rival USM on Tuesday, complete with two short-handed goals within 6 seconds of each other in the third period, and then rested and rested in anticipation of the final three weekends of the season. Perhaps the most important development for the Polar Bears as a positive sign for the stretch run is that senior goalie Steve Messina had another excellent game against USM (he has been superb in three of his four last outings). Of concern is a slight drop off in offensive production for the Polar Bears, falling to the no. 3 spot in the league (behind Trinity and Middlebury) in scoring offense, its dismal power play (no. 8 in the league at 14.6%), and its subpar PK (80.4% or no. 7 in the league). Each remaining game is of vital importance for Bowdoin if it wishes to gain home ice for the first round of the play-offs. Next up for Bowdoin is a game at Hamilton on Friday, followed by one at Amherst on Saturday.

6. Colby: The Mules rested even more than Bowdoin during their bye week, with nothing but practices to keep Colby sharp. Like Bowdoin, Colby enters the stretch run in a tight battle with Middlebury for the last home play-off spot. Colby’s Achilles heel is a startlingly ineffective PP with a miserable success rate of 4% (worst in the league by wide margin). Just as they are for Bowdoin, all remaining games are of great importance to Colby in positioning for post-season play. Next up for Colby is a Friday game at Amherst, with a game with Hamilton the next day.

7. Middlebury: The Panthers got only a part of business done this weekend, splitting a pair with Tufts (a 3-0 win for Middlebury on Friday) and Conn College (a 2-1 win for the Camels on Saturday). As a result, the Panthers moved into a three-way tie with Bowdoin and Colby for fourth place but were unable to move past the Maine duo in the standings. That’s o.k. vis-a-vis Colby where Middlebury holds the head-to-head tie breaker but not so great versus Bowdoin, which holds the head-to-head tie breaker. The Maine duo plus Middlebury have remained locked in a weird triangle for most of the season, with each team experiencing ups-and-downs that make it hard for it to break away from the other two and move into upper tier status. One of them will likely end up with a home game in the first round but that first-round game will likely be with one of the other two members of the threesome unless one of them goes on a six-game rampage to close out the regular reason. The game of musical chairs in net continued for the Panthers, with sophomore Liam Moorfield-Yee getting the call in both games. He gave up only two goals between the two games but did not face many SoGs (15 in the Conn College game and just 14 in the Tufts game). Two of the Panthers’ better d-men, Connor Frick and Terrence Goguen, missed both weekend contests while slick forward Jake Charles returned to action and contributed assists in both games. Middlebury heads for Connecticut this weekend, with the opportunity to take down the high-flying Trinity Bantams on Saturday and to pick up a couple of points versus Wesleyan on Sunday. Just as for Bowdoin and Colby, each game matters a great deal for Middlebury, which cannot afford any more one-goal losses to lower-ranking teams.

8. Hamilton: It was a very mixed weekend for Hamilton although it did manage to cling to a one-point margin over ninth place Wesleyan for the last play-off spot. On Saturday, Hamilton squandered an opportunity when it let the Cardinals back in the game in the third period after taking a 2-0 lead in the first period, settling for a 2-2 tie. It was a rout on Sunday as the Trinity Bantams administered a 7-1 beat down to the Continentals. Junior Zach Arnold manned the nets for Hamilton for the fourth straight game, getting both starts before giving way to Charlie Fennell in the third period of the Trinity game on Sunday. After four games, Arnold’s save percentage is a respectable .921 but he could not fend off the Trinity onslaught. Next up for Hamilton is a home game with fourth place Bowdoin on Friday followed by a game with Colby (also in fourth place with Middlebury and Colby) on Saturday.

9. Wesleyan: The Cardinals managed a late game rally to tie up Hamilton in Middletown on Saturday and to salvage one point in a weekend that was mostly lost. The tie with Hamilton did little to resolve the three-way battle with Conn College and Hamilton for the last two play-off spots with only one point separating the two teams but does leave Wesleyan on the outside looking in for now in terms of post-season play possibilities. Wesleyan is in a bit of a funk, having won only once in its last eight games. Wesleyan needs to consult with its peer NESCAC institutions with regard to how to webcast hockey games as a majority of them have figured out how to do it. The picture was clear but frozen more often than not, especially when goals were scored. Next up for Wesleyan is a Saturday evening date with no. 1 Williams and a Sunday afternoon engagement with the always tough Middlebury Panthers.

10. Tufts: The Jumbos continued their disastrous season, falling to Middlebury on Friday by a score of 3-0 and to Williams on Saturday by a score of 6-2 and coming close to falling out of play-off contention. The game with Williams was a chippy affair, with many stoppages in play and sloppy play by both teams. Senior Greg Jenkins manned the nets in both games, getting his fourth straight start and continued to perform about the same as freshman Ryan Kellenberger did in earlier league games. The Jumbos need to find a way to steal a game or three if they wish to have any hope for qualifying for the play-offs. Next up for Tufts is a game in Medford on Friday with travel partner Conn College and then a trip to New London on Saturday to complete the travel partner series. These two games will likely tell us whether Tufts has any prospect of making the post-season play-offs as the Camels sit six points ahead of Tufts in the standings.

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