season preview: Trinity expected to rule the roost

The preseason predictions for the top four finishers in the NESCAC regular season are: (1) Trinity; (2) Bowdoin; (3) Amherst; and (4) Williams. Trinity, the reigning regular season champion, is strongly favored to repeat as the regular season champion and stands well above the rest of the crowd in terms of promise. Bowdoin, the reigning NESCAC champion (but a fifth place finisher in the regular season), is projected to finish in second place but to face a close battle with Amherst for that spot. Amherst, last season’s second-place finisher in both the regular season and the play-offs, is expected to finish third in the regular season while Williams and Middlebury are both projected to slip one spot to fourth and fifth place respectively.

There is a noticeable fall-off after Middlebury, with Wesleyan projected to finish in sixth place followed by Hamilton and Conn College. Projected to finish out of the running in the ninth and tenth spots are Tufts and Colby. The team likely facing the biggest challenge this year is Colby, which lost 58% of its offense to graduation and had a light year on the recruiting front.

In considering these predictions, remember that, with the likely exception of Trinity, parity is the word of the 2014-15 season when it comes to the NESCAC. Trinity is very much an outlier as it returns more than twice as many points (a staggering 207) as does its closest competitor in returning offense (Bowdoin) and added to those advantages by recruiting very well. It’s premature to crown Trinity the champion but it does have clear-cut advantages over the rest of the league. As to the rest of the league, parity is paramount, especially when looking at the four teams predicted to follow Trinity, a group that could easily be completely reshuffled by the time the season runs its course.

Last season, the fifth seeded team (Bowdoin) won the whole shebang on the road. Some of the Bowdoin late season success was due to its no. 1 goalie finally recovering from an early season injury in time for the play-offs but a big chunk of it was due to parity. Championship weekend consisted of three close games (Bowdoin defeated Trinity by 5-4 in one semifinal game and Amherst downed Williams 3-1 in the other; Bowdoin and Amherst went to double OT in the championship game, with Bowdoin registering a 3-2 win). The quarterfinal games were a different story in terms of closeness with no. 1 Trinity thumping no. 8 Wesleyan in a 9-1 game, no. 2 Amherst edging no. 7 Conn College by 4-2, and no. 3 Williams handling no. 6 Colby easily in a 7-3 game, with the only upset occurring when no. 5 Bowdoin had its way with no. 4 Middlebury on the road by a score of 6-3.

Trinity is our no. 1 pick because it returns a mind-numbing amount of offensive firepower (207 points or 4.1 goals/game) and virtually all its d-corps and brought in a killer class of recruits. The only question mark is in goal but the Bantams have two good prospects in net in returning back-up goalie (Nano Heilbron) and a new tender (Alex Morin). Bowdoin remains a contender in spite of large graduation losses because it returns most of its d-men, a superb goalie (Max Fenkell) who has two NESCAC championships under his belt, the no. 2 class of recruits, and a surprising number of returning points (98 or second in the league). Like Bowdoin, Amherst lost a decent chunk of offense to graduation but has superb returning defense, a great returning goalie, and the no. 3 class of recruits. Williams is close behind Amherst, with its own great returning goalie (Sean Dougherty), an excellent returning defense, a lot of experience, and a good class of recruits, with its primary shortcoming being a perennially weak offense although its nice class of recruits may change that. Middlebury is right behind with strength in all areas except for the all-important area of goaltending – if the Panthers can find a goaltending fix, a finish much higher than fifth place could easily be within their grasp.

To be even simpler about things: Amherst, Bowdoin, and Williams have the best returning goaltending; Trinity and Bowdoin have the best returning offense; Williams and Amherst have the best returning defense; and Trinity and Bowdoin have the strongest freshmen classes. Based on these rather simple facts, it is obvious which teams make up the top four in the league, at least as we enter the season.

Things can happen along the way to upset the apple cart such as an injury to a goalie (as happened in 2013-14 for Bowdoin as Fenkell, its no. 1 goalie, was injured early in the season and did not regain full health until the play-offs) or other key player or a break-out year for a new player or even a veteran player (like Jackson Brewer’s insane offensive explosion for Trinity during his junior year in 2013-14). Who would have thought that Brewer would almost double his offensive output in league play in one year, going from 8-10-18 as a sophomore to 7-27-34 as a junior and NESCAC PoY? Similarly, Amherst goalie Dave Cunningham sat on the bench as a freshman but, given the starting assignment as a sophomore, made the most of it and was a game changer for the Lord Jeffs. Bowdoin goalie Max Fenkell came from a year of mediocre stats in the BCHL in 2011-12 to a series of sparkling performances in net for the Polar Bears, most notably in post-season play. Conversely, Matt Silcoff was superb as a freshman for Middlebury, producing a stat line of 9-7-16, leading the Panthers in scoring, and garnering RoY honors in 2012-13, only to tumble to a stat line of 3-4-7 in his sophomore year and to fall to the no. 8 scorer on the team. In other words, past is prologue to an extent but new and surprising stories are written every year, and we never quite know the role of nagging injuries in hampering a player’s performance and productivity.

Our predictions are data driven to the extent possible as they rely on data associated with last season’s game experience for returning players, last season’s offensive production for returning players, an assessment of returning defensemen, goalie records for both returning goalies and incoming goalies, and an assessment of the quality of this year’s recruits. Nonetheless, some amount of subjectivity is inevitable in assessing the quality of the incoming classes for each school and returning defensemen.

Here are the predictions for how each team will finish during the regular season (the ranking is based on weighted scores for each school using relative ratings in five categories (returning game experience, returning points scored, returning defensemen, goaltending, and incoming classes); the number in parentheses is the team’s regular season finish in the 2013-14 season):

  1. Trinity (1st)
  2. Bowdoin (5th)
  3. Amherst (2nd)
  4. Williams (3rd)
  5. Middlebury (4th)
  6. Wesleyan (8th)
  7. Hamilton (9th)
  8. Connecticut College (7th)
  9. Tufts (10th)
  10. Colby (6th)

Here is the team-by-team assessment. Point totals and goalie stats (only data from regular season NESCAC games is included to ensure apples-to-apples comparisons) for returning players for the 2013-14 season are included in parentheses to provide additional context and detail for these predictions:

  1. Trinity

Coach: Matt Greason: 4th season (45-25-5) (63.3% winning percentage)

2013-14 NESCAC record: 15-3 (1st place; eliminated no. 8 Wesleyan 9-1 in the NESCAC quarterfinals; eliminated in a 5-4 game by no. 5 Bowdoin in the NESCAC semifinals) (21-5 overall record)

Captains: Michael Flynn (D) (Se), Paul Burns (D) (Se), and Jackson Brewer (F) (Se)

Key returners:

Forwards: Jackson Brewer (Se) (7-27-34) (all-American first team and NESCAC first team and PoY in 2014), John (Mike) Hawkrigg (J) (15-17-32) (all-American second team and NESCAC first team in 2014), Ryan Cole (So) (15-16-31) (NESCAC first team and RoY in 2014), Sean Orlando (So) (13-12-25), Liam McKillop (Se) (2-12-14)

Defense: Mike Flynn (Se) (4-15-19) (all-American second team and NESCAC first team in 2014), Ben Hjarmalsson (J) (4-7-11), Paul Burns (Se) (1-5-6), T.J. Sherman (So) (2-3-5), Drew Tallett (Se) (0-2-2), Greg Rooney (Se) (0-1-1), Sam Johnson (So) (0-1-1)

Goalie: Nano Heilbron (J) (.891 save percentage in 120 minutes)

Key losses: Will Gray (F), Ben Coulthard (G) (NESCAC first team in 2013)

Key newcomers (rated no. 1): Alex Morin (G), Anthony Sabitsky (F), Tyler Whitney (F), Brad Buvinow (F), Connor Hegarty (D), Mike Menter (D)

Strengths: The Bantams are the most experienced team in the NESCAC in virtually all facets of the game except for goaltending; Trinity returns 97% of its offensive production, including the top 4 scorers in the nation and in the NESCAC in Jackson Brewer, Mike Hawkrigg, Ryan Cole, and Sean Orlando and a staggering total of 207 returning points (or more than twice as many as its closest rival in terms of points, Bowdoin); the Bantams will be deeper offensively with the addition of three strong frosh prospects in Sabitsky, Whitney and Buvinow; Trinity had the no. 1 offense in the league by a wide margin last season (4.28 GPG); the Bantams had the best power play in the league with a 25.8% scoring rate (a major improvement over the past 3 seasons); it has great depth at the blue line with 7 experienced returning d-men, supplemented by 2 excellent frosh prospects in Hegarty and Menter; it has the no. 1 recruiting class in the NESCAC, with 3 scorers, 2 d-men, and an excellent goalie prospect; in a major improvement from the prior 2 years, Trinity stayed out of the penalty box with only 9.3 PIM/game in 2013-14 (only Williams was better behaved)

Weaknesses/question marks: A major weakness in the Trinity game is a poor penalty kill, with only a 78.1% kill rate in 2013-14 (or the third worst in the league); Trinity also does not defend well on its lethal power play, surrendering 4 short-handed goals in 2013-14 (more than any other team in the league); with the loss of the no. 4 rated goalie in the league in Ben Coulthard, the biggest unknown is in goal – Trinity will begin the season without a veteran net minder (back-up Nano Heilbron has shown potential but has yet to be tested and freshman Alex Morin has a promising junior and prep record); will other NESCAC teams figure out ways to hold the potent Trinity offense in check as the NESCAC teams with the best team defense did last year (Amherst won both regular season games with Trinity while Williams and Trinity split, with the Bantams averaging only 2 GPG against the Ephs)?

  1. Bowdoin

Coach: Terry Meagher: 32nd season (515-237-51) (67.3% winning percentage); key achievements: 5 NCAA quarterfinals (1996, 2002, 2010, 2011, and 2013); 1 NCAA first-round game (2014); 2 ECAC East championships (1986 and 1993); 3 NESCAC championships (2011, 2013, and 2014)

2013-14 NESCAC record: 9-8-1 (5th place: eliminated no. 4 Middlebury 6-3 in the NESCAC quarterfinals; eliminated no. 1 Trinity 5-4 in the NESCAC semifinals; eliminated no. 2 Amherst 3-2 (2OT) in the NESCAC finals for its third NESCAC championship in 4 years) (17-9-2 overall)

Captains: Danny Palumbo (F) (Se) and Ryan Collier (D) (Se)

Key returners:

Forwards: John McGinnis (Se) (5-16-21) (NESCAC RoY in 2012), Connor Quinn (Se) (3-8-11) (NESCAC second team in 2014), Matt Rubinoff (J) (9-4-13)

Defense: Mitch Barrington (So) (4-7-11), Ryan Collier (Se) (0-7-7), Jay Kourkoulis (So) (0-3-3), Brendan Conroy (So) (0-3-3)

Goalie: Max Fenkell (S) (.906 save percentage in 425 minutes)

Key losses: Colin Downey (F) (NESCAC first team in 2012, NESCAC second team and all-American third team in 2014), Ollie Koo (F) (NESCAC second team in 2013 but missed most of 2013-14 season), Harry Matheson (F), Kyle Lockwood (F), Jay Livermore (D), Steve Messina (G)

Key newcomers (rated no. 2): Matt Lison (F), Stevie Van Siclen (F), Matt Melanson (F), Camil Blanchet (F/D), Cullen Geary (D), Danny McMullan (D), Peter Cronin (G)

Strengths: Although it lost a lot of goals (27) to graduation, Bowdoin still returns the second most points in the league with 98; unfortunately for Bowdoin that stat is not that impressive in the grand scheme of things as Trinity has more than twice as many returning points; nonetheless, Bowdoin starts with a decent offensive foundation, with 3 major scoring threats in McGinnis, Quinn, and Rubinoff; Bowdoin also returns one of the league’s best goalies in senior Max Fenkell, who back stopped the Polar Bears to back-to-back championships in 2013 and 2014; no other goalie can say that since Ross Cherry did it for Middlebury an extraordinary three times in a row in the mid-naughts (2005-07); Bowdoin returns a deep and experienced d-corps, featuring 4 sophomores who saw regular duty as freshmen and whose performance improved significantly as the season wore on; the Polar Bears significantly reduced the amount of time spent in the penalty box in the 2013-14 season (going from 14.4 PIM/game (second highest) to 11.7 PIM/game or the fifth highest); Bowdoin developed an unusual skill last season, which was to score short-handed goals at a high rate (8 for the season), pushing the special teams’ net to second best in the league despite a mediocre power play and penalty kill; Bowdoin has great facilities (Sidney J Watson Arena) and strong fan base; the Polar Bears have a deep and large class of quality recruits; Bowdoin has a good coaching staff that has fine tuned its coaching techniques in recent years and figured out how to instill a winning and focused mind set for post-season play; this year’s senior class is almost as strong as last year’s (having played central roles in securing 2 NESCAC championships in 3 years)

Weaknesses/question marks: Loss of third-team all-American Colin Downey and 2 other excellent scorers in Harry Matheson and Kyle Lockwood to graduation; loss of 34% of its offensive production to graduation (and 44% of its goals) (tied with Amherst and Middlebury for the most offensive production lost to graduation); a mediocre power play (a 17.1% scoring rate or the fifth rated PP in the league) and a mediocre PK (no. 5 in the league last season with a kill rate of only 83.5%); tied for Tufts last season with the worst defensive performance in the first period (both gave up 20 goals); mediocre defense (gave up 3.17 GPG (rated no. 6 in the league); a very weak OOC schedule that has hurt the Polar Bears in post-season play, producing a low seed in the NCAA play-offs and exiling them to upstate New York for road games with powerhouses like Utica and Oswego for quarterfinal or play-in games in 3 of the past 4 seasons; the Polar Bears had a hard time finding their rhythm in 2013-14, assembling a mediocre regular season record, although the team gelled at the right time and looked very much like the NESCAC’s finest team in the play-offs and the post season

  1. Amherst

Coach: Jack Arena: 32nd season (407-306-56) (56.6% winning percentage); key achievements: 1 NCAA semi-final (2012); 2 NCAA quarterfinals (1999 and 2009); 2 NESCAC championships (2009 and 2012); 1 ECAC East championship (1996)

 

2013-14 NESCAC record: 12-4-2 (2nd place; eliminated no. 7 Conn College 4-2 in the NESCAC quarterfinals; eliminated no. 3 Williams 3-1 in the NESCAC semifinals; eliminated in a 3-2 (2OT) game by no. 5 Bowdoin in the NESCAC finals (16-8-3 overall)

Captains: Michael Rowbotham (F) (Se) and Jake Turrin (D) (Se)

Key returners:

Forwards: Connor Brown (J) (9-5-14), Topher Flanagan (5-6-11), Michael Rowbotham (Se) (4-6-10)

Defense: Aaron Deutsch (Se) (2-7-9), Theodore Hannah (J) (1-5-6), Jake Turrin (Se) (1-4-5), Kevin Ryder (J) (0-3-3), Austin Ho (So) (0-0-0)

Goalie: Dave Cunningham (J) (.929 save percentage in 1021 minutes) (NESCAC second team in 2014)

Key losses: Andrew Kurlandski (F), Brian Safstrom (F), Ryan Edwards (F), Elliot Bostrom (D)

Key newcomers (rated no. 3): Keenan Hodgson (F), Thomas Lindstrom (F), David White (F), Tyler Granara (D), Patrick Mooney (D)

Strengths: Amherst features one of the league’s best returning goalies in all-NESCAC (second team) Dave Cunningham (no. 2 in GAA at 1.94 and no. 3 in save percentage at .929; he was a work house who played all but 1 of Amherst’s 18 regular season games and all 3 play-off games); the Lord Jeffs had decent scoring in 2013-14 (no. 4 offense at 3.17 GPG and the second best defense (1. 94 GPG) so it has a good foundation on which to build; Amherst returns an excellent group of d-men headed by seniors Deutsch and Turrin; in 2013-14, the Lord Jeffs had a great penalty kill (best in the league last season at 90%) and the stingiest defense in the league in the first period, giving up only 8 goals in 18 games; Amherst has the third best class of recruits, with 3 very good-looking forward prospects; excellent coaching in Jack Arena, who has coached Amherst to the NESCAC championship twice in the past 6 years and took the Jeffs to the NCAA semifinals in 2012

Weaknesses/question marks: Like Bowdoin and Middlebury, Amherst lost 34% of its offensive production to graduation; in a bit of a surprise, the normally disciplined Amherst was the third-most penalized team in the league (15.3 PIM/game); it also had an anemic power play (15.6%) or just seventh in the league; as usual, fan support for the Lord Jeffs will be limited as tends to happen at basketball schools

  1. Williams

Coach: Bill Kangas: 26th season (335-229-56) (58.5% winning percentage); key achievements: 1 ECAC East championship (1994)

 

2013-14 NESCAC record: 10-5-3 (3rd place; eliminated no. 6 Colby 7-3 in the NESCAC quarterfinals; eliminated in a 3-1 game by Amherst in the NESCAC semifinals) (15-8-3 overall)

Captains: Brian McNamara (D) (Se) and Zander Masucci (D) (J)

Key returners:

Forwards: Craig Kitto (Se) (6-7-13), George Hunkele (So) (6-6-12), Tyler Young (So) (4-8-12)

Defense: Frankie Mork (So) (3-4-7) (NESCAC second team in 2014), David Jarrett (Se) (0-5-5), Zander Masucci (J) (1-2-3), Greg Johnson (J) (2-4-6), James McNamara (4-1-5) (So), Brian McNamara (Se) (0-2-2)

Goalie: Sean Dougherty (Se) (all-American second team and NESCAC first team in 2014 and NESCAC second team in 2013) (.939 save percentage in 1056 minutes)

Key losses: Nick Anderson (F), Paul Steinig (F/D), Matt Doyle (F)

Key newcomers (rated no. 4): David Italiano (F), CJ Shugart (F), Dan Doherty (F), Colby Cretella (F), Alex Gonye (F), Stephen Morrissey (G)

Strengths: Williams returns the no. 1 goalie in the NESCAC in Dougherty in terms of accolades and stats (NESCAC first team in 2014; 1.65 GAA; .939 save percentage); Dougherty was also a work horse for the Ephs for the second year in a row, playing all but 40 minutes of Williams’ 18 league games and all of its 2 play-off games; Williams also returns a fine and deep group of experienced d-men, headed by outstanding sophomore Mork; Williams finished no. 1 in the league in defense in both 2012-13 and 2013-14 (giving up only 1.83 GPG last season) and, based on returning personnel, is well positioned to repeat that feat; it has a strong incoming class (rated no. 4), with great strength on the front line; Williams is a highly disciplined team that stays out of the penalty box (the lowest number of PIMs in the league for 2 years in a row) and effectively executes the PK (88.1% kill rate this past season and the second best in the league); also gave up an OT goal in only 1 of 5 OT games last season; experienced relatively modest losses in offensive production to graduation (25%); with a roster of 27 players, the Williams’ roster is larger than it has been for several years, making the Ephs less vulnerable to injuries than it has been for the past 3 seasons; Williams is second only to Trinity in terms of returning experienced players

Weaknesses/question marks: Williams tends to be very weak offensively, producing only 2.44 GPG in 2013-14 (only Hamilton and Tufts had weaker offenses); as always, Williams has a weak fan base, which perhaps in part explains its lack of post-season success over the years

  1. Middlebury

Coach: Bill Beaney: 28th season (506-172-48) (73% winning percentage); 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)

2013-14 NESCAC record: 9-7-2 (4th place; eliminated in a 6-3 game by no. 5 Bowdoin in the NESCAC quarterfinals) (11-11-3 overall)

Captains: George Ordway (F) (Se) and Derek Pimentel (F) (Se)

Key returners:

Forwards: Derek Pimentel (Se) (9-13-22) (NESCAC second team in 2014), Jake Charles (J) (5-9-14 in just 12 conference games)

Defense: Ronald Fishman (J) (3-6-9), Max Greenwald (J) (1-5-6), Cam Romoff (So) (1-2-3), Connor Frick (J) (1-2-3; only played in 8 league games due to injury), Terrance Goguen (J) (0-1-1; only played in 11 league games due to injury)

Goalies: Liam Moorfield-Yee (J) (.903 save percentage in 546 minutes), Michael Peters (Se) (.882 save percentage in 308 minutes)

Key losses:  Louis Belisle (F) (all-American first team (east) in 2014; NESCAC first team in 2014), Robbie Donahoe (D) (NESCAC second team in 2013), Ben Wiggins (F/D), Mike Longo (F), Thomas Freyre (F/D), John Barr (D), Nick BonDurant (G), Drew Michals (G) (playing junior hockey in the EHL; would have been a sophomore)

Key newcomers (rated no. 5): Travis Stephens (F), Mark McClellan (F), Vincent Gisonti (F), Dave Belluche (D), Steve Klein (G)

Strengths: Middlebury has a strong and experienced junior class that could anchor the team (it did tail off last year after a terrific freshman year, contributing 16 goals and 31% of the goals as sophomores after producing 25 goals and 36% of the team’s goals in 2012-13; time will tell whether members of that class like Matt Silcoff regain their earlier form); key veteran scorers are Pimentel and Charles, who are among the top dozen returning scorers in the NESCAC; the Panthers had the third most productive offense in the NESCAC last season, averaging 3.22 GPG; its defense was decent at no. 4 in the league (allowing just 2.56 GPG); Middlebury was a disciplined team, averaging only 10.3 PIM/game (fourth best performance in the league) and having a good PK (86.5% kill rate for no. 3 in the league); Middlebury also had a solid power play, scoring 22.9% of the time (no. 3 in the league); Middlebury’s special teams net was the best in the league; the Panthers overly ambitious OOC schedule caused them to finish at .500 overall (11-11-3) despite a 4th place finish in league play; Middlebury has the strongest hockey history in the NESCAC (eight NCAA D3 championships (1995-99 and 2004-06)) but has few post-season successes in recent years, with its last no. 1 regular season NESCAC finish occurring 9 seasons ago in 2006 and its last NESCAC championship happening 5 seasons ago in 2010; Middlebury’s other advantages include excellent facilities and good coaching

Weaknesses/question marks: Graduation losses hurt Middlebury, with the loss of all-American Belisle and outstanding d-man Donahoe high on the list of losses; as was the case last season, Middlebury’s most glaring weakness is in goal: last season, Coach Beaney worked his way through 4 goalies before finally settling on sophomore Liam-Moorfield in the late going, only for Middlebury to be eliminated in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC play-offs by visiting Bowdoin by a score of 6-3; how far Middlebury goes will depend on finding a reliable starting goalie; the Panthers have one incoming goalie from Canadian junior hockey (Klein) who perhaps will provide some relief; Middlebury tended not to do well in the first period in 2013-14, surrendering 18 goals in the first period in regular season play

  1. Wesleyan

Coach: Chris Potter: 12th season (93-141-31) (40.9% winning percentage)

 

2013-14 NESCAC record: 6-11-1 (8th place; eliminated by no. 1 Trinity 9-1 in NESCAC quarterfinals) (11-12-2 overall)

Captains: Connor Ryan (F) (Se) and James Albrecht (F) (Se)

Key returners:

Forwards: Elliott Vorel (So) (7-8-15), James Kline (So) (8-5-13), Jimmy Albrecht (Se) (2-9-11), Terence Durkin (J) (3-8-11), Jay Mathews (J) (6-4-10)

Defense: Eric Casey (J) (1-6-7), Nick Malone (So) (1-3-4), Robby Harbison (So) (1-1-2), Cole Morrissette (So) (0-2-2)

Goalie: Dawson Sprigings (So) (.920 save percentage in 911 minutes), Nolan Daley (J) (.779 save percentage in 180 minutes)

Key losses: Keith Buehler (F) (NESCAC first team and PoY in 2013, NESCAC second team in 2012), Tommy Hartnett (F), Brad Improta (D), Casey Fratkin (D)

Key newcomers (rated no. 10): Cam McCusker (F), Jordan Jancze (F), Theo Tydingco (D). Marty Rubin (D)

Strengths: With 95 returning points, Wesleyan has the third most returning offensive punch; Wesleyan returns a good goalie in sophomore Sprigings, who became the no. 1 starter in the early going during last season and finished fifth in save percentage in the league with a nice save percentage of .920; also returning for Wesleyan are the number 4 and 5 scorers among last year’s NESCAC freshmen in Vorel and Kline, with 15 and 13 points in league play respectively

Weaknesses/question marks: Wesleyan regressed a bit in 2013-14, slipping to eighth place from a sixth place finish in 2012-13 and getting humiliated 9-1 by in-state rival Trinity in the NESCAC quarterfinals; its regression was due primarily to poor team defense (next to last in the league at 3.5 GPG) and special team play (an anemic power play with a 14.1% success rate; the worst PK in the league with a kill rate of just 69.9%; and the worst special teams net at a dismal -14); Wesleyan has a poorly rated class of incoming recruits this year, in part due to a couple of decommitments

  1. Hamilton

Coach: Rob Haberbusch: 4th season (19-45-9) (32.2% in winning percentage)

2013-14 NESCAC record: 4-12-2 (9th place; did not qualify for NESCAC play-offs) (5-15-3 overall)

Captain: Kenny Matheson (F) (J)

Key returners:

Forwards: Robbie Murden (So) (7-10-17), Kenny Matheson (J) (6-10-16), Truman Landowski (So) (2-8-10)

Defense: Marko Brelih (J) (NESCAC second team in 2013) (3-3-6; only played in 10 league games due to injury), Conor Lamberti (So) (0-6-6), Scott Vasquez (J) (1-2-3), Jon Carkeek (So) (1-1-2), Bradley Smelstor (So) (1-1-2), Tyler Lovejoy (J) (0-1-1), Bennett Hambrook (So) (0-0-0)

Goalies: Charlie Fennell (So) (.873 save percentage in 319 minutes), Zach Arnold (Se) (.913 save percentage in 285 minutes)

Key losses: Mike DiMare (F) (NESCAC first team in 2012, NESCAC second team in 2014, NESCAC RoY in 2011), Dom Jancaterino (F/D), Evan Haney (F), Joe Quattrocchi (G)

Key newcomers (rated no. 8): Evan Buitenhuis (G), Tyler Bruneteau (F), Neil Conway (F), Tim Nowacki (G)

Strengths: Hamilton is third to Trinity in terms of returning game experience; a potential superstar for Hamilton is incoming goalie Buitenhuis – if he turns out to be as good as he looks on paper, he could help in moving Hamilton up the NESCAC standings; Hamilton features a solid core of returning d-men, including 4 sophomores who gained invaluable experience as freshmen; if high-scoring junior d-man Brelih regains his form after an injury-plagued sophomore campaign (he played in only 10 league games after an all-league freshman year in which he scored 16 points from the blue line and was the team’s no. 1 scorer), the Hamilton blue line crew should be greatly improved

Weaknesses/question marks: The injury bug has hit Hamilton for 2 years in a row, resulting in eighth and ninth place finishes in the last 2 years; among the injuries in 2013-14 were injuries to no. 1 goalie Quattrocchi and no. 1 d-man Brelih; Hamilton had the next-to-the-worst defense in the NESCAC last season, giving up 3.61 GPG; it also had the next-to-the-worst PK (kill rate of 77.7%) and was the most penalized team in the NESCAC (16.3 PIM/game); Hamilton’s class of 2018 is small in number and limited in star power; there is much work to be done in terms of instilling more discipline in the Continentals

  1. Connecticut College

Coach: Jim Ward: 12th season (86-159-23) (36.4% winning percentage)

2013-14 NESCAC record: (7th place; eliminated 4-2 by no. 2 Amherst in NESCAC quarterfinals) (9-14-2 overall)

Captain: Zach Jones (D) (Se)

Key returners:

Forwards: JC Cangelosi (Se) (14-8-22), Tim DiPretoro (J) (7-3-10)

Defense: Greg Liautaud (So) (3-7-10), Will Leedy (Se) (1-8-9), Mike Doyle (Se) (0-3-3), Zach Shapiro (Se) (1-0-1)

Goalie: Tom Conlin (J) (.878 save percentage in 306 minutes)

Key losses: Keith Veronesi (F), Mike Sinsigalli (F), Steve Servideo (F), Kevin Reich (D), Adam Rimmer (D), Mike Petchonka (G)

Key newcomers (rated no. 6): Mathew Gaetz (F), Joe Birmingham (F) (J transfer), Bobby Mullins (F), Mason Evans (D)

Strengths: Conn College has a strong class of 9 seniors returning for their final season; those seniors scored 45% of the Camels’ goals in 2013-14 and could make or break this season; leading that group of seniors is Cangelosi, who, after the Trinity gang of 4, is the most prolific returning scorer in the NESCAC; one of the secrets to the Camels late season surge last season (the Camels lost only once in their last 7 regular season games after a dismal start to the season that included 7 straight losses) was a the no. 2 ranked PP in the NESCAC, with a nice success rate of 23.3%; a key to Conn College this season will be whether sophomore Liautaud continues his outstanding play from the blue line that was a regular feature of his freshman year

Weaknesses/question marks: While the Camels have some excellent experienced players, their overall experience level is the lowest in the league; Conn College needs to improve its discipline in the first period, which was its poorest period in terms of surrendering goals, giving up 20 first period goals in 18 games in 2013-14; finding a replacement for departed goalie Petchonka is the biggest open question (Petchonka ended up having a superb senior year, with the second-best save percentage in the league (.930)); Conn College has a small rink, with limited fan support

  1. Tufts

Coach: Brian Murphy: 17th season (149-211-24) (41.9% winning percentage)

 

2013-14 NESCAC record: 2-15-1 (10th place; did not qualify for NESCAC play-offs) (4-19-1 overall)

Captains: Blake Edwards (D) (Se), Andrew White (F) (Se), and Stewart Bell (F) (Se)

Key returners:

Forwards: none

Defense: Blake Edwards (Se) (2-5-7) (NESCAC second team in 2014), Shawn Power (Se) (1-3-4), Brian Ouellette (J) (4-2-6), Sean Kavanagh (So) (1-4-5)

Goalie: none

Key losses: Kyle Gallegos (F) (NESCAC second team in 2012), Cody Armstrong (F) (missed senior year due to concussion), David Carson (D), Brian Phillips (G), Greg Jenkins (G), Ryan Kellenberger (G) (So; transferred to Vanderbilt where he is playing club hockey)

Key newcomers (rated no. 7): Brian Brown (F), John-John Ganss (F), Scott Majkowski (F), Zach MacQueen (D), Ryan McConnell (G), Ross Bendetson (G)

Strengths: Finished with the no. 3 combined special teams in 2013-14; Tufts had one of its better recruiting years, with a nice crop of new forwards and 2 promising new goalies

Weaknesses/question marks: Tufts finished in last place in both 2013 and 2014; the Jumbos have no returning goalies (senior Greg Jenkins emerged late last season and was excellent in the late going but has graduated as has Brian Phillips; sophomore Ryan Kellenberger has transferred to Vanderbilt); Tufts was the second most penalized team in the NESCAC last season at 16.2 PIM/game; the Jumbos managed to have both the worst defense and the worst offense in the same season, giving up 3.89 GPG while scoring just 2.28 GPG; it tended to dig a hole early in the game, surrendering a total of 20 goals in the first period; Tufts does not have an on-campus rink (it plays in a commercial rink with limited seating) and has the most limited history of all NESCAC members as a hockey school

  1. Colby

Coach: Blaise MacDonald: 3rd season (18-26-6) (38.0% in winning percentage)

2013-14 NESCAC record: 8-9-1 (6th place; eliminated 7-3 in NESCAC quarterfinals by no. 3 Williams) (11-11-3 overall)

Captains: Robert McCormick (F) (Se) and Ray Zeek (F) (Se)

Key returners:

Forwards: none

Defense: Geoff Sullivan (So) (2-6-8), Jonathan Sdao (J) (0-4-4; only played 9 games due to injury), Alex Walsh (J) (0-3-3), Kai Frankville (So) (0-0-0)

Goalie: Sam Parker (Se) (.893 save percentage in 986 minutes)

Key losses: Nick Lanza (F) (NESCAC second team in 2013 and 2014), Ben Chwick (F), Jackie Bartlett (F), Matt Gelnaw (D), Brendan Cosgrove (D), Nick Trepp (D), Ben Csiernik (G) (So; leave of absence)

Key newcomers (rated no. 9): Phil Klitirinos (F), Mario Benicky (F), Andrew Reis (D), Mike Decker (D), Emerson Verrier (G)

Strengths: Colby had a decent season last year, finishing in 6th place (close to .500 at 8-9-1) and registering impressive wins over Bowdoin, Amherst, and Williams); still, Colby is not a team with a lot of obvious strengths as it enters the 2014-15 season; on the bright side, Colby is a disciplined team, consistently producing low PIM/game numbers with 2013-14 being no exception (just 10.2 PIM/game, which was the third best performance in the league); the Mules’ crop of young d-men showed promise in 2013-14; Colby has decent but not spectacular goaltending in Sam Parker; Colby has an excellent coaching staff that gets the most out of its players as was shown by the steady improvement of last year’s senior class under the current coaching staff

Weaknesses/question marks: Colby has been decimated by graduation, losing 57% of its points and 59% of its goals and its top 4 scorers (Lanza, Chwick, Bartlett and Cosgrove); the freshman class has a couple of good offensive prospects but lacks the numbers to make up for the missing scoring punch; as a general matter, Colby is next to the last in terms of players with game experience; Colby had very poor special teams play in 2013-14, having the worst combined special teams and the next-to-the-last special teams net, primarily due to an atrocious power play (an embarrassing efficiency rate of 4.1%)

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7 Responses

  1. Look for a surprise from Tufts. 11 Freshmen, yes. But they lost eight one goal games last year. Look for the new freshmen to make a big difference and defense to be bolstered by returning second team all conference and lots of experience moving back on D. Not much difference between a 93 freshman and an upperclassmen in this league. This weekend will tell the tale playing a team Tufts lost to in the last few seconds last year and the season champion.

    Go to NESCAC

    http://www.nescac.com/sports/mice/2014-15/schedule
    and toggle back and forth between games and watch the stats for yourself. They all begin at 7 eastern tonite. Most at 3 tomorrow except Tufts Trinity at 4pm eastern.

    Make your own predictions based on watching them play week 1.

    • Well, a close loss is still a loss — it is how differences are measured in a league where there is significant parity. And Tufts is going to struggle until it gets that goaltending piece settled, which will take some time with three completely inexperienced goalies . . . .

  2. Thanks for an EXCELLENT preview.

    Re. Trinity offensive machine: scoring lots of goals is great for the players, the fans, and the parents, but it only wins you championships if the other guys score fewer than you… Trinity scored four goals in the NESCAC semifinals last year. It should have been enough to advance to the championship game — except that its opponent, Bowdoin, scored five… The game of hockey is made UP of three equally important parts: goaltending, defense and offense.

    • Of course. Trinity had decent D last season (no. 3) although it wasn’t elite in the way that Amherst and Williams were and it had sloppy aspects to it (like giving up more shorties than any other NESCAC team). And tonight, the box score for the Trinity-Conn College game indicates that Conn College had 23 SoGs in the third period after sluggish play in the first two periods. Still, Trinity has some nice building blocks on the offensive side.

      • Definitely. My point was simply that offense alone may win you a lot of games in the regular season but probably won’t win you a championship.

  3. It was Heilbron in net for the Utica game.
    http://athletics.trincoll.edu/sports/mice/2014-15/releases/201412053xeyi7

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