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.

In terms of past NESCAC play-offs, Trinity has the best record, with an overall record of 19-13, 11 semifinal appearances (a 5-6 record), 5 appearances in the finals, and 3 championships (2003, 2008, and 2016). Second in terms of NESCAC post-season success but much further back is Williams, with an overall record of 11-17, 7 semifinal appearances (a record of 4-3), 4 appearances in the finals (2000, 2011, 2013, 2016, and no championships (but 1-goal losses in 3 of those 4 championship games). Even further back is Hamilton with an undistinguished history of 6-14, 6 appearances in the semifinals, with an 0-6 record (5 losses to Middlebury and 1 to Bowdoin), and no appearances in the finals. Trailing the pack by a lot is Wesleyan with little success in the post-season: a 1-8 overall record and a loss the only time it reached the semifinals (a 3-2 loss to Williams in 2011).

In terms of past experience with championship weekend, Trinity’s large and impressive senior class has experienced 2 semifinals and 1 final championship (a 5-4 semifinal loss to Bowdoin during the Bantams’ national championship year in 2014; a 3-2 defeat of Tufts in the semifinals and a 5-1 win over Amherst in the championship game in 2016). Trinity’s sophomores and juniors also experienced the 2016 championship run so a team loaded with NESCAC championship experience.

Williams’ excellent senior class has also managed 2 semifinal appearances and 1 final appearance (a 3-1 loss to Amherst in the 2014 semifinals and a 4-2 win over Conn College in the 2015 semifinals, followed by a tough 1-0 loss in the championship game to Amherst. Williams’ junior class also experienced the 2015 run to the championship game.

So while Trinity and Williams have more recent championship weekend experience than either Wesleyan or Hamilton, it is of the decidedly mixed sort and nothing like Middlebury’s unmatched and likely unmatchable achievements in the first 7 years of the NESCAC when the Panthers won the championship 6 times and finished first in the regular season 5 times.

The Details Behind Saturday’s Games:

No. 4 Williams v. no. 3 Trinity at 1 pm

champ-wivtr-2017-03-04

 

 

Pick: Trinity has the edge in this match-up but expect a battle royale as both teams have large, excellent senior classes, who do not wish this game to be their last

No. 7 Wesleyan v no. 1 Hamilton at 4:15 pm

champ-wevh-2017-03-04

 

 

Pick: Hamilton — the Continentals have a clear advantage going into this game (home ice, great season, tremendous goaltending and D) but watch out for the young Cardinals and their superior special teams’ play

 

 

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