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.

Amherst’s 2016-17 roster & preview

Amherst has, at long last, posted its 24-member roster for 2016-17, with no surprises. The roster includes all 8 freshman players that are included in our database and the 16 veterans from last year’s roster that were expected to return. While a 24-man roster seems like a small roster for the intense NESCAC season (3 goalies and 21 skaters), it is the same size as last year’s roster.

And here’s a link to a nice preview for Amherst’s upcoming season.

Now we are waiting only for the Trinity roster . . . .

polls – Dec 14, 2015

The three ranked NESCAC teams–Trinity (8/8), Amherst (12/11), and Williams (14/13)–are still ranked but in the bottom half of both the USCHO and D3hockey polls. Amherst took the biggest tumble, falling from no. 5 to no. 11 in the D3hockey poll, which is not surprising, given its 3-2-3 record and 0-1-1 weekend. The highest ranked eastern teams are Plattsburgh, Babson, and UMass-Boston, with St Norbert the consensus no. 1 pick (UMass-Boston’s lone loss was a 5-0 shellacking at the hands of Bowdoin and its one tie was a 1-1 tie with Colby):

poll-D3hockey-2015-12-14

poll-USCHO-2015-12-14

Latest polls

All three ranked NESCAC teams took a bit of a hit in the latest polls, with formerly no. 1 Trinity slipping to no. 3 (USCHO) and no. 4 (D3hockey) following its 6-4 loss to Salve Regina on Sunday and a 7-1 win over Stonehill on Saturday. We expected Trinity to struggle a bit in the early going as it rebuilds much of last year’s stellar defense. And early season losses stand out for NESCAC teams due to their late start and the resulting tiny sample of games played (just four games in the books in the case of the three ranked NESCAC teams).

Amherst also slid a bit, slipping from 6 (USCHO)/7 (D3Hockey) to 8 (USCHO)/10 (D3Hockey) after struggling to beat lowly St. Mikes’s (4-3) last Tuesday, losing to Elmira on Saturday by a score of 6-3, and tying Nazareth 1-1 on Sunday. Similarly, Williams slipped from 14 (USCHO)/12 (D3Hockey) to no. 15 (USCHO)/14 (D3Hockey) after it fell to Geneseo by a score of 3-0 on Saturday and defeated Johnson & Wales on Sunday by 5-1.

In an interesting side note, undefeated Plattsburgh (8-0-0) is now ranked no. 1 although it had to really battle to get by Middlebury (1-2-1) in the first round of the Primelink Tournament on Friday, finally vanquishing the Panthers with a late goal by a score of 5-4:

poll-USCHO-2015-11-30 poll-D3hockey-2015-11-30

“Lord Jeff” mascot/knickname likely to land in the dustbin of history

Amherst sports teams have long been known as the “Jeffs,” the “Lord Jeffs,” or the “LJs” in honor of Lord Jeffrey Amherst. Lord Jeffrey Amherst was the commander in chief of the British forces that conquered much of what is now Canada in the French and Indian War (1754-63) that preceded the Revolutionary War and drove the French out of the northern part of North America. During and after this war, a number of North American towns were named after Lord Amherst, including Amherst, Mass., Amherst, N.Y., Amherst, N.H., and Amherst, Nova Scotia, with the town of Amherst, Mass., being incorporated and named in 1759 during the height of Lord Amherst’s prominence. Amherst College was founded some 62 years later in 1821 and was named in honor of the town in which it was located, backdooring its way into an unplanned but long lasting affiliation with the Lord Jeffrey Amherst name.

Lord Amherst’s name has achieved ignominy in recent years as a result of a well-documented plan to use smallpox-infested blankets to infect Native Americans, who participated in a 1764 uprising against the British after the French and Indian War, and his written declaration in connection with developing those plans of a desire to “Extirpate this Execrable Race” in reference to Native Americans.

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