Preview of the 2017-18 NESCAC season: Part II

[This is the second installment of our four-installment preview, covering the four top-tier teams (Trinity, Hamilton, Amherst, and Wesleyan)]

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 2016-17 season are included in parentheses to provide additional context and detail for these predictions:

TOP TIER

TRINITY

Coach: Matt Greason: 7th season (112-41-10) (.732% winning percentage)

Team history: 1 NCAA championship (2015); 1 NCAA final (2017); 1 NCAA semifinal (2005); 2 NCAA quarterfinals (2008 & 2016); 3 NESCAC championships (2008, 2016, 2017)

2016-17 NESCAC record: 11-5-2 (3rd place; play-offs: defeated no. 6 Tufts 4-1 in the NESCAC quarterfinals, no. 4 Williams 4-2 in the semifinals, and no. 1 Hamilton in the NESCAC championship game 3-2 (OT)) (overall record: 21-7-3)

2016-17 NESCAC stats:

Offense:

goals scored (total): 65 (no. 1)
goals scored per game: 3.61
PP: 17.2% (no. 5)

Defense:

goals allowed (total): 35 (no. 2)
goals allowed per game: 1.94
PK: 86.8% (no. 4)
special teams net: +5 (no. 2-T)
PIMs: 12 (no. 8)

Captains: Anthony Sabitsky (F) (Sr), Conor Hegarty (D) (Sr), and Griffyn Martin (D) (Sr)

Key returners:

Forwards: Tyler Whitney (Sr) (9-13-22), Anthony Sabitsky (Sr) (12-8-20) (NESCAC first team in 2017; NESCAC second team in 2016), Barclay Gammill (So) (6-4-10)

Defense: Liam Feeney (So) (1-10-11), Griffyn Martin (Sr) (0-7-7), Michael O’Brien (J) (1-1-2), Connor Hegarty (Sr) (2-1-3)

Goalie: Alex Morin (Sr) (.931 save percentage in 1073 minutes)

Key losses: Ryan Cole (F) (all-American first team, NESCAC first team, and NESCAC PoY in 2015; NESCAC first team and NESCAC RoY in 2014; NESCAC second team in 2016), Sean Orlando (F) (NESCAC first team and all-American third team in 2016; NESCAC second team in 2017), Ethan Holdaway (F), Brandon Cole (F), Will Sleeper (F), T.J. Sherman (D), Sam Johnson (D)

Key newcomers (rated no. 2): James Callahan (D), Michael Grande (D), D1 transfer Nick Fiorentino (D), Blake Carrick (F), Nick Polsinelli (F), and Sam Kany (G)

Strengths: Trinity had the no. 1 offense in the league in 2016-17 (3.61 GPG) although the Bantams’ power play had a down year (a 17.2 % success rate or fifth in the NESCAC). In a year of solid defensive performances for the top-tier NESCAC teams, Trinity was second on the defensive front, giving up just 1.94 GPG. Trinity is no. 8 in the league in terms of game experience but amazingly returns more offensive production than any other team (98 points versus runner-up Wesleyan’s 94) although its returning goal production is modest at just 37 (fifth in the league but just 4 goals behind the no. 1 goal returner (Hamilton)). The Bantams have two of the league’s tops forwards returning in Tyler Whitney (no. 2 NESCAC scorer) and NESCAC first teamer Anthony Sabitsky (no. 4 scorer in the NESCAC). Trinity has a strong group of returning D and the best incoming class on the blue line with several outstanding prospects. Goalie Alex Morin is an excellent goalie who established himself as Trinity’s no. 1 netminder in 2016-17 and a big game performer. The Bantams have an excellent class of recruits (we rate the class no. 2 in the NESCAC). Trinity’s Matt Greason has established himself as a premier D3 hockey coach, entering his 7th season, with back-to-back NESCAC championships in 2016 and 2017 and 3 trips to the NCAAs in the last 4 years, including a championship in 2015 and a trip to the NCAA finals in 2017.

Weaknesses/question marks: In truth, Trinity’s weaknesses are few, it having quickly rebuilt its blue line in 2015-16 after losing a lot to graduation in its national championship year (2015). It will have to rebuild its leadership cadre, having lost an extraordinary group of seniors to graduation in 2017, including the Cole brothers, forwards Seann Orlando, Ethan Holdaway, and Will Sleeper, and 2 excellent d-men in TJ Sherman and Sam Johnson. Its chief fault last year was a lack of consistency during the regular season (5 losses and 2 ties) that resulted in a 3rd plae regular-season finish and a road trip for the final four weekend. Defensive weaknesses that have troubled the Bantams include a fondness for the sin bin (Trinity was the next-to-the-most-penalized team in the league in 2015-16 and the third-most-penalized team in 2016-17). Otherwise, it is hard work to find meaningful flaws in the Trinity team as we enter the 2017-18 season. Continue reading

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Amherst roster posted!

Amherst has posted its 28-member 2017-18 roster, with 6 freshmen and a 7th new player in junior Alex Einarsson, a goalie from Sweden. All 20 of Amherst’s players from last year’s roster who did not graduate in 2017 have returned for another year so no attrition.

Amherst kicks off the season this Friday (Nov. 17) at 7pm as it hosts defending NESCAC regular season champion and travel partner Hamilton.

Three NESCAC teams–Conn College, Middlebury, and Trinity–have yet to disclose their rosters for the 2017-18 season.

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