Preview of the 2017-18 NESCAC season: Part III

[This is the third installment of our four-installment preview, covering the three middle-tier teams (Tufts, Williams, and Colby)]

MIDDLE TIER

TUFTS

Coach: Patrick Norton (3rd season) (21-21-9) (.500% winning percentage)

Team history: no NCAA appearances or NESCAC championships

2016-17 NESCAC record: 9-8-1 (6th place; Play-offs: lost to no. 3 Trinity 4-1 in the NESCAC quarterfinals) (overall record: 11-11-3)

2016-17 NESCAC stats:

Offense:

goals scored (total): 43 (no. 8)
goals scored per game: 2.39
PP: 17.8% (no. 4)

Defense:

goals allowed (total): 44 (no. 5)
goals allowed per game: 2.44
PK: 85.1% (no. 5)
special teams net: +3 (no. 6)
PIMs: 8.6 (no. 2)

Captains: to ve determined

Key returners:

Forwards: Brian Brown (Sr) (8-6-14), Tyler Scroggins (So) (4-8-12), Anthony Farinacci (So) (5-6-11)

Defense: Jordan Haney (So) (3-6-9), Cooper Stahl (So) (1-5-6), Cory Gottfried (So) (0-2-2), Trevor Davis (Sr) (1-4-5)

Goalie: Nik Nugnes (Sr) (.941 save percentage in 693 minutes) (NESCAC second team in 2017)

Key losses: Mason Pulde (G), Sean Kavanagh (D), Patrick Lackey (F), Mike Leary (F), Conal Lynch (F), Matt Pugh (F/D), Chad Goldberg (F) (team’s no. 2 scorer in 2015-16 as a sophomore but was injured for 2016-17 season)

Key newcomers (rated no. 1): Drew Hotte (G), Peter Hatton (F), Hayden Smith (F), Charley Borek (F), Brendan Ryan (F), Michael Gordon (D)

Strengths: Tufts and Wesleyan are locked in a tight contest for top-tier status with not much to separate the two teams but something had to give, resulting in the Jumbos relegation to the middle tier. The Jumbos have many of the ingredients for a successful season, starting in net where senior Nik Nugnes (UMaine transfer) became the Jumbos’ primary netminder in the second semester of the 2016-17 season when outstanding goalie Mason Pulde suffered an ACL tear, ending his season and his college career. Nugnes finished no. 2 in the league in save percentage and can expect to be relieved by former BU commit Drew Hotte, who made a last-minute decision to become a Jumbo. Tufts was middle-of-the-pack in defense in 2016-17 (no. 5) but below-average in offense (no. 8 with 2.39 GPG). Tufts had a very strong recruiting year for the second year in a row, with the NESCAC’s no. 1 class consisting of several strong forwards as well as hot goalie prospect Hotte. Tufts continued to show progress and improvement under third-year HC Pat Norton, finishing sixth before falling to eventual champion Trinity in the first round of the play-offs.

Weaknesses/question marks: With a total of 75% of the roster (21 of 28) being freshmen (12) and sophomores (9), Tufts is a very young team. Tufts’ primary weakness has been a fondness for the sin bin, although it may have rectified this flaw, going from having the worst record in the NESCAC in 2015-16 (more than 15 PIMs/game) to having the second-best record in 2016-17 (registering just 8.6 PIMs/game). Its offense continues to be on the weak side, producing just 2.39 GPG in 2016-17 (8th in the league). It experienced more attrition than any other NESCAC team, perhaps due to the influx of a large number of new players (12), and has the second least experienced team in terms of game experience. Tufts plays its games at an off-campus location (it plays in a commercial rink with limited seating in the nearby town of Malden) and has a short and lackluster history as a hockey school.

WILLIAMS

Coach: Interim HC Mike Monti (no record) (HC Bill Kangas is on sabbatical)

Team history: 1 ECAC East championship (1994); 1 NCAA quarterfinal (2016)

2016-17 NESCAC record: 10-5-3 (4th place; play-offs: defeated no. 5 Amherst 2-1 in the NESCAC quarterfinals and lost to no. 3 Trinity 4-2 in the NESCAC semifinals) (overall record: 14-9-3)

2016-17 NESCAC stats:

Offense:

goals scored (total): 57 (no. 2)
goals scored per game: 3.17
PP: 24.2% (no. 1)

Defense:

goals allowed (total): 49 (no. 6-T)
goals allowed per game: 2.72
PK: 78.3% (no. 8)
special teams net: +4 (no. 4-T)
PIMs: 8.7 (no. 3)

Captain: Colby Cretella (F) (Sr)

Key returners:

Forwards: David Italiano (Sr) (9-16-25) (NESCAC first team in 2017), Roberto Cellini (J) (10-11-21) (NESCAC second team in 2017), CJ Shugart (Sr) (8-3-11), Colby Cretella (Sr) (3-7-10)

Defense: Max Fuld (So) (2-2-4), Keanu Hilaire (J) (0-3-3), Peter Christie (So) (0-1-1)

Goalie: Michael Pinios (J) (.886 save percentage in 913 minutes) (NESCAC second team and NESCAC co-RoY in 2016), Stephen Morrissey (Sr) (.935 save percentage in 401 minutes)

Key losses: Tyler Young (F) (NESCAC second team in 2016), Luke Stickel (F), George Hunkele (F), Frankie Mork (D) (NESCAC first team in 2017; NESCAC second team in 2014), Alex Hagerty (F), Sam gray (D/F), James McNamara (D), Taylor Carmola (D)

Key newcomers (rated no. 3): Myles Cunningham (D), Jack McCool (D), Nick Van Belle (F), Bobby Beniers (F), Tyler Scott (F)

Strengths: Williams returns excellent scoring punch, with the third-most returning goals at 38 and the no. 1 and no. 3 NESCAC scorers in David Italiano and Roberto Cellini. In a reversal of form for the usually defensive minded Ephs, Williams scored the second-most goals in the NESCAC team in 2016-17 with 57, trailing only Trinity. Williams is normally the most disciplined team in the NESCAC, registering the lowest number of PIMs in the league for a remarkable 4 years in a row (2012-16), before falling to no. 3 in 2016-17. Williams had the best PP in the league, with a 24% success rate.  Williams has one of the strongest recruiting classes in the NESCAC, with 4 new d-men and 5 new forwards joining the team this year.

Weaknesses/question marks: In terms of overall returning game experience, Williams is dead last due to the loss of much of its blue line and several key forwards (like Tyler Young and Alex Hagerty). Williams lost 4 of its top blue liners to graduation and more than 60% of its blue line experience—NESCAC first teamer Frankie Mork and 3 steady performers in James McNamara, Sam Gray, and Taylor Carmola. But it also has a second consecutive class of recruits that is weighted in favor of the blue line, with newcomers Jack McCool and Myles Cunningham looking especially promising. The Ephs’ defense (tied for sixth) and goaltending were subpar for Williams in 2016-17, with the central question going into this year being whether junior Michael Pinios will regain his co-RoY form of his freshman year or whether the struggles he experienced as a sophomore will continue (sub-.900 save percentage). Despite its continued strong performance in the regular season, Williams’ post-season record is one of futility, with many excellent teams but no NESCAC championships (the Ephs have lost 3 NESCAC championship games in the past 7 years, with 1-goal losses to Amherst in 2015 and to Bowdoin in 2013 and a 3-goal loss to Bowdoin in 2011)). Williams’ normal team discipline weakened in 2016-17, with a porous defense and a poor PK (78% kill rate or the no. 8 PK in the league). A large unknown is how the Ephs will react to a temporary coaching change as long-time HC Bill Kangas takes the year off and is temporarily replaced by Williams’ untested assistant coach, Mike Monti.

COLBY

Coach: Blaise MacDonald: 6th season (45-60-18) (.428% winning percentage)

Team history: 1 NCAA quarterfinal (1996); 1 ECAC East championship (1997)

2016-17 NESCAC record: 11-4-3 (2nd place; play-offs: lost to no. 7 Wesleyan 5-4 in the NESCAC quarterfinals) (overall record: 13-7-4)

2016-17 NESCAC stats:

Offense:

goals scored (total): 47 (no. 5)
goals scored per game: 2.28
PP: 16.9% (no. 6)

Defense:

goals allowed (total): 36 (no. 3)
goals allowed per game: 2.72
PK: 80.6% (no. 7)
special teams net: 0 (no. 7)
PIMs: 8.9 (no. 4)

Captains: Phil Klitirinos (F) (Sr), Michael Rudolf (F) (Sr), and Dan Dupont (D) (Sr)

Key returners:

Forwards: Phil Klitirinos (Sr) (5-14-19), Michael Rudolf (Sr) (8-4-12), Cam MacDonald (Sr) (4-5-9)

Defense: Mark Leprine (So) (0-7-7), Thomas Stahlhuth (J) (2-2-4)

Goalie: Sean Lawrence (Sr) (.944 save percentage in 404 minutes), Andrew Tucci (So) (.921 save percentage in 607 minutes)

Key losses: Jack Burton (D) (NESCAC first team in 2017), Devin Albert (F), EJ Rauseo (F), Kevin Doherty (F), Geoff Sullivan (D), Kai Frankville (D)

Key newcomers (bottom tier): Spencer Hewson (F), Justin Grillo (F)

Strengths: Colby was solid defensively in the league last year (no. 3) but very much middle-of-the-pack at the other end of the ice, finishing sixth and losing a large percentage of its scoring to graduation (41%). Its strength is in net where Quinnipiac transfer and senior Sean Lawrence took over the no. 1 spot in the second semester last year and solid first semester starter Andrew Tucci became a back-up. Colby had its strongest finish in 2017 since 2008 (when it finished first), finishing no. 2 in the league and knocking off arch-rival Bowdoin in both of their games. (But Colby fell to upstart no. 7 Wesleyan in the first round of the play-offs.) Blaise MacDonald, now in his sixth year as head coach, has settled in very nicely and will have the honor of coaching two of his sons this year (senior Cam and freshman Joe).

Weaknesses/question marks: Colby is third-to-last in terms of experienced players, having lost 35% of its game experience to graduation, including superb d-man Jack Burton and two excellent scorers in EJ Rauseo and Devin Albert.  The Mules will have to focus on a quick rebuild of its d-corps, having lost almost 50% of its blue line experience and replenishing its offensive production (it lost more than 40% of its scoring to graduation).

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Colby roster posted

Colby bas posted its 30-member roster, with 20 returning players and 10 freshmen. The roster shows one freshman–d-man Connor Krause from the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey–who was not originally included in our database but was added today. All of last year’s veterans have returned for another go-around except for never used back-up goalie junior Robbie DeAngelo.

Colby plans to build a new rink!!

Colby’s new rink will be part of a massive new athletic complex that will bring all of Colby’s indoor sports’ activities under a single roof. The complex will cost $200 million and be built over a 3-year period, with 2020 the anticipated date of completion. Eventually Colby’s long-time home rink (Alfond) will be demolished. For context, here’s a link to Colby’s plans for the new complex.

Here is an artist’s rendering of the new rink:

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

two D1 transfers and one D3 transfer to NESCAC schools at the semester break

Updated on Jan. 6, 2017, to add a Conn College transfer

Two goalies transferred to NESCAC schools at the semester break from other college programs, with former Quinnipiac goalie Sean Lawrence transferring to Colby and former Endicott goalie Connor Rodericks transferring to Conn College. Former Bentley d-man Andy Chugg transferred to Trinity at the semester break and has already seen action in Trinity’s 2-1 win over Adrian.

Lawrence has gaudy junior credentials from the USPHL (league MVP, for example, in 2014 for the Boston Jr Bruins) but saw little action at Quinnipiac (7 games over 2 seasons with weak stats). Rodericks had solid stats during two years with the Walpole Express in the EHL and got the start and the win in his first game since joining the Camels (a 5-2 win over Manhattanville on Jan. 5) although he did not see action for Endicott. Chugg played in 12 games for Bentley in his one year with the Falcons. All three should play significant roles for their new teams, with each player providing needed depth at key positions (Andrew Tucci has been spectacular in net for the Mules but, before the Lawrence transfer, Colby did not have an experienced goalie as an alternative to Tucci; Conn College has relied on a threesome of inexperienced goalies). Go here for more detail on their backgrounds.

Colby’s 2016-17 roster posted

Colby leads the way by postings its 28-man roster for 2016-17, with a strong 8-member senior class, 8 juniors, 6 sophomores, and 6 freshmen.

There is one very big surprise, which is that goalie Emerson Verrier is not listed on the roster and, in fact, is no longer a Colby student. Verrier would have been a junior had he returned to Colby this year and played in every single game for the Mules in 2015-16. He was a workhorse, who often impressed in 2015-16, with solid numbers for Colby, playing every single minute of every one of Colby’s 25 games. His stats were a very respectable at a .916 save average and a a 2.67 GAA. His absence from the Colby line-up this season means that freshman Andrew Tucci will likely be called on to step into the breach and shoulder much of the load in net during the upcoming season. Tucci had solid but not spectacular numbers for the Hawkesbury Hawks in the CCHL (22 GP: 2.75 GAA; .897 save percentage) in 2015-16 and excellent numbers during an outstanding 3-year prep career at Choate (Founders).

Colby and Bowdoin previews

Good commentary from the coaches and data for each team, courtesy of the Maine Hockey Journal, which does such a nice job covering all Maine-related hockey news.

Colby preview

Bowdoin preview