Advertisements

Preview for 2017-18 NESCAC season: Part IV

[This is the fourth installment of our four-part preview, covering the three bottom-tier teams (Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Connecticut College)]

BOTTOM TIER

BOWDOIN

Coach: Jamie Dumont: 2nd season (8-16-1) (.340 winning percentage)

Team history: 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)

2016-17 NESCAC record: 5-12-1 (8th place: play-offs: defeated by no. 1 Hamilton 4-2 in the NESCAC quarterfinals) (overall record: 8-16-1)

2016-17 NESCAC stats:

Offense:

goals scored (total): 50 (no. 3-T)
goals scored per game: 2.78
PP: 12.7% (no. 8)

Defense:

goals allowed (total): 65 (no. 9)
goals allowed per game: 3.61
PK: 77.1% (no. 9)
special teams net: -9 (no. 9)
PIMs: 11.1 (no. 6)

Captains: Danny McMullan (D) (Sr) and Matt Lison (F) (Sr)

Key returners:

Forwards: Cody Todesco (J) (9-7-16) (NESCAC co-RoY in 2016), Matt Lison (Sr) (2-10-12), Chris Wallace (J) (4-6-10), Tommy Dunleavy (So) (7-2-9). Spencer Antunez (Sr) (3-6-9)

Defense: Danny McMullan (Sr) (1-1-2), Cullen Geary (Sr) (0-0-0)

Goalie: Peter Cronin (Sr) (.904 save percentage in 779 minutes), Nathan Colannino (J) (.875 save percentage in 159 minutes), Erik Wurman (J) (.889 save percentage in 139 minutes)

Key loss: Matt Sullivan (F), Mitch Barrington (D) (NESCAC first team in 2016), Brendan Conroy (D), Jay Kourkoulis (D)

Key newcomers (middle tier): Jack Bliss (F), Brad Ingersoll (D/F), Keenan Murray (D)

Strengths: Despite all the ingredients being in place for a strong season last year, Bowdoin barely qualified for the NESCAC play-offs with a no. 8 finish (its worst finish since the NESCAC became a playing conference). This year’s expectations are modest as the Polar Bears return a decent offense, featuring one of the NESCAC’s more exciting players in Cody Todesco (co-RoY in 2016). The Polar Bears return the third-most goals (38) in the league in a down offensive year for most teams. Bowdoin has good facilities (Sidney J Watson Arena), a strong fan base, a great history, and a devoted alumni following. Bowdoin is one of just 4 schools to win a NESCAC championship in the last 10 years, with 3 championships during that period (2011, 2013, and 2014) (other champions were Amherst (2009, 2012, 2015), Middlebury (2010), and Trinity (2008, 2016, and 2017)).

Weaknesses/question marks: It has been a while since Bowdoin won the NESCAC championship after a great run of 3 in 4 years (2011, 2013, and 2014), with no championship experience and three consecutive first-round eliminations for the current crop of players.  Bowdoin has very little strength on the defensive end, whether we are talking about goaltending (senior goalie Peter Cronin had a down junior year after an excellent sophomore year) or blue line play. Bowdoin’s PK has been poor for two consecutive seasons, finishing dead last with a kill rate of just 77.6% in 2015-16 and then managing to do slightly worse in 2016-17 (77.1%) but avoiding last place due to Middlebury’s even more dismal performance. The PP was also bad with a 12.7% success rate (no. 8 in the NESCAC). Bowdoin has a soft OOC schedule although 2 of those 6 OCC games are with UNE, a rapidly improving program and a third will be with a UMass Boston, which has had good teams in recent years. This is new HC Jamie Dumont’s second year as the no. 1 guy behind the bench. He compiled Bowdoin’s worst record in 64 years (since 1963) in that first year. His first class of recruits is middle of the pack and should have been stronger due to the large number of losses to graduation, especially on the blue line. His may very well be the case in which a strong no. 2 guy does not necessarily make a good no. 1 guy. We’ll see what the future holds as one year is not much of a record for a definitive reading on his abilities as a head coach but the 2016-17 start was not auspicious.  

MIDDLEBURY

Coach: Neil Sinclair: 3rd season (11-30-9) (.268% winning percentage) (also served as interim HC in 2002-03 and compiled a record of 22-5-2)

Team history: 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)

2016-17 NESCAC record: 3-15 (10th place (did not qualify for play-offs)) (overall record: 3-19-2)

2016-17 NESCAC stats:

Offense:

goals scored (total): 32 (no. 9-T)
goals scored per game: 1.78
PP: 16.4% (no. 7)

Defense:

goals allowed (total): 66 (no. 10)
goals allowed per game: 3.67
PK: 76.3% (no. 10)
special teams net: -13 (no. 10)
PIMs: 13.3 (no. 9)

Captain: Mark McLellan (F) (Sr)

Key returners:

Forwards: Trevor Turnbull (So) (6-4-10), Vincent Gisonti (Sr) (7-2-9)

Defense: Brendan Dawson (So) (2-5-7), Frank Cosolito (So) (1-1-2), David Belluche (Sr) (0-0-0), Jimmy McKee (J) (0-0-0)

Goalies: Steve Klein (Sr) (.905 save percentage in 787 minutes), Brian Ketchabaw (So) (.916 save percentage in 249 minutes)

Key losses: Andrew Neary (D), Travis Stephens (F), Greg Conrad (F)

Key newcomers (rated no. 4 (T)): Owen Powers (F), Alex Heinritz (F), Matt Danner (F), Eric Jeremiah (D)

Strengths: For Middlebury, it is hard to imagine that things could be any worse than they were in 2016-17, when the Panthers compiled a dismal record of 3-19-2 and, for the first time since the inception of NESCAC play-offs, failed to qualify for post-season play. The bright spots for Middlebury are a strong class of recruits (and it had a decent class that entered in 2016 too) and the experience earned under fire last year (only Amherst and Conn College have more returning game experience than Middlebury). It also has a decent tandem of netminders in senior Stephen Klein and sophomore Brian Ketchabaw. Middlebury has the strongest hockey history in the NESCAC (8 NCAA D3 championships (1995-99 and 2004-06)) but that history recedes further into the past every year, with its last no. 1 regular season NESCAC finish 12 seasons ago in 2006 and its last NESCAC championship 8 seasons ago in 2010.

Weaknesses/question marks: The Panthers had their third losing season in a row after 27 straight years of winning seasons. The Panthers’ offense and defense were the worst in the league, as Middlebury battled one injury after another on the blue line. Middlebury had the worst PK (a 76.1% kill rate) and the worst special teams’ net. There is not much good to say about the Panthers’ 2016-17 record. Third-year HC Neil Sinclair continues to subject the Panthers to a difficult OOC schedule (1 or 2 games with defending NCAA champ Norwich and 1 or 2 games with Plattsburgh). It is unclear whether HC Sinclair is primarily responsible for Middlebury’s poor performance in the past few years or whether there are other institutional forces at play that have handicapped the program (like a lack of support in admissions).

CONNECTICUT COLLEGE

Coach: Jim Ward: 15th season (107-203-31) (.345% winning percentage)

Team history:

2016-17 NESCAC record: 2-13-3 (9th place; play-offs: did not qualify for NESCAC play-offs) (overall record: 4-16-3)

2016-17 NESCAC stats:

Offense:

goals scored (total): 32 (no. 9-T)
goals scored per game: 1.78
PP: 11.6% (no. 10)

Defense:

goals allowed (total): 56 (no. 8)
goals allowed per game: 3.11
PK: 81.8% (no. 6)
special teams net: -2 (no. 6-T)
PIMs: 14.6 (no. 10)

Captains: (Sr)

Key returners:

Forward: Jeff Thompson (So) (6-4-10)

Defense: Rory Garlasco (So) (2-3-5), Mason Evans (Sr) (0-4-4), Dylan Chase (J) (1-2-3), Dan Driscoll (So) (0-1-1), AJ Wallace (J) (0-1-1)

Goalies: Connor Rodericks (So) (.919 save percentage in 420 minutes), Avery Gobbo (So) (.918 in 625 minutes), Tim Cooney (Sr) (.892 save percentage in 138 minutes)

Key losses: Brian Belisle (F), Joe Giordano (F), Ryan Mowery (F), Greg Liautaud (D) (missed senior year due to injury)

Newcomers (middle tier): Brett Stirling (D), Paul Capozzi (F), Kyle Moss (D)

Strengths: Conn College returns lots of game experience (all but 16% of last season’s experience or the third-most experienced team in the NESCAC) but returns very little offensive production (the least in the NESCAC at just 19 goals and 48 points) so most of its strength will be on the blue line where it returns a nice group of defenders. The Camels have a solid class of new recruits, with two promising and experienced d-men in Brett Stirling and Kyle Moss. Despite not qualifying for the NESCAC play-offs in 2017 for the second year in a row, Conn College was in most of its games in 2016-17 just as it had been the prior year, registering 3 ties and 8 1-goal losses in league play and putting up a real fight in most games.

Weaknesses/question marks: For the second year in a row, Conn College finished dead last in the league in goals (well, it was tied with Middlebury for last place). It also had the worst PP (a real feat in a down year for the PP in the NESCAC) and managed to register more penalty minutes than any other team. The Camels have failed to qualify for the NESCAC play-offs for two years in a row. Conn College has a small rink, but enthusiastic fans show up for games when college is in session and create a lively atmosphere.

Advertisements

Conn College roster posted — all NESCAC rosters now available!

Here is a link to Conn College’s 31-member roster, consisting of 8 newcomers (all freshmen), 11 sophomores, 7 juniors, and 5 seniors so a roster short on experience. Four lightly used veteran players did not return for another season: junior d-man Vincent Ditmore (injured last year); sophomores F Billy Stahley and d-man Jamie Carnavalla; and senior d-man Erik Rost.

Conn College launches its 2017-18 season with an in-state trip to Middletown for a Friday game at 7pm with ascendant Wesleyan and then heads to Hartford for a 4pm game on Saturday with defending NESCAC champion Trinity.

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.

Conn College roster up-all NESCAC rosters are now available

Connecticut College has posted its 31-member roster, consisting of 9 freshmen and 22 returning veterans. The roster includes 7 of the 9 names in our database plus 2 additional names (database names not listed on the roster are forwards PJ Kelleher (Brooks, ISL) and Evan Dahl (Lawrence, ISL); additions to the roster include forward Jon Paris (Notre Dame Hounds, SJHL) and d-man Vincent Ditmore (Choate, Founders). The 22 returning veterans include all possible returners except senior forward Stephan Brennan (played in 16 games in 2014-15) and sophomore forward Nik Pilote (played in 4 games in 2014-15).

Championship Weekend!!!

NSN will be webcasting both semifinal games on Saturday and the final on Sunday at this link. All three games will be played at Orr Rink in Amherst, MA, home ice for the highest surviving seed, no. 2 Amherst. Here is a link to the NESCAC release on championship weekend, which spends a disproportionate amount of space on Amherst.

Semifinals (Saturday):

no. 4 Williams v. no. 3 Conn College: 1 pm
no. 8 Tufts v. no. 2 Amherst: 4 pm

Finals (Sunday):

winner of Williams v Conn College game v winner of Tufts v. Amherst game: 2 pm

We are down to a surprising final four–Amherst, Conn College, Tufts, and Williams–with the 16th NESCAC champion to be crowned Sunday afternoon at Orr Rink in Amherst, MA. There are two frequent final four participants (Amherst and Williams) and two newbies (Conn College and Tufts). Of the four finalists, Amherst and Conn College closed out the season strong while Williams did a slow fade and Tufts struggled. In terms of history, of the four contenders, only Amherst is a previous NESCAC champion (2009 and 2012) while Williams has appeared in the championship game on two occasions (2011 and 2013), falling to Bowdoin on both occasions. As new participants in the final four, Conn College and Tufts will both be painting on a blank canvas.

Missing from the final four are three teams that, among them, have won 87% of the league’s prior 15 championships, with Middlebury having won 8 (2000-02; 2004-07; 2010), Bowdoin 3 (2011, 2012, and 2013), and Trinity 2 (2003 and 2008). So we will either see Amherst moving into a tie with Bowdoin for second place in terms of NESCAC crowns won or we will crown a new champion and expand the number of schools with NESCAC championships to five. As we know from last weekend’s results, featuring the no. 8 team (Tufts) upsetting the no, 1 team (Trinity), anything is possible with the one-and-done play-off format. Still, Amherst would appear to be the favorite to win it all heading into the weekend, with the caveat that there are signs of parity and balance as Amherst, Williams, and Conn College each split their season series with each other (Tufts is the outlier, losing all six games to the other three contenders).

Here is how we rate the four teams based on the probability of each team emerging as the NESCAC champion on Sunday:

1. Amherst: Of the surviving four teams, Amherst has the strongest offense (3.72 GPG) and the strongest defense (2.22 GPG). It has the best PP (28.3%) and the best PK (81.7%) of the remaining teams and the goalie with the best save percentage in the league in Danny Vitale ’15 (.942) and the league’s no. 1 goal scorer and no. 2 point scorer in freshman David White (16-10-26). Perhaps even more telling, it is the strongest performer of the surviving teams by a wide margin, having lost only twice in 2015.

As to its record against the other three contenders, there are signs of vulnerability: Amherst split the season series with Conn College (a 6-4 loss at Amherst on Jan. 16 and a 4-0 win in New London on Feb. 13) and Williams (a 4-3 loss in Williamstown on Dec. 6 and a 5-3 Amherst win in Amherst on Feb. 21) and swept Tufts in two close games (a 3-2 win at Amherst on Jan. 17 and a 3-1 win at Tufts on Feb. 14). The Jan. 16 6-4 loss to Conn College was when Amherst goalie Dave Cunningham ’16 went down with a season-ending injury late in the game to be replaced by Vitale, who was shaky in his debut, allowing goals on the only two shots he faced and taking the loss. Vitale has been near perfect ever since, losing only the Bowdoin game on Feb. 7 by a score of 4-3. Amherst’s achilles heel  is that it is often territorially dominated by large margins as it was in both Bowdoin games (a 4-2 win and a 4-3 loss), Amherst’s  3-2 win over Trinity, and the LJs’ 5-3 win over Williams, banking on Vitale and an opportunistic offense to bail them out and thatit sometimes get a late start (Mifflebury dominated the .

Amherst’s preview of play-off weekend.

2. Conn College: The Camels are the biggest surprise of this season, showing great improvement as they went from seventh place to third place in a single year and won more games than any other Camels’ hockey team  (14), and could easily continue to surprise this weekend. Conn College finished the season on a roll, winning 8 of its last 10 games and ousting a feisty Hamilton club in the quarterfinals by a score of 4-3 in overtime. Conn College’s strength is its defense, allowing only 2.44 GPG, with only no. 1 Trinity and no. 2 Amherst producing better defensive numbers. The Camels are back stopped by junior Tom Conlin, who emerged as one of the league’s top goalies this season, being named to the all-NESCAC second team and finishing third in the league in save percentage with a solid number of .922. Conn College also has a fine trio of scorers in Northfield Mount Hermon teammates Tim DiPretoro ’16 (6-13-19 for sixth in the league), J.C. Cangelosi ’15 (8-9-17 tied for ninth in the league), and Joe Birmingham ’16 (6-5-11).

Conn College has a solid record against the other three play-off contenders, splitting the season series versus Amherst (a 6-4 win on Jan. 16 in Amherst and a 4-0 loss in New London on Feb. 13) and Williams (a 2-1 loss in Williamstown on Nov. 21 and a 3-1 win in New London on Jan. 30) and sweeping Tufts (a 2-1 win in Malden on Feb. 6 and a 4-1 win in New London on Feb. 7). With Conn College’s strong close to the season and its momentum, it would not be surprising to see the Camels continue their outstanding season for at least another day by ousting Williams in the semifinals.

Conn College’s preview of play-off weekend.

3. Williams College: The Ephs stumbled to the finish line, winning only once on the last five games of the regular season and barely escaping Bowdoin in the quarterfinals in OT (4-3) even though the Polar Bears started a wobbly freshman in net in place of Bowdoin’s injured play-off ace Max Fenkell. Of great concern for Williams has been the subpar performance of its defense and goalie Sean Dougherty. The Williams PK was eighth in the league with a kill rate of just 76.6%. Dougherty, who spent most of his NESCAC career at or near the top of most goalie statistical categories, slumped in his final season to eighth in the league in save percentage at .908.  The Williams’ defense, which typically is at nor near the top of the league, finished sixth this year, allowing 2.61 GPG. On the bright side, the Williams’ offense was strong and diverse, producing 3.06 GPG (fourth in the league), with a nice  distribution of scoring among several top-tier forwards (Craig Kitto ’15, David Italiano ’18, Tyler Young ’17, and C.J. Shugart ’18).

There is room for optimism for Williams fans as the Ephs compiled a solid record against the other three contenders during the regular season, with a sweep of Tufts (a 9-0 win in Williamstown on Nov. 22 and a 4-2 win in Malden on Jan. 31) and splits with both Amherst (a 4-3 win in Williamstown on Dec. 6 and a 5-3 loss in Amherst on Feb. 21)  and Conn College (a 2-1 win for Williams in Williamstown on Nov 21 and a 3-1 loss in New London on Jan. 30). The Ephs could easily pull things together, as they eventually did in OT versus Bowdoin in the quarterfinals, and, with a good game from Dougherty, oust the Camels to reach the finals for the third time in five years.

Williams’ preview of play-off weekend.

4. Tufts: The temptation is strong to place Tufts ahead of Williams in the predictions based on its stunning 2-1 upset of Trinity in the quarterfinals but a close examination of the Jumbos’ record shows a weak finish to the regular season (winning only twice in the last 8 games) and that it was swept by each of the three other contenders during the regular season (a 9-0 loss to Williams in Williamstown on Nov. 22 and a 4-2 loss in Malden on Jan. 31; a 3-2 loss to Amherst in Amherst on Jan. 17 and a 3-1 loss to the LJs in Malden on Feb. 14; a 2-1 loss to Conn College in Malden on Feb. 6 and a 4-1 loss to the Camels in new London on Feb. 7).

Tufts finished ninth in the league in offense (2.06 GPG) and its defense was almost as unimpressive, finishing in eighth place (3.5 GPG). Both its power play and its penalty kill were next to last in the league at an 11.9% success rate and a 75% kill rate. On the bright side, goalie Mason Pulde ’17 has good save percentage numbers at .914 for fourth in the league and was brilliant against Trinity last weekend and rookie Brian Brown was one of five players tied for ninth in the league in scoring with a solid stat line of 10-7-17.

All-in-all, the numbers suggest that the Jumbos should plummet back to earth in the semifinals versus Amherst and exit the post season but stranger things have happened when the game is actually played as we were reminded last weekend.

Here’s a link to the Tufts’ perspective on the game.

Here’s a link to video of the two Tufts’ goals against Trinity and an interview with HC Brian Murphy.

Conn College roster now up (updated)

Connecticut College has posted its 33-member roster, with a few surprises. It includes 12 of the 13 recruits in our database (the missing player is James Ricciardi, a well-regarded forward from the Kent School) while the name of a new freshman appears on the roster–goalie Steven Grinsztein of BB&N–for a total of 13 freshmen players.  Also of note is a transfer via D1 UConn and a 14th new player in forward Joe Birmingham. Birmingham, now a junior, is a Northfield Mount Hermon product and prep school classmate and linemate of the Camels’ JC Cangelosi — Brimingham played in 12 games as a freshman for UConn and registered 5 assists but was relegated to the bench when Mike Cavanaugh took over as head coach last year and prepared UConn for this year’s entry into Hockey East.

Also missing from the roster are two veteran players from last year’s team: junior forward Penn Sednaoui and d-man Cory Wisnowski. Otherwise, all other players from last year’s edition of the team with remaining eligibility have returned for another year, including JC Cangelosi, the leading scorer for the Camels in 2013-14.

Six rosters down and four to go (Bowdoin, Trinity, Tufts, and Williams).

semifinals set for Saturday, March 8

Saturday, March 8, at Trinity (but Trinity is saying the date is to be determined although NESCAC rules would appear to require a Saturday-Sunday format unless there is a conflict between men’s and women’s hockey, which there is not in this case since Williams will be hosting the women’s play-offs next weekend):

no. 5 Bowdoin v. no. 1 Trinity

no. 3 Williams v. no. 2 Amherst

The only close first round game turns out to be no. 7 Conn College at no. 2  Amherst, with Brendan Burke breaking a 2-2 tie very late in the third period for the Lord Jeffs and then Brian Safstrom adding an empty netter for a final score of 4-2.

There is definitely an elite five in the NESCAC when it comes to the play-offs. Last year, the final four consisted of three of the same four teams, with Amherst subbing for Middlebury this year.

Bowdoin and Trinity have met seven times in the NESCAC post season, with Bowdoin holding a 5-2 edge in the series, including knocking Trinity off in the semifinals the last time it hosted and was the no. 1 seed):

2012 (first round): no. 2 Bowdoin 2 no. 7 Trinity 1
2008 (first round): no. 6 Trinity 5 no. 3 Bowdoin 2 (Trinity went on to win the NESCAC championship)
2007 (first round): no. 1 Bowdoin 7 no. 8 Trinity 3
2006 (semifinals): no. 3 Bowdoin 3 no. 5 Trinity 1
2005 (semifinals): no. 4 Bowdoin 3 no. 1 Trinity 2 (Bowdoin eliminates host Trinity from the NESCAC play-offs)
2002 (semifinals): no. 4 Trinity 3 no. 2 Bowdoin 2 (OT)
2001 (first round): no. 5 Bowdoin 4 no. 4 Trinity 3 (OT)

Amherst and Williams have met only twice in the prior 14 years of NESCAC play-offs, with a split decision:

2012 (semifinals): no. 1 Amherst 2 no. 5 Williams 1 (Amherst went on to win the NESCAC championship)
2000 (first round): Williams 2 Amherst 1