NCAA preview: Hamilton v. Oswego State

Hamilton at Oswego (7:00 pm)

Oswego is an offensive juggernaut with a deep and experienced line-up, scoring at a 4.74 GPG clip and the third most potent offense in all of D3. The Lakers’ top 4 scorers and 9 of its 10 top scorers are all seniors, likely aiming to extend their college careers for another couple of weeks and to end with a flourish.

Laker forwards to watch include Kenny Neil (19-25-44 and the no. 7 scorer in D3); Shawn Hulshof (13-27-40 (tied for no. 14 in D3); and Matt Galati (13-17-30). Oswego is a veteran team, including 12 seniors and 4 D1 transfers, and with every single player being a product of junior hockey. Hulshof and Neil  are both members of the all-SUNYAC first team as is d-man Stephen Johnson.

Hamilton, in contrast, has a less showy but steady and opportunistic offense (producing goals at a 3.22 GPG pace (tied for 34th in the country). What it lacks in punch on the offensive end, it more than makes up on the defensive end, with the third-ranked defense in D3 (giving up just 1.74 GPG and featuring Evan Buitenhuis in net, who is one of the nation’s premier D3 goalies and the NESCAC PoY, and a stalwart group of experienced d-men).

In comparing stats, it is important to keep in mind that Oswego plays in a top-heavy conference where the top 3 teams are very good (Oswego, Plattsburgh, and Geneseo) and do very well in the post-season while the remaining 6 teams are middling to poor. Because the bottom 6 teams often do not pose much of a challenge to the top 3, the stats for the top 3 teams tend to be inflated by the weak competition. Stats in the NESCAC, in contrast, are depressed by parity, with very few opportunities to roll up numbers, making a statistical comparison between a SUNYAC team and a NESCAC team not necessarily determinative of the 2 teams’ relative strengths.

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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.

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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.

Hamilton’s 2016-17 roster posted

Hamilton has posted its 27-member roster, with no major surprises.  The one surprise is the absence of junior goalie Tim Nowacki, who has been a solid back up for all-NESCAC goalie Evan Buitenhuis for the past 2 years, especially when Buitenhuis was injured during his freshman year. The roster includes the 5 recruits in our database plus a new back-up goalie in Chris Browne,  New Jersey boy and recent graduate of the Pingry School.

Hamilton joins Colby and Williams in posting its rooster. We anxiously await word from the remaining 7 NESCACs as to who will be on each of their teams . .

Hamilton roster posted

Hamilton has posted its 25-member roster, consisting of 18 veterans and 7 new players. All 7 incoming players listed in our recruits database are on the roster. Excellent d-man Marko Brelih graduated after only 3 years at Hamilton so will not be returning for a fourth and final season  (that’s a big loss for Hamilton but lightened by the fact that its returning d-corp is deep and experienced). Also not returning  are sophomore F/D  David Barmish and senior F Brad Prevel, neither of whom saw much ice time in 2014-15.

Four rosters down and six to go and just a week to go to opening night (Nov. 20), which includes a trip by Hamilton to visit travel partner Amherst at Orr Rink for a 7:00 pm game.

Hamilton roster really is up this time!!!

After apparently jumping the gun on Oct. 29, Hamilton has now reposted the same 27-member roster. Most of last year’s players return for another year (except for the graduates) but for three forwards who are now juniors  (Matt Tetro, Robbie Gardiner, and Robbie Kirk). Between the three, they played in 29 games in 2013-14 and contributed 1 point. All seven recruits in our recruits’ database are listed on the roster, including the two excellent goalie prospects (Evan Buitenhuis and Time Nowacki). In Robbie Murden (’17), Kenny Matheson (’16), Patrick Curtis (’15), and Truman Landowski (’17), the Continentals return four of their top five scorers, with their biggest loss on the scoring front being the loss of last season’s no. 1 scorer, Mike DiMare, to graduation. Hamilton also returns a deep and experienced d-corps that includes five sophomores and three juniors. Junior Matheson will serve as this year’s captain.

Four rosters down and six to go . . .