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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Trinity roster posted

Nine down and one to go, with Conn College now the lone hold out . .

Here is a link to Trinity’s 30-member roster, consisting of 9 newcomers (8 freshmen and Northeastern transfer D Nick Fiorentino) and 21 returning players. Two players did not return for another season — senior d-man Mike Menter (was a DNP in 2016-17 and seldom-used junior back-up goalie Matt Millendorf.

The defending NESCAC champions kick off the season by hosting always feisty Tufts at 7:30 on Friday (Nov. 17) and then face the visiting Conn College Camels Saturday afternoon at 4pm.

Trinity posts preview but no roster

Like Middlebury, Trinity has posted a preview for the 2017-18 season but has yet to release its roster for the season . .

NCAA preview: Trinity v. Plattsburgh

Plattsburgh at Trinity (7:00 pm)

Trinity, the winner of back-to-back NESCAC championships, has a decided statistical advantage over Plattsburgh, this year’s SUNYAC champion, in virtually every important statistical category, including both offense and defense. But this first-round NCAA play-off game is to be decided on the ice rather than by past statistics. Plattsburgh has some important intangibles in its favor – like the momentum associated with a strong close (a 11-1-1 finish, culminating in the league championship) but those intangibles do not clearly outweigh Trinity’s, whose season had a similar trajectory, so perhaps a wash.

Plattsburgh has some offensive depth but no flashy scorers, with 11 double-digit scorers but with its 2 top scorers maxing out at the modest point total of 21 (Joe Drabin ’20 (11-10-21); and d-man Ayrton Valente ’18 (6-15-21)). Trinity, in contrast, has 4 30+ scorers (Sean Orlando ’17 (15-18-33); Tyler Whitney ’18 (12-20-32); Anthony Sabitsky ’18 (16-15-31); and Ryan Cole ’17 (13-17-30)) and a host of other offensive threats. On the defensive end, Trinity has an excellent corps of d-men and a solid goalie in junior Alex Morin (1.88 GAA (no. 7 in D3) and .930 save percentage (no. 14 in D3)). Plattsburgh’s greatest vulnerability may very well lie on its side of the blue line where its no. 1 goalie (and Quinnipiac transfer), Brady Rouleau, has compiled mediocre numbers (2.84 in GAA (no. 60 in D3) and .895 in save percentage (no. 87 in D3)) and the team’s overall defensive numbers are unimpressive (surrendering 3.26 GPG or tied for the no. 53 defense in D3). Rouleau can rise to the occasion, however, as he backstopped Platty to its SUNYAC championship with a 3-2 win over regular season champion, Oswego, in the conference finals and was named tournament MVP.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.