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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Wesleyan roster posted!!

Wesleyan has posted its 25-member roster, featuring small senior and freshmen classes (just 5 each). There are several veteran forwards who did not return for another season (sophomores Dom Oliver and Matt Horton and junior Elliot Polur) although none of them saw much action in 2016-17. Otherwise, the roster contains the 6 newcomers listed in our database (5 freshmen and Hobart transfer G Tim Sestak) and 19 veteran players.

Wesleyan kicks ooff the season on Friday (Nov. 17 by hosting Conn College at 7pm and then hosts Tufts on Saturday at 3pm.

Four NESCAC rosters still have not been publicly disclosed: Amherst, Conn College, Middlebury, and Trinity.

 

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

Wesleyan’s 2016-17 roster posted

Wesleyan posted its 28-member roster today, with no real surprises. The roster includes 20 returning veterans, with only seldom used forward Kevin Hill missing form the list of expected returnees. All 8 of the recruits in our database are listed on the roster.

There are still four rosters outstanding–Amherst, Conn College, Trinity, and Tufts–even as opening night draws ever nearer (this Friday).

Wesleyan roster posted

Two down and eight to go as the first game draws ever closer . .

The 30-member Wesleyan roster includes 19 veterans and 11 freshmen. Missing from the list of returning players are: junior forward Elliott Vorel, whose career began with much promise as a high-scoring freshman (he ranked no. 4 in points in the league with 15 as a freshman) but was plagued by injury in his sophomore year; and junior d-man Nick Malone. The 11 freshmen include the 10 in our recruits database plus forward Eliot Plour, a Florida native and a light-scoring graduate of Choate.

NESCAC roster no. 2: Wesleyan

Just 10 days to go to the first NESCAC game of the season and only two teams have posted their rosters. Wesleyan has released its 24-member roster for the 2014-15 season, which appears to be straightforward. The six new players listed in our recruits database are all on the roster as are 18 of the 19 members of last year’s team who did not graduate and were expected to return for another season. The only missing veteran is d-man Dylan Niehoff, who should be a senior this year and played in 10 games last year.