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.

Williams’ 2016-17 roster posted

Here’s a link to Williams’ 27-member roster for 2016-17. With one exception, there are no surprises as all 8 recruits in our database are listed on the roster. The exception is that forward Michael Lata did not return to Williams for his sophomore year, electing to transfer to Brown University. Lata played in 26 of the Ephs’ 27 games last season, registering a stat line of 3-3-6.

NCAA QFs: Williams at Geneseo

Williams plays Geneseo Saturday evening in the D3 quarterfinals, with the winner earning the right to advance  to the Frozen Four the following weekend in Lake Placid and the opportunity to meet either Adrian or Wis-Stevens Point on Friday in the semifinals. Geneseo is the slight favorite based on its higher seed and its early season 3-0 win over Williams. Geneseo is making its fifth appearance in the NCAAs and Williams its first. Geneseo has recorded 3 wins in 8 of its post-season NCAA play-off games, with its greatest success happening in 2014 when it registered 2 wins before falling in the semifinals.

Here is an excellent Geneseo-oriented preview from a local newspaper. Critical to Williams’ success will be slowing down the Knights’ high-powered no. 1 line of juniors Stephen Collins (22-27-47) and Trevor Hills (22-18-40) and freshman Anthony Marra (9-27-36), which includes two of the top five scorers in all of D3 in Collins and Hills. Go here for Geneseo’s preview — click on on the link labeled “complete game notes” for details on each member of the Geneseo team and the team’s season. Go here for the Williams’ preview. Williams does not have a top line that is as potent as Geneseo’s but it does have a balanced offense, with several excellent scorers like Dave Italiano, Tyler Young, and George Hunkele and the no. 2 team defense, anchored by one of D3’s best goalies in freshman Michael Pinios (.940 save percentage) and NESCAC’s PoY d-man Zander Masucci.

Geneseo will be providing both a webcast and live stats at this link, with game time 7 pm on Saturday night.

Good luck to the Ephs as they seek to make history by advancing to the NCAA semifinals.

polls – Dec 14, 2015

The three ranked NESCAC teams–Trinity (8/8), Amherst (12/11), and Williams (14/13)–are still ranked but in the bottom half of both the USCHO and D3hockey polls. Amherst took the biggest tumble, falling from no. 5 to no. 11 in the D3hockey poll, which is not surprising, given its 3-2-3 record and 0-1-1 weekend. The highest ranked eastern teams are Plattsburgh, Babson, and UMass-Boston, with St Norbert the consensus no. 1 pick (UMass-Boston’s lone loss was a 5-0 shellacking at the hands of Bowdoin and its one tie was a 1-1 tie with Colby):

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Latest polls

All three ranked NESCAC teams took a bit of a hit in the latest polls, with formerly no. 1 Trinity slipping to no. 3 (USCHO) and no. 4 (D3hockey) following its 6-4 loss to Salve Regina on Sunday and a 7-1 win over Stonehill on Saturday. We expected Trinity to struggle a bit in the early going as it rebuilds much of last year’s stellar defense. And early season losses stand out for NESCAC teams due to their late start and the resulting tiny sample of games played (just four games in the books in the case of the three ranked NESCAC teams).

Amherst also slid a bit, slipping from 6 (USCHO)/7 (D3Hockey) to 8 (USCHO)/10 (D3Hockey) after struggling to beat lowly St. Mikes’s (4-3) last Tuesday, losing to Elmira on Saturday by a score of 6-3, and tying Nazareth 1-1 on Sunday. Similarly, Williams slipped from 14 (USCHO)/12 (D3Hockey) to no. 15 (USCHO)/14 (D3Hockey) after it fell to Geneseo by a score of 3-0 on Saturday and defeated Johnson & Wales on Sunday by 5-1.

In an interesting side note, undefeated Plattsburgh (8-0-0) is now ranked no. 1 although it had to really battle to get by Middlebury (1-2-1) in the first round of the Primelink Tournament on Friday, finally vanquishing the Panthers with a late goal by a score of 5-4:

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