Saturday, July 8, 2017

2017-18 Wesleyan Men's Hockey Season Review

As we languish in the oblivion of the offseason, we will recap each team's season, as we are wont to do, from last to first. Next up is seventh place Wesleyan, who made big strides from the previous two seasons and who were one period away from their first ever NESCAC title game. 

7. Wesleyan Cardinals

2016-17 Reccord
7-7-4 in Conference (9th in NESCAC)
13-9-4 Overall

Dawson Sprigings finished his collegiate career with over 4,500
minutes played in net 

Overall (Conf. Rank)                                          Conference Games (Conf. Ranks)
Offense - 3.08 G/GM (8th)                                                         Offense - 2.56 G/GM (6th)
Defense - 2.50 G/GM (5th)                                                         Defense - 2.72 G/GM (6th)
Power Play - 22/96 22.9% (3rd)                                              Power Play - 14/56 21.2% (3rd)
Penalty Kill - 76/83 91.6% (1st)                                             Penalty Kill - 48/52 92.3% (1st) 
Penalty Minutes - 7.9 /Gm (10th)                                               Penalty Minutes - 6.8/Gm (10th) 

Season Review
James Kline was the only Cardinal to reach double digit goals in his sophomore and junior seasons. The Pittsburgh native (I will not make Jesse Root jokes, I will not make Jesse Root jokes, I will not make Jesse Root jokes...) failed to reach double digit goals in his senior season, but it was actually a positive development.

Kline and Jay Matthews ('16) combined for 37% and 38% of team goals in 2014-15 and 20015-16, respectively. In 2016-17, no two teammates combined for more than 22.5% of Wesleyan's goals. Kline still tied for the team lead in goals with nine, but it was a four-way tie along with freshman Cam Walker (NESCAC Rookie of the Year), and juniors Dylan Holze and Cam McCusker. The extra help actually led to Kline's highest single season point total thanks to 17 assists (9-17-26).

Second on the team in assists was two-sport athlete Chad Malinowski (D, '19), who had nineteen points (4-15-19) and earned both a spot on the All-NESCAC Second Team as well as a D-III All-New England nod.

The increased help was not limited to the offensive end. Senior Dawson Sprigings, who played in 77 games during his four years in central Connecticut, still received the bulk of the minutes in 2016-17, but sophomore George Blinicki emerged as a weekend rotation option in the second half of the season. The Berkshire product went from no collegiate experience to a .944 Save Percentage and 1.66 GAA in nine games. Most of this, however, had to do with three shutouts in non-conference games, but he still posted a decent .922 save % and 2.48 GAA in conference games.

Another stark increase occurred on special teams, which Wesleyan flipped from one of the worst in the 'Cac in both power play and penalty kill in the previous season to the third best power play and league best penalty kill this past season. They actually doubled their power play goal tally in conference games from seven in 2015-16 to fourteen in 2016-17.

The Cardinals didn't face a murders' row in out-of-conference games, but they took care of business with five wins over weaker competition (Southern Maine, Assumption, Stonehill, Franklin Pierce and Castleton) and the lone loss coming to perennial D-III powerhouse Plattsburgh.

A strong non-conference showing helped the Cardinals reach 13 wins for the first time  since 1988-89 season, when none of the current players had even been born and the then Wesleyan coach was part of today's rink's namesake (Dave Synder, the Synder in Spurrier-Snyder Rink).

In conference they may have finished seventh but they were in the hunt for a home playoff game up until they lost three straight to end the regular season. Despite this, Wesleyan ended with the coveted "Little Three" title (head-to-head record between Wesleyan, Williams and Amherst dating back to the Triangular League in the late 1890s) for the first time in 30 years, thanks to a 2-1-1 record (1-0-1 against Amherst and 1-1-0 against Williams) in the battle of the mini triumvirate. The win in hockey capped off a first for Cardinal athletics: a Little Three title in football,hockey and basketball in the same academic year.

High Point
The playoffs. It was a tale of two 5-4 games for the Cardinals, who reached the semis for the NESCAC semis for the first time since 2011 and nearly made the finals for the first time in program history.  In  the quarters, the seventh seed Cardinals traveled to Waterville, ME, where they had battled to a 4-4 tie with the second seed Cardinals just over a month prior. As with the regular season contest, neither team had a more than one goal lead, only this time Wesleyan got one more tit than the host's tat thanks to a Luke Babcock goal setup by a Kline feed just 12 seconds after Colby tied it 49 seconds into the third.

The third line was the difference that day in Maine with Holze, Spencer Fox and frosh Tyler Watt accounting for the scoring on Wesleyan's three second period goals. For Holze, his three point effort (2-1-3) earned him NESCAC Player of the Week honors headed into the semifinal showdown with top seeded Hamilton.

The underdog Cardinals had a 3-1 lead in the second period against Hamilton thanks to capitalizing on some defensive miscues from the Continentals, including mistakes by NESCAC/DIII Player of the Year goalie Evan Butienhuis. Four different Cardinals scored, but the hosts eventually came out on top 5-4. Despite the loss, the Cardinals five seniors got to end a career that had been less than ideal on a proud note and the young Cardinals showed flashes that augur well for next season.

Low Point 
The NESCAC regular season schedule ends with travel partners Wesleyan and Trinity playing a home and home. The Bantams have not just owned this rivalry, they have absolutely obliterated the Cardinals in recent memory. This year was no different with Trinity blasting Wesleyan 7-2 and 3-0 to close out regular season play.

James Kline  Malinowski got the awards but we'll give the nod this year to Kline for his captainship and for providing offensive firepower to an anemic offense in the prior few seasons.

The other MVP comes from  Team IMPACT, one of our favorite programs several NESCAC schools participate in. At the end of January, Wesleyan drafted nine-year old Connor Albert, who was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (type of bone cancer) in 2016. Albert's treatments have included hip replacement surgery and long rounds of chemo that require inpatient stays. Prior to his signing day at Wesleyan, several members of the team visited Albert in the hospital.

Below please find the video of Connor's draft day and please consider giving or contributing to Team IMPACT here.  It's a great experience for the kids involved and though it sounds like a cliche, it is absolutely true that the athletes probably get more out of it than the kids.

In honor of young Connor and the underclassmen like NESCAC Rookie of the Year McCusker, who hope to help Wesleyan keep rising in the standings next year, here's Alexisonfire's excellent "Young Cardinals"

Sunday, June 25, 2017

2016-17 Bowdoin Men's Hockey Year in Review

Terry Meagher was back in the Sid opening weekend, but this
time he was just a spectator. 
As we languish in the oblivion of the offseason, we will recap each team's season, as we are wont to do, from last to first.  Next up is the inaugral season of the Jamie Dumont era of Bowdoin hockey. 

10. Bowdoin
2016-17 Reccord
5-12-1 (8th in NESCAC)
8-16-1  Overall

Overall (Conf. Rank)                                     Conference Games (Conf. Ranks)
Offense - 3.16 G/GM (3rd                                                      Offense - 2.78 G/GM (3rd)
Defense - 3.72 G/GM (10th)                                                       Defense - 3.61 G/GM (9th)
Power Play - 14/88 15.9% (9th)                                              Power Play - 7/55 12.7% (8th)
Penalty Kill - 90/116 77.6% 9th)                                              Penalty Kill - 64/83 77.1% (9th) 
Penalty Minutes - 12.8/Gm (3rd)                                             Penalty Minutes - 11.1/Gm (5th)

Season Review
Bowdoin men's hockey had only two coaches from 1959 to 2016, Sid Watson - whom the current arena is named after - and Terry Meagher, whom NBCSN did a segment on his final year that aired during the Winter Classic coverage. The two had an impressive 58 year run in the environs of the Pine Tree State that included only four single-digit winning seasons and three of those came under Watson before Meagher had even finished his collegiate playing career at Boston University in 1976.

Jamie Dumont stepped into some big shoes, but he inherited a team that finished third in the NESCAC in 2015-16 and included the majority of the roster intact. Dumont also had a large incoming freshman class and a total of 33 Polar Bears dressed for at least two games this season, but the team could not get into a groove regardless of the lineup in black and white. Bowdoin had a single digit winning season for the first time since 1998-99 and their worst finish in the NESCAC since the league began conference tournament play a year later in 1999-20.

The primary deficiency came on the defensive side of the puck.  Junior goalie Peter Cronin had his lowest save percentage (.900) of his collegiate career (.933 as sophomore and .911 as frosh) and none of his back-ups could do better than an .894 save percentage in the eight games he didn't appear in. Disparities were not limited to offense vs defense, either, as the Polar Bears went a mediocre 5-6-1 at Sid Watson Arena but a terrible 2-10-0 on the road with both wins coming the same weekend in a trip to Tufts and Conn College.

The season ultimately ended with a 4-2 loss at Hamilton in the NESCAC Quarterfinals. The Polar Bears, who won back-to-back NESCAC titles in 2013 and 2014 have now bowed out of the playoffs opening weekend for three straight seasons.

High Point
The aforementioned weekend at Tufts/Conn College left the PBs at 6-4-0 overall and 3-3-0 in the NESCAC right in the thick of things to close out the fall semester. The sweep, along with a non-conference W against Southern Maine,were a welcome way to end the semester following a  pair of one-goal losses in the heated Colby-Bowdoin weekend home-and-home.

After last year's 10 game unbeaten streak down the stretch and the growing pains of a program adjusting to a new coach for he first time in 34 years, it was reasonable to think Bowdoin might have made a push in the second semester....

Low Point 
...but they didn't. The team floundered, going 2-12-1 down the stretch, although both of those were solid wins at home against Trinity and Amherst, 5-1 and 3-1 respectively, showing what the Polar Bears might have done if they could have kept opponents from scoring. 

When the All-NESCAC teams were selected after the regular season, no Bowdoin player made a team for the first time since 2001. 

Cody Todesco (F, '19) Todesco may not have made the All-NESCAC First Team as he did as a freshman, but the 5'7" prep school product still produced for his new coach to the tune of a 25 point (15-10-25) sophomore campaign. The diminutive forward, who bulked up this past offseason , netted his second hat trick of his career in December with both having come against the Camels of Conn College.

Off the ice, Joe Lace (D, '17) deserves some recognition for enlisting in the Marines. He had his commissioning ceremony in Bowdoin Chapel the weekend of commencement.

The Bowdoin program is under a major transition after nearly six decades of only two men at the helm. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

NESCAC Recruiting Twitter update

We have plenty of time before the 2017-18 academic calendar starts, let alone the official release of rosters in November with the newest class of recruits. In the meantime, let's catch-up with what the twitterverse has to tell us about the incoming commits. As with all things twitter, it is fun and accessible, but hardly reliable as a comprehensive source of information. This list is of about fifty players, and on average there are probably around 80 new recruits in a season.

Just because a player isn't listed in the twittersphere as a recruit, it doesn't mean he won't be lacing it up as a neophyte NESCACer next fall at Sage or Alfond or the Malden Valley Forum II (get an on campus rink already, Tufts!). The converse is true as well, as a 140 character commitment doesn't mean you'll be on the roster come November 1.

The recruiting mix is pretty evenly distributed among prep school players and  there's also a mix of mix of players from hockey recruits to the few that are looking to play as many sports as they can.

And if you like stories told in 140 character snippets, check out some of the game stories from past NESCAC playoffs and NCAA Tournament games.

If you know of other recruits twitter claims for the 'CAC , please tweet them at us (@hockeyinthecac) or shoot us an email with the link to the tweet. We'll update the post as more come in.

Special thanks to Neutral Zone (@_Neutral_Zone), which include rankings for their recruits. Former Tufts coach Brian Murphy is actually a scout now for Neutral Zone.

Anyhow, on to the tweets!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

International Men of Mystery: NESCACers compete for Greece and USA in international competitions in Czech Republic, Israel this summer

The NESCAC season may be long over and next season may be even further away, but the opportunities to compete - and compete internationally - on and off the ice still exist this summer for NESCAC players. And fret not, these are the most D-III/NESCAC ways one could play international hockey.

World Ball Hockey Championships
Update June 10
First up in June is the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation (ISBHF)'s World Ball Hockey Championships hosted by the defending champion Czech Republic. Ball Hockey is essentially ice hockey sans skates/ice avec a ball instead of a puck. The rules are generally the same as the frozen version of our fair sport, save the expanded blue line. The offsides rule is the same, only once the attacking team enters the offensive zone center ice now becomes the demarcation between zones.

Two NESCAC players took part in the World Ball Hockey Championships -  held from June 1st through 10th - and both for Team Greece. Williams starting goalie Michael Pinios ('19) played out as a defenseman for the hellenic ball hockey team and Colby forward Phil Klitirinos ('18) played up front. Both are from Quebec, which NESCAC scholars will note is nowhere geographically near the home of the ancient philosophers they study, but the tournament rules allow for players to play for their ancestral homeland if at least one of their grandparents had citizenship for the country in question.

The two players are coming off different trends this past season on the ice. Pinios had a mediocre sophomore campaign after busting out of the gate his freshman season as a Second Team All-NESCAC goalie and Co-Rookie of the Year. Klitirinos, meanwhile, bounced back from an injury-riddled sophomore season in which he appeared in just nine games to score 25 points (7-18-25) in 24 games in 2016-17.

All games from the tournament were streamed live with English commentary, for those that are jonesing for some NESCAC puc- err - ball.  For the Williams piece with some more background on Pinios' participation in the tournament, click here.

The Greeks ended up finishing in fourth overall in the tournament, as they did in the 2015 edition of the tournament. They lost their first three games of pool play to  Canada, India and Slovaka respectively, though they picked up a point with an OT shootout loss to Canada to open the tournament. They were fourth of five in Pool A1 headed into their final game of pool play against winless Finland. Greece blanked Finland 4-0 to earn a spot in a play-in game to the Quaretfinals vs. Haiti.

Pinios, scoreless before the knockout round, netted two points (1-1-2) in a 3-1 win over Haiti, including the game winning goal on a short handed tally from behind his own redline. You read that right, and to view it, check out the video of this game at about 31 minutes in here.

The Greeks then beat the USA 4-3 in OT to earn a trip to the semis against Canada, whom they would lose to for the second time in the tournament. Canada, the homeland of both Pinios and Klitirnos, featured a former DIII player in Adrian's Shaq Merasty.

Most of these games were played to a nearly empty 10,000 person arena in Pardubice, Czech Republic. The Greeks, however, had a packed house sendoff to the tournament as they faced the host Czechs in the bronze medal game, which they lost 4-3 to the host nation.

Pinios ended up with four points for the tournament (2-2-4), good enough for third best on the team, while Klitirinos went scoreless in the eight contests.

The defending champs, Slovakia, defeated the Canucks in the final for their second straight World Ball Hockey Championships, which we all now know is a thing, thanks to the NESCAC participants.

Maccabiah Games 
Fast forward  a month, head back to the ice, and travel 2,700 miles (err 3,700 kilometers, rather) south and we arrive at our second international competition for NESCAC players this summer. Ethan Cohen ('19) of Middlebury and Chad Goldberg ('18) of Tufts will head to Israel in July to compete alongside other DIII and DI hockey players on Team USA in the 2017 Maccabi Games in Israel.

We had full coverage of the last Maccabiah Games (aka The Jewish Olympics) click here, for our interview with NHL Network broadcaster and Team USA coach Billy Jaffe, click here.
 in which Max Greenwald ('16) of Middlebury and Ben Chwick ('14) of Colby won the silver medal with Team USA in 2013. For our primer of the Maccabiah Games by Benet Pols,

Goldberg and Cohen are both coming off pointless seasons with a combined total of five games played, all by the Panthers sophomore. Cohen, a 6"0" Brooklyn native, has struggled to find playing time in his first two years in the Green Mountains with this season's handful of games the only contests he has dressed for in the first half of his collegiate career.

Goldberg, on the other hand, was selected as a tri-captain of the Jumbos for his junior season. After an injury plagued freshman and early sophomore campaign, the Agoura Hills, CA native tallied sixteen points (7-9-16) in 19 games in 2015-16 and figured to be a pivotal part of the Tufts offense in 2016-17.  A history of concussions, however, kept him sidelined for his entire junior year. You can watch Goldberg discuss his injury history in episode 10 of Inside Tufts Hockey, created by his teammate Pat Lackey, here.

This year's installment of the Maccabiah Games will take place from July 4th to 18th. The Americans will compete against Canada, Germany, Russia and Israel in the Open Division ice hockey tournament. Cohen and Goldberg will play alongside other DIII and DI NCAA players on the Open Division team, which consists of 18-25 year olds. There is also a Masters Division for players 40+ years of age (USA coached by former Open Division coach Billy Jaffe this year) and a Juniors Division for players born in the years 1999-2002. Cohen's brother Elias will be on Team USA's juniors while their father Steve will be on the masters team for a full-on family affair.

And who's that as assistant bench boss for Team USA's Open team? Why it is none other than Wesleyan alum Casey Fratkin ('14).

We'll post more info on the Maccabiah Games as it gets closer to the tournament. The next step is Team USA's training camp, which will open in late June.

It will be a long shot for Greece to medal in the Ball Hockey Championships and for USA to upset Canada for Maccabiah gold, but we are true believers in our boys from the 'Cac in their summer tournaments. Here''s Bouncing Souls' anthem "True Believers" from 2001's How I Spent My Summer Vacation.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Conn College Men's Hockey 2016-17 Season in Review

As we languish in the oblivion of the offseason, we will recap each team's season, as we are wont to do, from last to first. Next up are the Camels of Connecticut College, who made slight improvements from the worst season in NESCAC history in 2015-16.
It was another tough season for the Camels, who missed
their co-captain Greg Liataud (#4 above) for the entire season

9. Conn College Camels         


2015-2016 Record:
2-13-3 Conference (9th in NESCAC)
4-16-3 Overall 

Overall  (Conference Rank)                       Conference Games (conf. rank)
Offense: 2.13 G/Gm (9th)                             Offense: 1.78 G/GM (9th)
Defense: 3.22 G/GM (8th)                            Defense: 3.18G/GM (7th)
Power Play: 13/94 -13.8% (10th)                     Power Play: 8/69 -11.6% (10th) 
Penalty Kill: 80/97 - 82.5% (7th)                   Penalty Kill: 63/77 - 81.8% (6th)
Penalty Minutes per game - 14.4 (10th)            Penalty Minutes per game - 14.6(10th) 

Season Review 
When you reach rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up.

...or something to that effect. Conn College did not make a phoenix like rise from the ashes of a 2015-16 campaign, which saw the Camels becomes the first NESCAC team to never win a conference game all season. They did however, improve, moving out of the basement one spot to ninth and actually winning not one, but two! conference games, albeit both against last place Middlebury. The home win against the Panthers was the first win of any kind in New London since the Camels won their first ever home NESCAC Quarterfinal in overtime against Hamilton in 2015.

Out of conference, the Camels scored a win in their only non-tournament game at home against Manhattanville. In the Skidmore Invitational Thanksgiving weekend, they dropped a pair against the host Thuroughbreds in the opening round and then in the consolation game to Fitchburg State  They closed out 2016 in the Codfish Bowl, first losing to the host Beacons of UMass-Boston in the opening round, then vanquishing the Ravens of Franklin Pierce, named after the Bowdoin alum and widely maligned former President of the United States.

The Camels were in most games, losing eight contests by one goal and another two by two goals. The largest gain statistically came on the defensive end with Jim Ward's crew giving up nearly a goal game less than in the 2015-16 season. Four goalies saw action with the two frosh, Avery Gobbo and Connor Rodericks, solidying themselves as the netminders of choice. In all, eleven freshmen played at least on game during the season.

Despite contributions from neophytes like Jeff Thompson and Jacob Moreau, the top of the scoring board belonged to the seniors as it did in the previous season. Brian Belisle (grandson of legendary Mount Saint Charles coach), who had his first three seasons in New London hampered by concussions , fought back his senior year to lead the Camels in scoring with 19 points (11-8-19). Captain Joe Giordano served as assist master in the number two spot, netting 17 points (2-15-17) to close out his career.

Senior co-captain and blueliner Greg Liautaud missed the entire season and was listed as an assistant coach instead of a captain. I should know why, but at this current moment it escapes me.

High Point
The 3-1 win over Middlebury in late January was the first at Dayton Rink in nearly two years for the Camels. Conn College controlled play throughout, doubling the Panthers in shots and jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the second period. Belisle, who had scored the tying goal to force OT against Hamilton in the 2015 quarterfinals, scored what proved to be the game winning goal. Gobbo made 19 saves to pick up the win. Two NESCAC home games earlier the Camels also earned a hard fought 1-1 tie against nationally ranked Colby.

Low Point
The Camels followed up that win over Middlebury to stay in playoff contention with six losses, including four straight 2-1 decisions, which must have been demoralizing. One of those 2-1 losses must have been particularly hard to swallow: a Hamilton goal with two-tenths of a second left in regulation lifted the Continentals past the Camels.

Brian Belisle - No relation to SPHL defensemen of the Year and Middlebury alum Louis Belisle, this Belisle of the Mount Saint Charles Academy gang could have retired from hockey after missing the entire 2015-16 due to post-concussive syndromes. He didn't and he fought back to lead the Camels in scoring and he recently won the  Camel Athletics' version of a  perseverance award. I'm sure his grandfather, Bill Belisle, who was inducted into the USA Hockey 'Hall of Fame last fall, is proud.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Offseason News and Notes

It's 158 days until the start of NESCAC men's hockey team activities and it's currently graduation season, so let's catch up on some news and notes while we wait. We'll throw together some recruiting items in a separate post later on this summer, but for now, here are some tidbits to mull over for the time being. 

Bill Kangas to Take Sabbatical for 2017-18 Season
Next season would have been Williams coach Bill Kangas' 29th as Ephs bench boss, but it will also be his son Ryan's senior season at SUNY Brockport. Kangas is taking a sabbatical in 2017-18 to both watch his son's senior season and to travel the country and study other hockey programs. Now retired Middlebury coach Bill Beaney took a sabbatical in 2002-03 to watch his son Trevor play his senior season at Princeton, so this isn't unprecedented. Current Panther coach and then Panther assistant Neil Sinclair coached Middlebury that season.

Like Sinclair, Williams assistant coach Mike Monti will take over behind the bench for a season. Monti is in his second stint as a Williams assistant. He was with Kangas in 2011-12, before leaving to join the staff of DI University of Vermont for three season until returning to Williamstown for the 2015-16 season. He'll take over a team that is losing eight seniors, including NESCAC first team blueliner Frankie Mork, and gaining nine recruits.

Williams is in the market for a new assistant coach for the 2017-18, so if you are interested, you can find out more and apply here.

Tufts Hockey Documentary
Tufts graduating senior and men's hockey player Pat Lackey released a documentary (broken up into 16 episodes of about four minutes each) covering the 2016-17 Tufts Jumbos season entitled "Inside Tufts Hockey 2017" by Penalty Kill Productions. We got a glimpse of Lackey's production skills with his preseason Game of Thrones "Winter is Coming" preview for Tufts hockey, which you can watch here.

The doc series covers the season from preseason stairs workouts at Harvard Stadium until the aftermath of the NESCAC Quaterfinal  loss to Trinity. The series features interviews with players and coach Pat Norton, game and locker room footage, as well as some footage from around campus.

It captures the a capella talent of frosh blueliner Evan Haney, the chronic hip struggles of goalie Nik Nugnes, the career ending injury of Mason Pulde and more. A particularly poignant moment comes in Episode 15 with a candid soundbite from coach Norton talking about how players ending their careers have lost something they'll never get back again. Coach Norton, a D1 player at UNH himself (there's some old footage of his college days early in the season), admits that even coaching does not completely fill that void of  completing a collegiate playing career.

The final episode has some encouraging news for the Jumbos as Norton hints that an on-campus rink might be in the works. The lack of rink is one of the biggest hindrances for the Jumbos program, which has traditionally been weak in hockey but strong in other sports.

You can watch episode 1 below, and find all episodes here.

NESCAC in the Pros
In the North American pro ranks, the only postseason play for NESCAC alums came at the SPHL level.  Jon Landry's Bridgeport Sound Tigers failed to make the AHL playoffs. The 34 year old former Bowdoin star finished with 18 points (4-14-18) in 53 games for the New York Islanders' AAA affiliate. If Landry is back with the Islanders farm team next year, I still stand by my offer to the Islanders to pay top dollar for the god awful obstructed seats in Barclays if they call up Landry for just one game. No NESCAC players has graced an NHL sheet of ice since Guy Hebert last played for the organization that fleeces an obscene amount of money from me on a yearly basis come playoff time, the New York Rangers, in 2001.

Way down south in single A, several CACers plied their trade in the playoffs. Middlebury alum Louis Belisle ('14) made it to the SPHL semifinals with the Pensacola Ice Flyers before being ousted by the eventual champion Macon Mayhem. Belisle had a cup of coffee in the ECHL with the Florida Everblades, but spent the vast majority of the season with the pan-handle puckers of Pensacola. The former Panther had 50 points (18-32-50) in 52 games for the Ice Flyers en route to SPHL Defensemen of the Year.

Former Belisle teammate Evan Neugold ('16) spent 48 games with the Columbus Cottonmouths, Belisle's first pro team and now a defunct franchise, before finishing off the season with the Knoxville Ice Bears, where he joined another former Panther in Robbie Donahoe ('14). Donahoe began the year in the ECHL with the Manchester Monarchs and Utah Grizzlies, before spending the final 33 regular season games with the Ice Bears, a team with which he won an SPHL title in his first pro season back in 2014-15. The two former Middlebury stars went down in the first round of the playoffs.

Trinity alum Jackson Brewer ('15) spent the 2016-17 campaign with the Roanoake Rail Yard Dawgs for their inaugral SPHL campaign. They failed to make the playoffs but Brewer put up a 41 spot (  16-25-41) for the season. He had a welcome reunion with Sean Orlando, who spent a few games with the Virginia club on an ATO after he wrapped up his career at Trinity with a loss in the national title game against Norwich. The Cadet goalie in that game? None other than Ty Reichenbach, who joined both Brewer and Orlando on Roanoke for those final games of the season.

Colby's Jack Burton had the highest level of ATO experience spending four games with the ECHL's Indy Fuel during spring break.

New Rink for Colby in 2020
The NESCAC has a variety of shelf lives on their rinks, from Hamilton's Sage Rink - the oldest rink in all of D-III - to Bowdoin's Sid Watson Arena, opened in 2009 and the first rink to earn a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Colby will have the newest rink in the conference come 2020 when a new,$200 million multi-sport athletic complex will be completed.  Unclear if Joe Biden made any hockey references in his commencement speech at Colby this past weekend.

Upwards and Onwards
The end of the year means picking new captains for the upcoming season and saying goodbye to former captains. I could tell you who some of these graduates or new captains are, but let's be lazy and let the NESCAC team twitter feeds (most have them now in #2017) tell us.

As NESCAC seniors prepped last week for the next stage of their lives post hockey and college, the world tragically lost Chris Cornell on May 17th. I never saw Cornell with Soundgarden, but I did see him with Audioslave on Halloween 2005 - one day before Jon Landry officially began his final year of Bowdoin hockey - at the Tsongas Center, the current home of now UMass-Lowell coach and former Hamilton coach Norm Bazin. 

In honor of the NESCAC seniors moving on and in remembrance of Chris Cornell and his legendary pipes, here's Audioslave with "Your Time Has Come" 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

2016-17 Middlebury Panthers Year in Review

As we languish in the oblivion of the offseason, we will recap each team's season, as we are wont to do, from last to first. First up are the once mighty Panthers of Middlebury, who failed to make the NESCAC playoffs for the first time in program history. 

Stephen Klein hopes
his senior year will
be better than his junior campaign 
10. Middlebury
2015-16 Reccord

3-15-0 (10th in NESCAC)
3-19-2 Overall

Overall (Conf. Rank)                                     Conference Games (Conf. Ranks)
Offense - 1.83 G/GM (10th                                                      Offense - 1.78 G/GM (10th)
Defense - 3.58 G/GM (9th)                                                       Defense - 3.67 G/GM (10th)
Power Play - 14/79 17.9% (7th)                                              Power Play - 9/54 16.4% (7th)
Penalty Kill - 93/121 77% (10th)                                              Penalty Kill - 71/93  76% (10th) 
Penalty Minutes - 12.9/Gm (2nd)                                             Penalty Minutes - 13.3/Gm (2nd) 

Season Review
Year two of the Neil Sinclair regime saw the Panthers take a precipitous drop from a less than auspicious inaugral season for the coach. Middlebury could only dream of the mediocrity of the 2015-16 campaign in 2016-17 as the Panthers fell from fifth to last in the NESCAC standings.

The Panthers put up the worst win-loss percentage of any season for a program that began under the short Warren G Harding presidency in the 1920s. They also, however, featured a rookie laden lineup with all ten freshman on the roster receiving significant action and only two seniors (Andrew Neary and All-NESCAC soccer player Greg Conrad) lacin them up. Trevor Turnbull, one of said frosh, finished second on the team with 12 points (5-7-12).

The Panthers had problems in all facets of the game, finishing last in the conference in both scoring categories and  at or near the bottom in all special team categories, as well as outshooting opponents in only two contests all season.   In net, junior Stephen Klein received the bulk of the minutes as he did in his first two seasons in Vermont. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native finished last in GAA at 3.44 and 11th of 14 in save percentage (.907) for qualified goaltenders.

The Panthers had a typical tough non-conference schedule with two dates each against perenial powerhouse Plattsburgh and eventual national champion Norwich, who took out Hamilton in the NCAA Quarterfinals and Trinity in the natty title. The Panthers played their Green Mountain rivals quite tightly, losing by only one goal in November at the Primelink and tying the Cadets 2-2 at Middlebury in January. In 31 games, Norwich only didn't win four with a 27-1-3 record.

High Point
There are very few high points in a season which features a winning percentage similar to the batting average of an MLB pitcher, but we forced this construct on you, so we will choose one. The three Panther wins on the season all came within a four game span  in late January/early February.

Middlebury finally broke into the W column in the sixteenth game of the season. By that point they had gone 0-13-2 and had already lost as many games in an entire season since 1987-88 - the second Reagan administration  - when they lost 16 games. The Panthers buckled down at home against Bowdoin and two juniors stepped up, Klein with 32 saves and Vincent Gissonti with two tallies to deliver the 5-1 victory.

After losing at Conn College to startoff the next weekend (Conn College's only two conference wins in the past two seasons were the season sweep of Middlebury), Stephen Klein had one of the best performance of his career, stopping 41 shots for a 1-0 shutout of Tufts. They then returned home for another 1-0 victory this time over Wesleyan. The Panthers sat just four games out of a NESCAC playoff spot with five to play...

Low Point 
...but then the Trinity game happen. The Panthers then recent defensive prowess (four goals allowed total in four games) - went by the wayside and the Bantams throttled Middlebury 11-3. The Panthers finished out the season with four more loses, including totally losing their cool in the penultum game of the season against Hamilton when the Panthers got whistled for 54 penalty minutes and gave up fourteen power plays to the Continentals.

Vincent Gissonti (F, '18) The junior from Montreal reached double digit goals (10-3-13) for the first time in his career and became the first Panther to do so since the 2014-15 season.

It's been over a decade since the last of Middlebury's eight national titles, but they had never before missed the NESCAC playoffs, let alone finished in last place.