Wednesday, February 21, 2018

NESCAC Final Regular Season weekend

The final weekend of a conference as competitive as the NESCAC will not wont for drama, and this season's final regular season finale did not disappoint, outside of the top spot, which Trinity had locked in already headed in. The league headed into the final day on Sunday with only two games to play, but a possibility for a five-way tie for third. 

That doesn't mean the top seeded Bantams didn't have their own drama as any loss would hurt their chances for one of the four available at-large, officially known as a  "Pool -C", bids to the DIII NCAA Tournament should Trinity not win the NESCAC Tournament. Remember, Trinity won the national title in 2015 only because they got an at-large bid to the tourney after being shocked by eight seed Tufts in the opening round of the NESCAC playoffs.  

This iteration of the Bantams, who only have two players that played in that 2015 title game (Tyler Whitney and Anthony Sabitsky), fell to their travel partner Wesleyan on Friday 2-1 for the first time since February of 2013. The Cardinals ruined the Bantams senior night thanks to 34 saves from Tim Sestak and two first period goals that held up. The Bantams would respond in kind by ruining the Cardinals senior night the next day 3-1 despite another 38 saves from the sophomore Sestak. 

Conn College ended up holding on to the number two seed thanks to a dismantling of Bowdoin 7-3 after a 2-2 tie with Colby. The loss eliminated the Polar Bears from the playoffs for the first time since NESCAC conference playoffs began in the 1999-2000 season. In the Colby game, sophomore Jacob Moreau scored two goals to move into a tie by the end of the weekend with frosh Paul Capozzi for the team lead in goals at 10 after Capozzi had two of his own in the Bowdoin game. 

Amherst backed into the third spot after a wild 6-5 loss to seventh seed Williams and a 2-2 tie with last place Middlebury. The Mammoths fell into a 6-1 hole against their bitter rivals less than half way through the game before exploding for four third period goals, including two from sophomore Joey Lupo.  As Exhibit A in the case for NESCAC general parity, Amherst headed into OT with the last placed team in the league with three different seedings still possible: second if they won (would have jumped Conn), third if they tied (they won the tiebreaker with Hamliton, and fourth if they lost (they would have won the tiebreaker over Wesleyan). 

Speaking of fourth, Hamilton rode NESCAC Player of the Week Evan Buitnehuis into a home playoff game with a 1-0 win over Middlebury and a 0-0 tie with Williams (the third such outcome in the NESCAC this season). They were the second and third straight shutouts for the reigning D-III Player of the Year, who returned from a month out the previous weekend and ended the regular season first in the D-III nation in goals against (1.22 per game) and save % (.956). The Continentals will play the previously mentioned fifth seed Cardinals, whom they faced in an exciting semifinal game a year ago. 

Sixth place Colby closed out the regular season in style with a 3-0 blanking of Tufts thanks to 30 saves from Sean Lawrence. The Jumbos still made the playoffs, however, by defeating Bowdoin 4-2 the night prior. The Jumbos have made the playoffs the last four seasons after only making the playoffs five times in their first thirteen seasons (2002-2014) and never more than two straight seasons in that time frame. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

NESCAC Playoff matchups are set

After a fun final weekend in which Amherst headed into the overtime period tied with last place Middlebury with anything from the second to fourth seed a possibility, we finally have the seedings for next week's Quarterfinals.

Amherst and Hamilton both finished with 21 points but the Mammoths had the better record between the two travel partners (1-0-1) to win the tiebreaker

Wesleyan and Colby both finished with 20 points but Wesleyan wins the tiebreaker with the better head-to-head record (1-0-1).

Bowdoin (10 points) finished in 9th and Middlebury (7 pts) finished in last. It is the first time Bowdoin failed to make the NESCAC playoffs since conference playoffs started in the 1999-2000 season and only the second time Middlebury failed to make the playoffs (last year was the first time).
We'll have more on this weekend's games later and previews for the Quarters later this week.

Final seeding for the playoffs

1. Trinity (29 pts)
2. Conn College (22 pts)
3. Amherst (21 pts)
4. Hamilton (21 pts)
5  Wesleyan (20 pts)
6. Colby (20 pts)
7. Williams (19 pts)
8. Tufts (11 pts)

So the Quartefinal matchups next Saturday are:

(8) Tufts at (1) Trinity. Fourth straight year the Bos and Bantams will meet in playoffs (3 Quarterfinals and one semis)

(7) Williams at (2) Conn College. They last met in the semis of 2015, the last time the Camels made the playoffs.

(6) Colby at (3) Amherst. Not sure the last time these two met in the playoffs, but they split the regular season series.

(5) Wesleyan at (4) Hamilton. This sets up the rematch of last year's exciting NESCAC semis when the top seeded Continentals had to come from behind to beat the Cardinals.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Colby Stuns Trinity 3-0

The Colby Mules played the Trinity Bantams at Alford Rink on Saturday, February 11. Trinity came into the game 15-3-2, 12-1-1 in conference play, ranked 5th in the nation and first in the NESCAC. Colby was 10-10-0, 7-7-0 in conference play, ranked sixth in the NESCAC. Both teams went with their usual goalie,  Alex Morin for the Bantams, and Sean Lawrence for the Mules.
AFter 18 scoreless and penalty free minutes Colby’s Kienan Scott broke the ice with a tally assisted by J.P. Schuhlen and Nick O’Connor. The second period saw a couple minor penalties, but no goals.         

The third period was when Colby took command of the game. They did this through a short-handed O’Connor goal four minutes into the period followed up by O’Connor's second of the night on an empty netter late in the period. 

Lawrence played amazing in the affair, amassing 46 saves in his second shutout of the season. Colby tied their next game on Sunday and Trinity won theirs, with both of their Sunday games going into overtime. Trinity is still at first in the NESCAC and Colby is still at sixth. Shutouts are very rare for the Trinity. Before this game, the Bantams hand not been shutout since the 2016 NCAA opening round against UMass-Boston and had not been shut out in the regular season since December 2013 in a non-conference tilt against Stonehill. 

Thank you all for reading Hockey in the `Cac. As always, I’m LPfan2004, and I’ll see you soon.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Roundup 2/9/18 - 2/11/18

Trinity (16-4-2;13-2-1 NESCAC (27 pts) ) could not solve Sean Lawrence on Saturday and they needed OT to survive on Sunday, but the end result was the Bantams locking up their first regular season crown since 2015 and their third of the Matt Greason era ('14,'15, '18). Against Colby in Waterville, Lawrence posted a masterful 46 save shutout to end Trinity's nine game winning 3-0 (Box).  More from LPfan2004 later on this game. On Sunday, Trinity needed OT but they downed Bowdoin 4-3 (Box) to lock up the top spot in the conference headed into a final weekend tilts against Wesleyan.

Connor Girard's solid play in net powered Amherst (11-7-4;8-4-4 20 pts) into second place thanks to a  3-1 (Box) win over Tufts and a convincing 4-1 (Box) win over now third place Conn College (9-10-3; 8-5-3 19 pts). The Camels fought to a 2-2 tie the night before that contest against fourth place Hamilton (14-6-2;8-6-2 18 pts) in a game in which the Conts outshot the Camels 52-16. The Conts goalie only stopped 14 of the 16 shots, but Hamilton was glad that the offending netminder was senior Evan Buitenhuis, who returned to action at the Clinton Arena in the Celebration of 100 years of college hockey on Saturday. Boots then put in a decidedly better performance the next day back at Sage with a 25 save, 2-0 shutout of the Jumbos (Box). The celebration of 100 years of hockey in Clinton included former Hamilton and NHL goalie Guy Hebert receiving an honorary doctorate with Stan Fischler MCing and a general salute to former Hamilton AD Albert Prettyman, "the father of college hockey," who brought the sport to the school and convinced them to build Sage Rink three years later.

Next up is Wesleyan (11-6-5; 7-5-4 18 pts) who heads into the final weekend locked with Hamilton after a close 4-3 loss to Bowdoin (Box) and a disappointing 3-3 tie (Box) with current sixth seed Colby (11-10-1; 8-7-1 17 pts). Cardinal goalie Tim Sestak nearly shut down the Mules (49 saves) as Lawrence had done to Trinity the night before in the same rink, but Colby scored three goals in the third (two from Justin Grillo) to earn the tie.

In seventh, Williams (12-10-0; 8-8-0 16 pts) rebounded from a rough stretch with a pair of 2-1 victories (Box, Box) over last place Middlebury (4-16-2; 2-14-2 6 pts). Senior forward CJ Shuggart scored three of the four Ephs goals en route to player of the week honors in conference. The Friday night game was particularly interesting, as the Panthers, desperate to make a push for a playoff spot, pulled Stephen Klein in overtime for the extra skater.

The Panthers sit three points behind the Jumbos (4-14-4; 3-10-3 9 pts), who are also on the outside looking in, and four points behind Bowdoin  (8-14-11; 5-11-0 10 points) whose two points on the weekend in the upset of Wesleyan leapfrogged the Polar Bears into the last playoff spot position headed into the final weekend against Conn College and a Tufts team that sits one point out of the aformentioned final playoff spot.  

Only four points separates second place Amherst from bitter rivals, seventh place . Don't look now, but the team one spot behind you might be coming for your home playoff seeding. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Letter to NESCAC Seniors on Senior Day

As we enter the last three home games, most schools will be having senior days today or next weekend. As such, here's the letter we wrote to NESCAC seniors three years ago, which is the same advice to this crop of soon to be ex-NESCACers.
Teammates console goalie Evan Buitenhuis after a 2017 NESCAC title game loss in OT to Trinity.
Buitenhuis made it back from injury to play for the first time in over a month yesterday and the reigning
DIII Player of the Year will be honored today alongside his classmates at the Continentals' Senior Day game against Tufts.

Dear Senior NESCAC men's hockey players,

You are not special.

Not the message you expected, huh? You wanted a message that reaffirmed that you worked hard, sacrificed, were a great teammate, etc.? Perhaps we'll get there, but let's start with you not being special.

These will likely be the last few weeks of competitive hockey that you will ever play. A dozen or less of you will become professional hockey players for a short period of time. And by professional, I mean you will get paid a pittance sum to take long bus rides to play in such hockey havens as Columbus, Georgia and Huntsville, Alabama. A handful of you might be fortunate enough to make the jump from playing Polar Bears to taking on Solar Bears ( ECHL) and perhaps one of you will make it all the way to the AHL like Jon Landry (Bowdoin '06) (2018 Update: Jon Landry didn't make an AHL squad this year, but he has 322 AHL games played to his name to date) .

But the rest of you are left looking for jobs and spots in graduate school like the rest of your classmates. These are the same classmates that likely did little to follow your hockey career as they went to the same demanding school that you did and had plenty to keep themselves busy besides rooting for your team. Even if you did hold more sway in your institution than other sports teams, you still only played at the D-III level.

But is hockey really like other D-III sports? Is playing in the NESCAC like other D-III hockey schools? And are you really like your classmates?

You've probably noticed that you've been buying beer legally a little bit - perhaps a lot of bit - longer than your fellow khaki rocking 'Cacers. And your buddy from home that played baseball in college? He had his senior day two springs ago. Unlike many of your classmates or other D-III athletes, you had to go to an extra year of prep school or juniors to play your sport of choice in college. Some of you even chased a D-I scholarship to oblivion, settling on the 'Cac after aging out of juniors.

As for other D-III hockey players, they get a head start on their team activities in the fall and their conference doesn't have 90% of its schools appear on the list of the top 100 most selective college and universities.  Low acceptance rates don't determine a good academic experience and the NESCAC as elitist conference trope gets old pretty quick, but needless to say you came to the NESCAC as much -if not more - to fulfill the student part of student-athlete.

You may have caught on by now that your academic experiences aren't the only benefits of a NESCAC education. Life is often about connections and the NESCAC offers plenty of opportunities, especially the brotherhood of hockey alumni that you may have already hit up for a summer internship.

But there will be plenty of time for job applications, MCATs, apartment leases, and all the other fun vicissitudes of adulthood. At the risk of veering off into coach speak, these last few weeks should be about bonding together with your teammates to go as far as you can go in the NESCAC playoffs (if you make them) and if you are lucky enough, in the NCAA tournament.

In a 2013 Hartford Courant article, Trinity coach Matt Greason talked about leaving the National Team Development Program, where he worked with future NHL players, to come coach at his alma mater. "They (the NTDP players) wanted to see where they would get drafted, wanted to see where they would play pro, maybe an Olympics down the road. These guys just come together and the only thing they care about is Trinity hockey and winning." 

In other words, NESCAC coaches like coaching you because they know this is the end of the line for you. This is your NHL. So try and make it one last hell of a hurrah. 

And before the puck drop, senior day specifically should be a moment of pause, reflection and gratitude. While your hockey career is almost over, it's not over yet. Savor in the fact that you got to play competitive hockey for as long as you did, much longer than most of your house league mite teammates with whom you learned to play. Think of all the tournaments you went to in youth hockey, revel in the days of school you got to miss to travel far and wide to lace them up. Remember your first celly and fondly recall the games of knee hockey you played in hotel rooms because you couldn't be away from hockey even on room temperature surfaces.

And not to recall Barack Obama's tactics from the 2012 presidential election, but you didn't build that hockey career yourself. Without the sacrifice of other people, especially your parents, you would have never gotten to this point. So remember to be grateful for your parents for their sacrifice: financial, temporal and emotional, and remember to verbalize this gratitude to them.

And be grateful for your coaches. That youth coach that sparked your passion for the game? Send him an email before you leave school. Maybe you had a psycho coach in squirts that got in bar fights and would rattle your cage. Thank him too, I guess. And last but not least, thank your current coach (and his assistants). Maybe he is your favorite coach and maybe he is not, but either way he's the last coach you'll likely have and he might have an indelible effect on your life whether you realize it or not.

Hugs and Kisses,

Hockey in the 'Cac

Olympic athletes spend four years preparing for their moment. NESCAC seniors four year journey will also end this year, only in the rinks of the northeast instead of Korea. Here's French 79 with "Olympic" for all you yutes that like the EDM. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Roundup 2/2-2/3

Trinity (15-3-2;12-1-1 NESCAC (25 pts) ) virtually locked up the NESCAC regular season crown with an entertaining 4-3 win over Williams (Box) and 3-0 handling of Middlebury (Box). The Friday night game against the Ephs featured a fun final minute with a 6-on-4 for Williams (pulled goalie + power play) in which Alex Morin made the save below (courtesy of Jake Donnelly) to help the Bantams hold on. Morin would then make 24 saves for the shutout the next day against the Panthers. In a testament to head coach Matt Greason's recruiting and coaching abilities, Tyler Whitney became the sixth Greason player in the last four years to join the 100 point club with an assist on Friday night, joining Anthony Sabitsky who joined the prestigious club earlier this season. The Bantams now have a seven point cushion headed into the final four games of the regular season.


In a distant second are the surprising Camels of Connecticut College (9-9-2; 8-4-2 18 pts).  The Camels skated to a 0-0 tie (Box) at Tufts on Friday - the second such score in the NESCAC in two weeks after two years between 0-0 games - before a dramatic 4-3 OT come from behind win (Box) in New London the next night against the same Jumbos. USCHO did a feature on the surprise second place team this week, focusing on how much fun the team has. Winning is fun, and the Camels have ridden the stellar play of Connor Rodericks in net and the ability to win close games - (6-1-2) mark in the last nine, including five one goal games- to have said fun winning.
Wesleyan (11-5-4; 7-4-3 17 pts) leads the 3-6 pack that are all within four points of Conn College. Tim Sestak stopped 36 of the 37 shots he saw all weekend to earn NESCAC Player of the Week honors and power the Cards to 3-1 (Box) and 3-0 (Box) victories over Middlebury and Williams, respectively. Saturday's game included  Dylan Holze with his NESCAC leading tenth conference goal of the season. The senior from Lynbrook, NY has fourteen total goals on the season, or more than he scored in his first three collegiate seasons combined.

Amhest (9-7-4; 6-4-4 NESCAC 16 pts) and Hamilton (13-6-1; 7-6-1 15 pts) after sweeping hte Maine teams.  Colby (10-10-0;7-7-0 14 pts) lost to Hamilton 4-2 on Friday (Box) and 5-1 (Box) to Amherst. The usually potent Mules offense (2nd behind only Trinity in goals per game) was stiffled by Anthony Tirabassi and Connor Girard. Tirabassi has stabilized a bit in replacing the injured reigning D3 player of the year with the two goals allowed to Colby and a 5-3 victory over Bowdoin (Box). Neil Conway had a goal and an assist in his return after missing a weekend, while Brandon Willett and Nick Ursitti each had multiple-goal games on the weekend. Bowdoin did not have much better luck the night before in a 4-2 loss (Box) to the Mammoths thanks to two goals from Pat Daly .

Coming up in seventh are the aformentioned Ephs of Williams (10-10-0;6-8-0 12 pts), who have had an uncharacteristic fall from grace with a six game losing streak. Williams hanged tough with Trinity, including the NESCAC's best power play unit (13/29) notching two tallies and an Alex Morin glove away from a third. They followed it up by being shutout by Wesleyan, being outshot by -14, and having their coach say they didn't play their game on Saturday.

Tufts (4-12-4; 3-8-3 9 pts) rounds out the current playoff spots in eight after a hard fought but disappointing one point weekend against Conn College. It could have been a three point weekend, with the Jumbos up by two in the third period at Conn, but turnovers in the final frame cost them .

On the outside looking in are Bowdoin (7-13-0; 4-10-0 8 pts), who are very much in contention for a playoff spot with a Tufts team they will face the final weekend, and a Middlebury team (4-14-2; 2-10-2 6 pts) that has only been able to muster one goal a game in conference this season and that will probably miss the playoffs for a second straight year.

Considering the histories of the two programs with recently retired legends in Terry Meagher and Billl Beaney (who are both still on their respective campuses), it feels very odd to see these two on the outside looking in.  Bowdoin got some good news this week, however, as good guy senior Camill Blanchet was named one of five finalists out of all of college hockey for the 2018 Hockey Humanitarian Award.

Should be a fun final two weekends of the regular season!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Trinity Cruises Past Amherst 5-2

As a follow-up to the roundup, here's LPfan 2004 with a recap of Trinity Amherst from last weekend. 

On Sunday, January 28, the Amherst Bantams traveled to Trinity Community Sports Center to face off against the Trinity Bantams. Earlier in the season, on December 3, the two teams tied 3-3 in a game that went into overtime. Both sides went with their starting goalies, Amherst's Conor Girard, fresh off a shutout, and Alex Morin for Trinity.

It took a while for either team to get on the board; the first goal came 17 minutes into the game from Trinity’s Mark Knowlton. They scored 2 minutes after this, with a Barclay Gammill lamp lighter. Amherst responded with 15 seconds left in the first period off a power play goal from Jack Fitzgerald. Trinity scored two more goals in the middle of the second period, the second of which was Gammill's second of the game.  The sophomore from New Canaan CT now has two multi-goal games this season. The first goal was assisted by Tyler Whitney and James Callahan. The assist from Whitney was significant because it marked the 99th point of his collegiate career. Each team scored one goal in the final period, and Trinity earned a 5-2 victory.

This victory puts Trinity at six points ahead of any other NESCAC team, and it gives them control over the conference. They have a 13-3-2 record, and their conference record is 10-1-1. The loss puts Amherst at 7-7-4 and 4-4-4 in conference play. They are currently fifth place in the CAC.

As always, thank you for reading Hockey in the `Cac. This is LPfan2004, and I’ll see you next week.

No, thank you, LPfan2004. Now here's a song released 35 years before your birth.