Monday, April 23, 2018

NESCAC in the Pros

Periodically we give an update on former NESCAC players plying their trade in the pro ranks. LPfan2004 gives you a run down on the NESCAC players in the various leagues across the globe this season.

The NESCAC is a great conference that always offers many surprises, such as its sixth seed making the DIII Frozen Four in Lake Placid last month. It also can produce some decent pro players, so I am back with an update of NESCACers in the pros.

While Jon Landry did not play in the AHL or in any other professional hockey league for the first full season since graduating from Bowdoin in 2006, Evan Buitenhuis signed an ATO (amateur tryout contract) with the Toronto Marlies during Hamilton's Spring Break. While he did not play in a game before being cut on April 9th, Boots has taken some good first steps as he attempts to follow in Guy Hebert’s footsteps and become the first NESCAC NHL player in over 15 years.

We had a couple CACers play in the ECHL this year. Evan Neugold, the former Middlebury Panther, got called up from his SPHL team, the Knoxville Ice Bears and was loaned out to the Adirondack Thunder and South Carolina Sting Rays. In 27 games, he tallied two goals and two assists, with 10 minutes in the penalty box and a positive one plus/minus. The other ECHL player was Jack Burton, the former Colby Mule, who played 65 games for the Indy Fuel this season. In those games, he had 3 goals, 8 assists, 67 penalty minutes,and a negative 11 plus/minus. The Fuel just lost their first round playoff series, with Burton having an assist in Game 2.

As noted in the News and Notes on Friday, Trinity's Tyler Whitney also got to play one game in the ECHL with the aforementioned Sting Rays on an ATO. 

As I said, Evan Neugold is on the Knoxville Ice Bears. He had 21 points in 18 regular season games, and currently has a goal and an assist in three playoff appearances. Mason Pulde, the former Tufts netminder who didn’t make the Middlebury Panthers before transferring to Tufts, also made a SPHL roster this year; he plays for the Peoria Rivermen after starting off the season in the FHL for the Watertown Wolves. He played very well in his ten regular season appearances, earning SPHL Player of the Month honors for March/April. Currently, the Rivermen and Ice Bears are clashing in the SPHL semifinals, reuniting two former NESCAC foes.  

Surprisingly, international leagues held most of the NESCAC pros this past season. Louis Belisle, another Middlebury product who formerly played in the ECHL and SPHL, played in the French top division for Nice. In 44 games, he had nine goals and 23 assists, totaling 22 minutes in the box with a positive one plus/minus.

Bowdoin alum Kyle Hardy ('11) also started playing in the French top division after leaving Brunwick. He then went to Switzerland and England, but found himself back in France. He now has a home at Grenoble, where he totaled 47points in 44 regular season games last year as the captain. Earlier this month, The New England Hockey Journal chronicled his pro journey .

There were at least four other NESCACers who played internationally this year. Colin Downey (Bowdoin) played in the French second division for Tours. Ryan Cole (Trinity) played in the Norwegian top division for Konsvinger. Kenny Matheson (Hamilton) played in the German fourth division for EHC Zweibrucken and EC Pfaffenhoffen. Finally, Sean Kavanagh (Tufts) also laced up his skates in the German fourth division, for EV Fussen, where he had 12 points in nine regular season games.

As always, thank you for reading Hockey in the `Cac. Sorry for being gone  for a while. If we missed any players, let us know in the comment section below. I’m LPfan2004, and I’ll see you next time.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Offseason News and Notes 4/20/18

It's the offseason, but that doesn't mean there aren't things NESCAC hockey related that are going on. We have plenty to catch you up on below.

Individual Accolades
Perhaps one day hibernating New York City talk radio royalty Mike Francesa and Boston sports fanatic Bill Simmons will argue over DIII men' s hockey awards in the same manner they debate Lebron James vs James Harden for MVP  ,but for now the boys from the NESCAC will just  have to settle for mentions from ye humble blog boy. We can also hope that Simmons' will stop completely ignoring the fourth North American major pro sporting league, but I digress.

Things kicked off with the conference honors back at the end of February when hockey was still to be played. Conn College swept the NESCAC conference honors for the first time in program history (Connor Rodericks - Player of the Year, Jim Ward - Coach of the Year, Paul Capozzi  - Rookie of The Year ) after their all-time best finish of second in the NESCAC regular season. All First Team members made the team for the first time with the exception of Trinity's Anthony Sabitsky, who made his second straight appearance on the first team and third All-NESCAC selection overall. Future Frozen Four bound Colby landed blueliner Michael Decker on the 2nd team and no school had more than two players selected across the two teams.

First Team All-NESCAC
Position Name Institution Class Hometown
F Jason Brochu Hamilton Jr. Saint-Bruno, Quebec
F Dylan Holze Wesleyan Sr. Lynbrook, N.Y.
F Anthony Sabitsky Trinity Sr. Sicklerville, N.J.
D Liam Feeney Trinity So. Foxboro, Mass.
D Phil Johansson Amherst Jr. Saint-Zotique, Quebec
G Connor Rodericks Connecticut College So. Buzzards Bay, Mass.
Second Team All-NESCAC
Position Name Institution Class Hometown
F David Italiano Williams Jr. Toronto, Ontario
F Thomas Lindstrom Amherst Sr. Brooklyn Park, Minn.
F Jacob Moreau Connecticut College So. Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec
D Michael Decker Colby Sr. Algonquin, Ill.
D Chad Malinowski Wesleyan Jr. Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.
G Evan Buitenhuis Hamilton Sr. Burlington, Ontario

From NESCAC official release, here

Next up were the American College Hockey Association (ACHA) awards at the D-III Frozen Four in Lake Placid, NY. Colby's Blaise MacDonald, who led the Mules from the sixth seed in the NESCAC tournament to the final four teams in the DIII nation, earned the Ed Jeremiah Award for best coach at the DII level. The last NESCAC coach to earn the honor was Amherst's Jack Arena, who earned the award in 2015. On the ACHA All-American teams, a pair of NESCAC goalies made the cut. Rodericks earned a 2nd Team All-East spot and Evan Buitenhuis earned a 3rd Team All-East selection. 

The New England Hockey Writers Association closed things out in early April with the DII/DIII All-Stars. Rodericks again was honored along with Colby's Sean Lawrence, whose incredible goaltending in postseason play led the Mules to Lake Placid. Trinity sophomore Liam Feeney was the only NESCAC skater selected as he made the blueliner All-Star corp.  MacDonald won Co-Coach of the year with Salve Regina's Zech Klenn, who led the Seahawks to their first ever title game in his first season behind the bench. 

Of note, Bowdoin's Camil Blanchet did not win, but he was a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, which was announced at the D1 Frozen Four in St. Paul, MN last week. 

The NESCAC was snubbed with no selections on All-USCHO teams. 

Kraft Hockeyville
Each year since 2006, Kraft has hosted a contest to name a city or town Hockeyville, with a rink from the winning municipality earning money for an upgrade and the opportunity to host an NHL preseason game. Since 2014, the contest has been split up into separate American and Canadian contests.

This season's American iteration included two NESCAC hometowns among the four finalists, Middlebury, Vermont and Clinton, New York, home to Hamilton and the historic Clinton Arena. Each year the Continentals play one of their home games at Clinton Arena and this past season the game - a tie between Hamilton and Conn College - was part of the Hamilton/Clinton celebration of 100 years of hockey in the central NY village.

Hamilton College hit the social media campaign trail hard for Clinton Arena in the digital contest voted for by the general public. Proponents for the former home of the Clinton Comets included the school's official accounts, the hockey team's accounts, former Cont Guy Hebert and  hockey historian /TV commentator Stan Fischler, who has no official connection to the town or school, but appreciates Clinton's hockey connection to vanquishing Hitler.

When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman opened the envelope on live TV last Saturday during an intermission of an NHL playoff game, he not only wasn't booed, but he earned the admiration of Oneida County when he announced Clinton, NY had been named Kraft Hockeyville USA 2018. Members of the Hamilton team were on site along with local residents for the viewing party (video below from the AHL's Utica Comet's twitter feed. The nearby AHL Team was all-in for Clinton as well).

Clinton Arena will get $150,000 for upgrades and will host a yet to be determined NHL preseason game for next season.

Spring Break 
Some students spend their spring break studying, others catch up on school work, still others have spring team activities and finally a very small minority of NESCAC senior hockey players get to head to the ECHL, SPHL and AHL on Amateur Tryout (ATO) contracts in pro hockey.

It was a small class this spring with only three signings and only one player actually getting ice time. Trinity senior and 100 point club member Tyler Whitney kicked it off in March when he signed an ATO with the ECHL's South Carolina Sting Rays, who employ his older brother, Steven Whitney. The younger Whitney got to play one game before being released.

That's better than Middlebury goalie Stephen Klein, who was signed for one day with the ECHL's Colorado Eagles, before being cut only 24 hours without even dressing. Go figure.

2016-17 NCAA DIII player of the year Evan Buitenhuis got a golden opportunity with an ATO with the Toronto Malple Leafs AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. Buitenhuis dressed for a few games before eventual AHL goalie of the Year Garrett Sparks returned to the Marlies from a short stint with the big club. The former Continental remained on the roster several more weeks but would not dress again before being cut last week in the final week of the regular season.

LPfan2004 will have an update on other NESCAC alums in the pros, including international players, later this weekend.

A New Arena
Stick to Sports?

No thank you, says graduating Amherst senior Johnny Arena, who announced his candidacy as a Democratic candidate for the Massachusetts House of Representatives 2nd Franklin Seat at the end of last month. The 23 year old, who served as Director of Hockey Operations for his father Jack Arena's Amherst men's hockey team, will take on incumbent Sussanah Whipps Lee this fall.

For more info on Arena's candidacy, see The Greenfield Recorder's article on his announcement here

Humboldt Strong
You are likely aware of the horrific tragedy that befell a Canadian Junior A hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos, and by extension the entire hockey tournament, two Fridays ago on April 7th. The Saskatchawan team was headed to Nipiwan for game 5 of a SJHL playoff series when their bus collided with a semi-truck, leaving sixteen dead and thirteen injured.

NESCAC teams don't tend to recruit that far west in Canada, but they do recruit Canadian Junior A players that have a similar experience on buses as the SJHL. Even if they didn't play juniors, NESCAC players know the experience of bonding on long bus rides while in the NESCAC, traveling from points as far west as Clinton, NY all the way up to Waterville, ME.  The bus ride was a theme of Colby's Frozen Four run with the team on the road for the final six weeks of the season from the end of the regular season up to the national semifinals in Lake Placid, NY.

The Berkshire Eagle's Howard Herman spoke to Canadian members of the Williams team (here) about the horrific event and NESCAC players and coaches have been active online in the social media campaigns to support Humboldt, including the #sticksoutforhumboldt (Colby coach Blaise MacDonald's and Trinity coach Matt Greason's tweets below as examples) and the #JerseysForHumboldt (Amherst and Colby team photos below).

Saturday, March 24, 2018

NCAA semis: St. Norbert's 4 Colby 3

St. Norbert   4
Colby           3
Box Score    Central Maine Recap Video Recap

"I'm never displeased with the effort (in this game), this team typically brings it" Colby coach Blaise MacDonald said immediately after the game. St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin coach would concur  as he said his team needed to earn all sixty minutes against the Mules.

But for the fickle mistress that is hockey, sometimes that isn't enough. Colby found itself down 2-0 within the first three minutes and then 3-0 (Colby gave up 3 goals in entire NESCAC tournament) by the close of the first period, and despite a valiant effort in the final two frames, the Mules were never able to find the equalizer.

St. Norbert got on the board just 1:28 in, as Green Knights defenseman Nick Lesage fed third-line winer Roman Uchyn, who beat Sean Lawrence high glove side from between the dots for the first tally. The real puzzler came less than a minute later when Brooklyn native Dominic Sacco just floated one in on net that somehow found its way through Lawrence's five hole for a goal that MacDonald called "a crazy one." Sacco, as those NESCAC fans with a better memory than is likely humanly possible may remember, assisted on one of St. Norbert's two goals in a loss to Trinity in last years semis and almost had an equalizer that just went wide in the closing minutes of that game against the Bantams.

Green Knight captain and ACHA First Team All-American Tanner Froese gave the tournament top seed a three goal advantage about nine minutes later.  The Saskatchewan native took the puck in and had a good backhanded chance that was turned aside by Lawrence. Moments later, Froese made an effort play to poke check Mule captain Mike Rudolf trying to clear in front of the net and it went in. Froese would say afterwards that the coaches emphasized tracking pucks on getting on defenders as part of the game plan.

The Miracle Mules did not give up and cut the shots advantage to 23-19 by the end of the first. It was the first time in this six week run on the road that the Mules gave up three goals in a game, let alone a period, and it is the first time they gave up three in a period since their last loss on February 3rd to Amherst.

Despite the score, both MacDonald ("it looked different on the scoreboard than it did on the bench") and his son Cam MacDonald ("We knew we could do it, we've scored three goals in five minutes before") were confident in their squad.  Both teams seemed to settle in the first half of the second with some back and forth play but generally no great scoring chances. Mike Decker got called for roughing in an altercation behind his own net but the Mules killed off the penalty.

Things picked up in the final five minutes of the second frame. Colby got on the board when Kienan Scott entered the zone wide on a breakout, using all the extra square footage of the Olympic rink, and got a shot off from the right circle. TJ Black saved it but left a juicey rebound for JP Schuhlen, who beat TJ Black gloveside high. The Knights looked to respond shortly after with a two-on-one, but Lawrence, who returned to form after the first half of the first period, made a sprawling, sliding save in which he lost his stick to keep the deficit at two.

Colby found itself with a golden opportunity less than two minutes later on an interference call on St. Norbert's winger Tommy Nicksic. On the ensuing power play, Thomas Stahluth from behind the net worked it over to MacDonald, who dangled a bit on All-American defenseman Sean Campbell and wristed it in shortside high from the odd angle.

Less than a minute later, with the Mules faithful and players alike amped,  Colby got another break with another interference call on the Green Knights. Nicksic elbowed Schuhlen high, and the officials turned to video review (new this year at DIII level) and determined that it was a two minute minor and not a more egregious infraction.

This time, however, it was St. Norbert that had the scoring opportunity, as Froese stole a flat cross ice pass at the blue line and raced down the wing before cutting in and going five hole on Lawrence for the 4-2 lead with 35 seconds left in the 2nd. Blaise would identify this as the turning point in the game and Froese and the Knights recognized how important the tally was to breaking the Mules momentum.

Early in the third, Justin Grillo, the hero of the Quarterfinals, was checked into the boards and was slow to get up, requiring the assistance of the training staff to get back to the bench. The refs went to the video replay to determine if there should be a penalty on St. Norbert's and ultimately decided the hit was clean. When asked about the replay after the game, Coghlin admitted to not knowing a non-call could be reviewed as the whole review process is new this season.

Thankfully for the Mules, Grillo was able to return to the game.  The freshman entered the zone with about six to play and riffled it through two defenders and a frozen Black. It was a bang-bang play that looked like a snipe perched from upon high, but after the game Coghlin said the puck was deflected off of defenseman Alfred Johansson's pad.

The Mules never stopped the pressure and pulled Lawrence for the extra attacker with 1:10 left, but Black stood his ground and the buzzer sounded with the Mules on the wrongside of the scoreboard for the first time in over a month. Black, a back-to-back All American, made 40 saves and has now set a school record of 26 wins in a season .

That's a program record for a school that is headed to their ninth D-III finals, tying Middlebury for most finals appearances, and all since 2004. Speaking of Middlebury, Coghlin shouted out now retired Panther legend Bill Beaney in the post game presser, crediting Beaney with imparting the wisdom upon him that if you have done your job as a coach correctly through the year, things are pretty much autopilot in that department come championship time.

The Green Knights last played in the title game here in Lake Placid two years ago, when they lost to Wisconsin-Stevens Point, who lost to Salve Regina in the other semifinal thanks to over 50 saves from the Seahawks goalie. Froese spoke of the "unfinished business" this team has at Herb Brooks Arena. The Green Knights have ten freshman but they also have six seniors that are looking to avoid being the first senior class to not win an NCAA title since the 2003 class. The Knights last won in 2014 in Lewiston, ME in a championship hosted by Bowdoin.

Norbert's will face off against a Salve Regina school, coached by rookie bench boss Zech Klenn , that is making their first ever NCAA title game not only in hockey, but in any sport. The Seahawks Blake Wotjala had to make 55 saves to defeat the Pointers 3-0 in the semis.

He will likely have to stand on his head again in the title game (and the Seahawks might want some luck from their winger Danny Eruzione's uncle Mike Eruzione) against this balanced Green Knights squad that had 47 shots but no one individual player with more than five of his own. Mules MVP Lawrence ended up with 43 saves and only one goal allowed in the final two periods in a testament to his fortitude rebounding from the early, "unfortunate" goals as Blaise called them. The Mules, at least according to the box, only blocked ten shots, much less than the 20+ they had become accustomed to on this playoff run.

Said dream run comes to an end, but there is no shame, especially considering how hard the Mules fought back. Even in the loss, Colby became the first team to score three on Norbert's since the Green Knights last loss, way back on January 26th to Adrian.

Thanks to the Mule Train for a joyful ride and thanks to everyone for another terrific NESCAC season. Only 236 days until the start of 2018-19 team activities...

Friday, March 23, 2018

Colby vs. St. Nobert Preview 6:30 PM

It's finally here on Friday, Colby in its first ever Frozen Four! All stat rankings are national.

Colby vs St. Norbert 6:30 PM  Video

Offense - 3.38 G/GM (22nd)
Defense - 2.34 G/GM (17th)
PIM - 7.76/GM (78th)
Power Play - 18/.75 % (36th) 
Penalty Kill - 81.46% (46th)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Offense - 3.97 G/GM (11th)
Defense - 1.40 G/GM (1st)
PIM - 11.13 (60th)
Power Play -  21.88% (20th)
Penalty Kill - 91.8% (1st)

The Lowdown: You were born to be hockey players
A David vs Goliath type match on Lake Placid ice, eh? Whuddathunk.

St. Norbert College in Dee Pee, Wisconsin is separated by a minimum of 1,147  miles from the campus of Colby College in Waterville, ME, and that expedited route is only if you cross international borders for the Trans-Canada highway. 

Far more than a border between miles and kilometers, however, separates these two teams/programs.  The Green Knights are  a team that is #1 this season in the polls/a program that has had almost unparalleled  success in DIII college hockey (well, except if you are Middlebury), including a remarkable twelve Frozen Four appearances and four national championships since 2003, while Colby is a team that was a sixth seed in its conference tournament/a program that has never been to a Frozen Four. 

The disparity between the two squads regular season success was none more apparent than Thursday night when the Green Knights landed three players on the American College Hockey Association All-American West First Team, while the Mules failed to have any names appear on the three All-East teams. 

Junior TJ Black, who also made the All-West team last year but lost to Trinity 3-2 in the semis, has a .940 save percentage and 1.39 GAA this season. Senior Tanner Froese, the Knights leading scorer, has 12-17-29 points for a balanced Green Knights team with six players at 20+ points, including NEHC all-freshman team members Peter Bates and Keegan Milligan. On the blueline, Norbert's is led by ACHA All-American senior Sean Campbell. 

If the AHCA gave out All-Americans for the playoffs, Colby goalie Sean Lawrence would be the goalie of choice, and one need not peruse on this website or any other DIII site for very long to see why. While the Colby players got shutout, Blaise MacDonald took home the Ed Jeremiah award for the DIII coach of the year, the first time a NESCAC coach won the award since Amherst's Jack Arena in 2015. 

The leadership of MacDonald has been well documented by Travis Barrett this week in some stellar coverage of the team, and you should check out his series of pieces up above if you haven't already with everything from Colby heading to Southern Maine to practice on the Olympic sheet to comparing Colby's run to part time assistant's Mike Latendresse's run to the D1 title as a player with Maine to everything in between. 

While the teams are quite different historically and in individual accolades for the season, there are similarities in play between these two squads. In general, they both feature a solid defense (Colby since the midseason reset, all season for St. Norbert's), a team that uses the whole ice,  balanced scoring (Colby also has six 20+ point players) and exceptional goaltending. As the D3Hockey boys noted in their Road To Plaid podcast, this might be a case of Colby running into a better version of itself. 

In terms of the arena, the ghosts of 38 years ago may favor the Mules, but coach Tom Coghlin - who has the Knights to 22 straight seasons of 18 wins - and his St. Norbert squad have had their own triumphs at Herb Brooks Arena. St. Norbert's is 6-2 in Lake Placid with titles in 2008 and 2012 and finals apperances in 2010 and 2016, when they lost to UW-Stevens Point, who will play Salve Regina in the other semis Friday afternoon, and whom lost to Trinity in the 2015 finals. 

The Green Knights have had trouble with NESCAC schools going 3-6 all time against the 'CAC due mostly to a 2-4 record vs Middlebury and the aforementioned loss to Trinity last season. Norbert's and Colby have never met, and even if they had, the matchups would be historical fodder, nice for discussion but little to do with what will actually happen on the large sheet of ice that is most famous, of course, for hosting the...first ever Winter Goodwill Games (no, not the fictitious junior goodwill games).

If you can't make it in person, enjoy the webcast call from Ralph Bednarczyk and editor Ray Biggs. May the best team in a blue jersey win.

The Luck of the... Scottish? The MacDonalds (Blaise and Cam) beat McDonald (Geneseo's Devin) on St. Patrick's Day to get here, but we are still going Irish here. We don't have the same clout as Sister Jean from Loyola Chicago, but we pray and implore, don't shut down this Mules Cinderella run tonight. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Lake Placid Bound, a play in 3 Acts with 280 Characters

As you are aware, Colby defeated Genseo 2-1 in the final seconds of the third period . Thankfully the Mules avoided OT to keep it to a classic three period  acts. In honor of this narrative structure preserving win, we present Lake Placid Bound, a Play in Three Acts and 280 Characters.


1st Period 

2nd Period 

3rd Period 

Post Game