Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Catching up with the NESCACers in the Pros

The NESCAC hockey season ended on Saturday night with Williams' 2-1 loss to Geneseo in the NCAA Quarterfinals. But that doesn't mean former NESCAC players aren't still plying their trade at the pro ranks. So instead of staring at the abyss of 224 days until the start of 2016-17 team activities, let's catch up on our former brethren. With due respect to the likes of Bowdoin's Colin Downey in Courbevoie and others playing globally, we are going to focus on North American pros.

AHL (AAA) 
Like last season, Bowdoin alum Jon Landry ('06) is the only former NESCAC player to play at the highest level of minor league hockey. Despite leading the Hershey Bears in +/- last season, the 32 year old Quebecois defensemen did not get any offers headed into the season. By mid-November, Landry signed with the Utica Comets, affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks and co-tenant in the Aud with D-III's own Utica Pioneers. 

The former Polar Bear has had his best offensive season in per game numbers with 21 points (6-15-21) in 36 games for the Comets, who are currently third in the North Division of the AHL's Eastern Conference. Landry was out for about a month, but returned this past week and apparently he's healthy enough to lay out some people. 


ECHL (AA)
The ECHL has been a bit more hospitable to the 'Cac, specifically to former Middlebury Panthers. After winning an SPHL title with the Knoxville Ice Bears last season, Robbie Donahoe ('14) caught on with the LA Kings' AA affiliate Manchester Monarchs this season. He has been with the club all season, only missing time due to injury in November and December. In 36 games, the former two-sport collegiate star (golf) has seven points (2-5-7) and +9 for the east division leading New Hampshire squad.

The ECHL road for Donahoe's former teammate, Louis Belisle ('14), has been a bit more circuitous. Belisle has spent the majority of the season with the SPHL's Columbus Cottonmouths, whom he earned 1st Team All-SPHL honors with as a rookie last season. He has had three stints in the ECHL this sesason: six games with the South Carolina Stingrays (Washington Capitals) in November/December , eight games with the Wheeling Nailers (Pittsburgh Penguins) last month, and he is currently six games into a stint with the Fort Wayne Komets. Belisle has three points  (1-2-3) in the 20 games.


Other NESCAC players that have seen action in the ECHL include  Trinity's Jackson Brewer ('15) and Conn College's Tim DiPretoro, who just finished up his college career last month. Brewer has spent most of his first pro season bouncing around the SPHL, but he did have a three game run with the injury depleted Evansville IceMen (Ottawa Senators). For DiPretoro, he recently signed with the only Canadian team in the ECHL,  Brampton Beast (Montreal Canadians). Normally seniors sign ATO's during SpringBreak but according to the ECHL transactions list, Dipretoro signed a standard player contract. He has a point in four games so far with another week left on his spring break.



SPHL (A) 
As mentioned previously, Brewer has spent most of the season at the Southern Professional Hockey League level, mostly with the Huntsville Havoc. In 29 games for the Alabama squad, the 2014 NESCAC Player of the Year posted sixteen points (5-11-16), a winning shootout goal and a Mariah Carey Christmas karoake session. Brewer has also spent eight games with Donahoe's old club, Knoxville, posting four points in eight games (2-2-4), and is currently with the newest SPHL club, the Georgia based Macon Mayhem. Brewer has eight points (2-6-8) in nine games for the Mayhem.

Brewer was joined in Huntsville by former Cac foe and Bowdoin alum John McGinnis ('15). The Cocoa, FL native has spent the entire season with the Havoc and has 32 points (12-20-32) in 51 games McGinnis was briefly joined in Huntsville by another Polar Bear, Leland Fidler ('10), who scored a goal in his two game stint in January. Fidler has spent parts of the past three seasons with Huntsville and has bounced around 10 teams in four leagues (FHL,CHL, SPHL, ECHL) since leaving Brunswick.

As mentioned above, Belisle has had the Columbus Cottonmouth as home base when not in the ECHL. The former Panther has 27 points (12-15-27) in 30 games for the Cottonmouths, who currently sit in last place in the nine team SPHL. Like the NESCAC, eight teams make the playoffs and Columbus is five points behind Macon for the final postseason birth.

The Fayetteville FireAntz (yes, with a z) sit in fifth place in the SPHL, three points ahead of Huntsville (though with four extra games played).  Fayetteville employed Hamilton Alum Bennett Schneider ('13.5) as recently as yesterday before cutting him today. Schneider spent 32 games as a FireAnt enforcer, posting  five points (1-4-5) and sixty-eight penalty minutes. There's no fighting in NCAA hockey, but as you can see below, that restriction does not apply to pro hockey, especially south of the Mason-Dixon line. Schneider spent 28 games in the SPHL in early 2014 after leaving the Continentals midseason due to early graduation in December 2013, but was away from pro-hockey in 2014-15.



Did we miss anybody? Know someone who is on the verge of singing an ATO for Spring Break? Send us the info at hockeynescac@gmail.com 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal 3/19/16: Geneseo 2 Williams 1

Williams 1
Geneseo  2
Box Score   Williams Recap   Geneseo Recap 

Arthur Gordon scored twice in the first and Devin McDonald made 31 saves as Geneseo held on for a 2-1 win to end Williams' season. The only goal for Williams came midway through the third, just after the end of a power play, when Luke Stickel worked it from the corner to Colby Cretella our in front and Cretella subsequently buried it upstairs past McDonald's glove.

The Ephs outshot the Knights by six (thanks to an aggressive third period) and did a good job of staying out of the box for a potent Geneseo Power Play (0/1). Coach Bill Kangas' krew also did a good job of shutting down the 50+ goal line of Collins-Mara-Hill. In the end, it was the Knights freshman that did the Ephs in, from Gordon's two goals assisted by fellow first yera Broddie Tutton and the unphased performance by McDonald. The Ephs own freshman goalie Michael Pinios was also solid, allowing zero goals in the final two periods and making 24 saves overall.

Speaking of freshman, Ephs first liner Roberto Cellini, who was carted off after an injury by the boards in the 1st round win over Salem State, did not play. That was to be expected, but unless I am mistaken, it appears that Tyler Young was also out, unexpectedly, and seldom used Tyler Carmolla and Marcus Mollicia dressed.

Regardless of the lineup shuffle, the Ephs played a strong game and ended up losing a tight one to a good, hot team. The Knights outscored their last three opponents in the SUNY-AC semis/finals and NCAA 1st round by a combined score of 20-3 before the matchup with Williams.

The win sends the Knights to Lake Placid for the D-III Final Four, along with fellow 2014 Final Four participants U-Wisconsin Stevens Point and St. Norbert. NESCAC fans might remember the Pointers as the team that Trinity defeated in the finals last season. Pointers fans will remember St. Norbert's as the team that defeated them in the 2014 finals. The pair of Knights (St. Norbert and Geneseo) and Pointers will be joined by UMass-Boston - the team that blanked Trinity in this year's opening round - in Lake Placid. The Beacons are making their first appearance in both the NCAA D-III Tournament and thus the Final Four (or Phrozen Phour, not to be confused with the D-I Frozen Four). They blanked Hobart last night at The Cooler in Geneva, NY to punch a ticket to Herb Brooks Arena.

If there is a team with a narrative that would make the end of the NESCAC season a little more palatable, it is the Knights. In mid-January, the Geneseo community was shocked by a three person  murder-suicide that included senior hockey defenseman Matthew Hutchinson among its victims.

For the Ephs, they end their first trip to the NCAA Tournament with their heads held high and a school record 19 wins for the season. They'll lose key pieces like NESCAC Player of the Year Zander Massuci, but they'll also return their top four goal scorers and the reigning Second Team All-NESCAC goalie in now frosh Michael Pinios.

It was another exciting season of NESCAC men's ice hockey. 226 days until 2016-17 team activities begin! Congrats to the Geneseo Knights and the rest of the participants in next week's Final Four. We look forward to sending a NESCAC team to the Aud in Utica, home of Bowdoin alum Jon Landry's AHL team, the Utica Comets, and site of the 2017 NCAA D-III MIH Final Four.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals: Williams at Geneseo 3/19/16

Williams College Ephs (19-5-2; 14-2-2 NESCAC)   at SUNY Geneseo (19-6-6; 9-2-5 SUNYAC) 
7 PM Live Stats 



Offense - 2.92 G/GM (38th)
Defense - 1.65 G/GM (2nd)
Power Play - 20.48% (21st)
Penalty Kill - 88.3% (7th)
Penalty Minutes - 7.85/Gm (72nd)



Offense - 4.10 (8th)
Defense - 2.62 (29th)
Power Play - 25% (6th)
Penalty Kill -  80% (47th)
Penalty Minutes - 12.93/Gm (35th)


Williams and Geneseo faceoff in the NCAA Quartefinals after respective 7-1 home blowouts in the 1st round last Saturday. The Ephs disposed of MASCAC champion Salem State while the ECAC-NE champion Salve Regina Seahawks knelt before the Knights. Geneseo is making their fifth trip to the tournament and second appearance in three years, which includes a trip to the D-III Phrozen Phour in 2014, hosted by Bowdoin at the Androscoggin Bank Colisse in Lewiston, Me. As you are probably well aware, this is the first trip to the NCAA Tournament for the Ephs, meaning they carry a 1.000 win percentage in NCAA tournie games headed into tonight's affair.

The Ephs got blanked 3-0 by Geneseo earlier this season in Williamstown. As Zander Massuci pointed out in the First Round press conference, that was only the third game of the season for the Ephs. At the same presser, Williams coach Bill Kangas, when asked if his team was different now from then, said that he was and pointed out that they have different lines, much more experience, etc.

NESCAC Player of the Year Massuci was named this week as one of nine finalist for the Sid Watson Award, given to the best player in D-III hockey. Geneseo's junior forward and SUNYAC player of the year Stephen Collins, who scored against the Ephs in November, was also named as a Watson finalist. The Knights scoring is top heavy, with Collins joined by linemate and classmate Trevor hills in scoring 22 goals this season apiece.

The Ephs have a much more scoring by committee approach. with the top-line of Tyler Young, David  Itialiano and Roberto Cellini combining for 22 goals this season. The intactness of that line will be in question as Cellini was carted off the ice in the second period of last weekend's blowout vs Salem State. Kangas was not tipping his hand as to whether Cellini would play this week, telling Howard Herman of The Berkshire Eagle that it was a "trainer's decision" earlier this week.

Besides shutting down the top line of Collins-Hill-Marra, staying out of the box will also be a top priority for Kangas krew. The Knights have gone 3-6 on the power play in their last two games, both 7-1 wins, in the SUNYAC title game and the first round.

Last week was the start of Spring Break for Geneseo, but the Knights fans might come back tonight to pack their 2,500+ person rink as they try to get to their second NCAA semis in three years.  The Ephs, of course, are bidding for their first ever trip to the coveted final four, which will be held in Lake Placid, NY next weekend.

Both teams lit the lamp on the regular last weekend against weaker opponents. Expect a closer contest this weekend with a trip to Lake Placid. Here's Fountains of Wayne, whose bassist is a Williams alum, with "Little Red Light" 


Sunday, March 13, 2016

NCAA Tournament First Round

Salem State   1
Williams       7
Box Score

Williams scored late in the first period of their first ever NCAA D-III men' s hockey tournament game and never looked back.

Shortly after a faceoff in the Salem State zone, Colby Cretella got the puck to George Hunkele, who fended off a defender to Zelzer's left and shot it at the goalie. Zelzer deflected it but it still carried into the Vikings net for a momentum killing goal with less than four seconds to play in the opening frame.

Things went off the rails for Salem State in the 2nd. After a 2nd Ephs goal on a wrap around by Joe Welch on a feed from Colby Cretella, the Vikings' Derek Makimaa took down Ephs freshman Roberto Cellini in the corner. Cellini was motionless for several minutes during which the rink was completely silent, before he had to be carted off on a stretcher. There was no let down for his teammates, as they responded on the ensuing five minute major with a tally. A beautiful cross ice feed from Frankie Mork led to a Cretella shot beating Zelzer. The Ephs would add two more goals in the period from Matt Werner and Hunkele (his 2nd) to end the period up 5-0. The Vikings had a few chances, including a a Mike Casale at the goal mouth which beat Pinios but hit the post, but in general it was all Ephs. Williams tripled Salem's shots, 30-10, after the second frame. 

Salem State got in the board on the third with a Casale goal, but the Ephs scored twice more en route to a 7-1 victory and a 38-19 shots advantage. Casale - who was one of the loan bright spots for Vikings - said that the five minute major was not the turning point of the game. Coach Bill O'Neill confirmed this and gave credit to the Ephs throughout, saying that Williams' speed gave the Vikings fits and disrupted their gameplan, not the lack of effort. 

The Ephs travel to SUNY Geneseo for a Quartefinal matchup with the Knights on March 19th. 





UMass-Boston 4
Trinity              0
Box Score 

The title defense ends in Hartford with a blanking of the Bantams despite Trinity holding a seven shots-on-goal advantage for the evening. The Beacons scored on a bad angle shot rebound in the first after a bad Griff Martin turnover and bookended it with a goal awarded to Derek Colluci as he was tripped heading in for an empty net tally with Alex Morin pulled.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

NCAA 1st Round: UMass-Boston at Trinity 3/12/2016

UMass-Boston Beacons (21-4-3; 17-2-2 NEHC) at Trinity Bantams (21-5-1; 14-4-0 NESCAC) 7 PM Video 
All ranks nationally in D-III
Offense - 4.32 G/GM (5th)
Defense - 2.18 G/GM (13th)
Power Play - 24.74 % (6th)
Penalty Kill - 87.9% (8th)
Penalty Minutes - 8.61/GM (68th)


 Offense - 3.59 G/GM (14th)
Defense - 2.19 G/GM (14th)
Power Play - 21.49 % (19th)
Penalty Kill - 79.1 % (54th)
Penalty Minutes - 10.48 (49th) 



How they got here
UMass-Boston defeated Babson in OT to claim the first ever NEHC title (formerly the ECAC-East) to earn an automatic bid to the tournament. Trinity easily handled Amherst in the NESCAC title to earn their first NESCAC title since 2008 and earn a spot in the 11 team field to defend their national title.

Tournament History
This is the first ever trip to the NCAA D-III men's ice hockey tournament for the Beacons, who made the NCAA tournament in 1982 prior to the creation of the D-III tournament in 1984. For the Bantams, this is obviously not their first rodeo, as they won last season's NCAA title over UW-Stevens Point out in Minnesota. It is the fifth trip to the D-III big skate for Trinity , who own a 6-3 record all-time in D-III tournament games.

How They Match Up
Trinity leads the alliterative all-time series between the Beacons and Bantams, 13-5-1, but the only recent matchup came last season in November of 2014 when UMB defeated Trinity Hartford. The Beacons were the last non-CAC team to defeat Trinity that season. This season, the Bantams have only lost one non-conference game to Salve Regina, who also happens to be in the tournament and will be playing today at Geneseo. The Bantams are 0-3-1 against this year's tournament field with a pair of losses to Williams to go along with the loss to the Seahawks anda  tie against Hobart, the team the Bantams would travel to if they start their title defense on the right foot tonight. UMB has not played any tournament teams this season.

On the ice, both squads feature plenty of firepower, including 1st team conference conference selections up front for the Beacons (Lemire and Larkin) and Trinity (Orlando). The Bantams also have reigning NESCAC Player of the Week in senior Mike Hawkrigg, who despite not making the All-Conference team thsi season is as dangerous as ever since returning from an ACL tear in February.  Expect to see sophomore Alex Morin in net for Trinity, who has usurped reigning NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Nate Heilbron recently, while senior Billy Faust should be in between the pipes for the Beacons.

One stat to keep in mind is 40, which is the number of penalty minutes Trinity racked up in their only non-conference loss this season to Salve Regina. If the Bantams have a mental lapse like this against a dangerous PP unit like UMB, the title defense could end in Hartford tonight.

What's Next
The winner of this game heads to upstate New York to The Cooler to face the east;s top seed in the Hobart Statesmen.

Players to Watch (other than the goalies)
Matt Lemire - The senior transfer from Quinnipiac has adjusted well to the jump down to D-III and leads the Beacons in points (14-29-43) after notching 0 at the D-I level in his first three seasons.

Mike Hawkrigg - Just read the Hatford Courant piece from this week on Riggy.

Preview Videos
UMB

Trinity

NCAA 1st Round Preview: Salem State at Williams 3/12/2016

Salem State Vikings (22-5-0; 16-2-0 MASCAC) at Williams College Ephs (18-5-2; 14-2-2 NESCAC)   7 PM Video
Ranks are nationally for D-III
Offense - 4.33 G/GM (4th)
Defense - 1.96 G/GM (8th) 
Power Play - 23.93 % (8th)
Penalty Kill - 81.8% (40th)
Penalty Minutes - 10.81/GM (47th)



Offense - 2.76 G/GM (46th)
Defense - 1.68 G/GM (2nd)
Power Play - 20.78 % (20th)
Penalty Kill - 88.3% (7th)
Penalty Minutes - 8.00/Gm (72nd)



How they got here
Salem State won their second Massachussets State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) in three years to earn an automatic bid to the 11 team NCAA tournament. In contrast, Williams earned their first ever trip to the tournament in the most nerve wracking way possible. After clinching the Ephs first ever NESCAC regular season crown, Williams was upset by eight seed Tufts in the NESCAC Quarterfinals, meaning Bill Kangas squad had to wait until the selection show this past Monday to find out they got one of the three at-large or Pool C bids.

Tournament History
Since the NCAA started awarding a D-III tournament champion in 1984, the Vikings have been the to NCAA tournament seven previous times, six times as an ECAC East member, and once as a MASCAC member in 2014. In that trip, Salem State was blownout 8-2 by D-III powerhouse Norwich, who will be missing the tournament this season for the first time since 2009. All seven of the Vikings appearances have come under the stewardship of Bill O'Neil, who has been at the helm of the Viking ship since 1981. O'Neill played hockey at Boston University in the 1970s with recently retired Bowdoin coach and fellow member of the 500 win club Terry Meagher. O'Neill has lead Salem State to two Phrozen Phours (1992 and 1994) but never a title game.

As has been mentioned, this is Williams, and coach Bill Kangas, first trip to the NCAA tournament. Kangas has coached the Ephs since 1989 after four years of assistant coaching at his alma mater, the University of Vermont, home of the best barn in college hockey.

How They Match Up
Though this is the first rodeo for the Ephs, they are going up against a team from a conference that does not have much experience with the NCAA Tournament or any level of success in the tournament for that matter. The MASCAC has yet to win a tournament game since earning an automatic bid for the conference in 2012. So while Salem State's record and stats are impressive, they must be taken with a grain of salt.

That being said, the Vikes are riding a 13 game and feature a goalie that is not just number one in the program, but also in all MASCAC netminding categories. Marcus Zelzer, a Utica transfer, was not only first team All-MASCAC in goal but he also won Player of the Year in the conference. He was joined on the First Team by teammates Gabe Cromp on the blueline and Cam Moniz up front.

The Ephs are no stragers to All-Conference teams and Players of the Year. Zander Massuci took home Player of the Year honors, while freshman goaltender Mike Pinios and junior forward Tyler Young were named to the Second Team. As with all playoff hockey, how Pinios deals with the pressures of an NCAA tournament game will go a long way in determining if the Ephs will leave the weekend with a 1.000 winning percentage in NCAA tournament games.

As far as the historical matchup, Salem State leads the all-time series 20-14-1, but Williams has won teh last seven, including the last contest in 2008 at Salem State. The last meeting in Williamstown occured in 2007 with the excellently named Brandon Jackmuff netting the game winner for the Ephs in a 4-2 victory.

One thing to consider is the time between games. Salem played just last weekend in their conference tournament, while Williams will have had two weeks between games. Kangas should have his boys ready, but with the long delay, rust showing is always a possibility.

What's Next
The winner of this game takes on the winner of  Salve Regina at Geneseo. If the Seahawks could somehow upset the Knights, the winner in Williamstown would get a home game in the Quarterfinals with a trip to Lake Placid on the line. In the more likely event that Geneseo wins, the winner in Williamstown will be packing for upstate New York next weekend.

Players to Watch (other than the goalies)
Cam Moniz - The senior from Seekonk, MA has been a surprise boost to the Vikings offense this season. Limited to just three goals in 24 games over the past two seasons, Moniz has broken out for 29 points (19-10-29) so far this season, including the OT winner in the MASCAC semis.

Zander Massuci - Kangas said it himself about the Far Hills, NJ senior blueliner in the latest USCHO NESCAC piece, " You look at almost every category and Zander leads us...Blocked shots, ice time, his offensive numbers are among the leaders and he is just a great leader for us."


Previews
Salem State Athletics 
Williams Athletics 
Berkshire Eagle 

Pre-game Tweets



Williams was a foreigner to the NCAA tournament before this season, but there's always a first time. Foreigner "Feels Like The First Time"

Monday, March 7, 2016

Trinity and Willliams to host NCAA Tournament First Round games

Williams swept the regular season series against Trinity,
but the Bantams won the conference playoffs. In the end, they'll both
be dancing.
The NCAA held a selection show webcast this morning to announce the bracket for the 11 team NCAA men's ice hockey tournament. Defending NCAA Champion Trinity locked up an automatic bid yesterday by winning the NESCAC tournament, while regular season top finisher Williams waited to see if they would earn an at-large bid after being upset by Tufts in the NESCAC Quarterfinals.

When the bracket was announced, the Ephs got o
ne of the three Pool C bids and both NESCAC schools will be hosting a first round game this Saturday. Williams actually ends up being a higher seed than Trinity and will host the MASCAC champion Salem State Vikings. The Ephs have a chance to host a Quarterfinal game if the lowest seed in the east, ECAC-Northeast champs Salve Regina can upset SUNY Geneseo in the Quarterfinals. If the Knights win, though, the Ephs will be traveling to Geneseo should they defeat the Vikings in the first round. Geneseo and Williams have met already this season with the Knights coming away from Williamstown with a 3-0 victory.

Any animosity Williams has from this game should be softened by the fact that the Knights likely helped get Williams into the tournament. If Geneseo had lost to SUNY-Plattsburgh, the Knights would have likely taken the Ephs at-large bid. Instead, Geneseo gets the SUNYAC automatic bid and the Ephs faced off in the selection room against Platty, a team the Ephs beat this season. It's the first bid to the NCAA D-III MIH tournament for Williams as a program and for 27 year head coach Bill Kangas, who earned NESCAC Coach of The Year honors this season as well as coaching the Williams women's golf team to an NCAA title in the fall.

For Trinity, they will host the NEHC (formerly ECAC-East) champion UMass-Boston Beacons. The Beacons were actually the only non-NESCAC team to defeat Trinity in the 2014-15 campaign with a 5-3 win in Hartford in November 2014. If the Bantams can handle the Beacon, they will travel to "The Cooler" to take on the ECAC-West Champion, Hobart Statesmen, the top seed in the East Region. The Statesmen and Bantams met in Hartford in December and skated to a 1-1 tie. Anthony Sabitsky scored the lone Bants goal and senior Nate Heilbron made 41 saves in net.

If either of the NESCAC schools can make it to and win in the Quarters on March 19th, they'll earn a trip to Lake Placid, NY for the D-III "Phrozen Four" (you don't want to get sued) on March 25th. For the full 11 team bracket, click below:

NCAA D-III Men's Hockey Bracket