Down to the Wire
By the time midnight rolls around tomorrow night, we will know who is in the NEPSIHA Div. I playoffs. We will also know which teams are seeded where. But, as of this moment, things are still very fluid. According to our unofficial tallies, St. Paul’s, Exeter and Belmont Hill currently hold the top three positions in the East. We don’t see a scenario under which any of those teams could fall out of the playoffs, though we believe there is still a chance that, if everything went right for Belmont Hill, it could leapfrog over Exeter into the second slot and grab home ice advantage.
The battle for the final playoff spot remains too close to call, however. If the season ended today, Andover would be in. However, while we have not tried to simulate all the possible scenarios, a couple of things seem apparent. First, unless everyone else loses, Andover must beat Exeter to make the playoffs. We believe that such a win clinches a playoff berth, but we cannot be certain. We just don’t have the computing power to game every scenario. Cushing, Nobles, and Tilton need to win to have any chance. They also need help, especially Tilton. However, if Exeter and Milton defeat Andover and Nobles, respectively, the door may be wide open for someone else—Cushing or Tilton—to walk through. Here are the East standings, as we have them:
St. Paul’s 1+1+1 = 3
Exeter 2+2+1 = 5
Belmont Hill 3+3+3 = 9
Andover 4+5+8 = 17 (possibly 16, see note below)
Cushing 7+6+4 = 17
Nobles 6+7+5 = 18
Tilton 5+4+10 = 19
Out West, things are tight as a drum for any team not called Avon Old Farms. As you can see, today’s Berkshire at South Kent game is huge. But Berkshire also has a game tomorrow vs. Gunnery, and South Kent plays Winchendon. What those games mean won’t be clear until today’s game is completed.
Salisbury concludes with a game against Canterbury, a game in which it should be heavily favored. It still retains a shot at home ice.
And, lest we forget, there are still three teams on the outside looking in -- Deerfield, Hotchkiss and Kent -- that still retain a mathematical shot at sneaking in, with a lot of help. Their mission is simple: win first; ask for help second. Here are the west standings:
Avon 1+1+1 = 3
Berkshire 2+2+5 = 9
South Kent 3+4+2 = 9
Salisbury 3+3+4 = 10
Deerfield 5+5+7 = 17 (possibly 18, see note below)
Kent 5+6+6 = 17 (possibly 16, see note below)
Hotchkiss 7+7+3 = 17
We’re working on confirming whether Andover is 7th or 8th in the third criteria. We believe right now that they are 8th, but if they are 7th, they will gain a point and move up to 16.
In the west, we’re trying to determine whether Kent or Deerfield is 5th or 6th in the second criteria. Right now, we have Kent at 6th, but if we are wrong, they will gain a point and move up 16 points.
We are working on making sure we have those two numbers totally correct, and will have it done before the next update tonight or tomorrow morning. Everything else has survived double-checking, so rather than keep readers waiting, we’re posting what we have… with those two minor caveats.
EJHL Quarterfinals on Tap
The EJHL quarterfinals are scheduled for this weekend at the Foxboro Sports Center. It’s a best-of-three format with, if necessary, mini-games on Sunday.
4. Junior Bruins
6. South Shore
7. Bay State
Sat. March 1:
Bay State vs. Monarchs, 3:40 pm (Rink 1)
Bruins vs. Bridgewater, 4:30 pm (Rink 2)
Huskies vs. Hitmen, 6:10 pm (Rink 1)
South Shore vs. Syracuse, 7:10 pm (Rink 2)
Sun. March 2:
South Shore vs. Syracuse, 11:00 am (Rink 1)
Huskies vs. Hitmen, 2:00 pm (Rink 1)
Bay State vs. Monarchs, 2:30 pm (Rink 2)
Bruins vs. Bridgewater, 5:00 pm (Rink 2)
Starrett Picks Harvard
6’3”, 195 lb. Catholic Memorial senior RD Peter Starrett has committed to Harvard University for this coming fall.
A 4/21/89 birthdate, Starrett is a good skater with a long fluid stride, good hands, and offensive upside. He has size, too, but needs to fill out and gain strength.
Starrett is from Bellingham, Mass., about 45 miles SW of Boston. The other two schools in the mix for his services were BU and BC. Both, however, wanted to see him play a year of juniors first.
Starrett, CM’s captain, has a 4-15-20 line in 17 games. He's eligible for June's NHL draft, but is a long shot right now.
The Knights (14-1-3, with the only loss coming to Mount St. Charles, a 5-4 decision) will begin their quest to regain the Super 8 title tomorrow – BC High won it last year – as all eight teams will be in action at the Worcester Centrum.
Here’s the schedule:
#3 St. John’s Prep vs. #6 Malden Catholic, 12:30 pm
#7 Xaverian vs. #2 Hingham, 2:45 pm
#5 Reading vs. #4 BC High, 5:00 pm
#8 Waltham vs. #1 Catholic Memorial, 7:15 pm
These games will be webcast. Go to hockey12.com for more info.
According to Deerfield coach Brendan Creagh a mistake in a magazine over a month ago has led a number of people to believe that Big Green forward Antoine Laganiere has committed to Maine for the fall of ’09. He has done nothing of the sort. The 6’4”, 185 lb. junior is wide open and is getting recruited by a good number of schools.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead suggested that perhaps the similarity between Laganiere’s first name and the surname of Mark Anthoine, the Lewiston native and Black Bear recruit currently playing for the Chicago Steel (USHL), may have created the initial confusion. Laganiere, Whitehead confirmed, is not a Maine recruit.
Laganiere, who centered Deerfield's top line, finished second in team scoring with an 8-30-38 line (his linemate, senior LW Alex Killorn, was the team’s leading scorer with 55 points. Laganiere, a ’90, was ranked 104th on Central’s mid-term ranking for June’s NHL draft.
2/26/08 Updated -- Everything checks out on this now, though the dates for the finals are still uncertain. We'll update when we get a definitive answer.
EJHL Playoffs Get Underway Tomorrow
The New Jersey Hitmen and the New Hampshire Monarchs each won their respective divisions, and both also finished with 83 points. The tie-breaker, though, is head-to-head competition and the Hitmen swept the Monarchs in all three games the two teams played this season. The Hitmen, then, are the #1 seed throughout the playoffs, and will also be one of two teams representing the league in the Junior A Nationals March 25-29 in Marlboro, Mass. The other team will be the playoff champs or, if the playoff champs and regular season champs are one and the same, the playoff runner-up. (The Junior A championship series this year will encompass five leagues: the EJHL, AJHL, Minn. JHL, Norpac, and the CSHL.)
-- Play-In Games, Foxboro Sports Center, Wed. Feb. 27
3:10 pm -- Valley Jr. Warriors (#4 North) vs. New England Huskies (#5 North)
3:30 pm -- Bay State Breakers (#4 South) vs. New York Apple Core (#5 South)
-- Quarterfinals, Foxboro Sports Center, Sat.-Sun. March 1-2.
Best-of-three series with, if necessary, mini-games on Sunday.
(We will fill in this bracket on Thurs. morning)
Sat. March 1:
Rink 1 -- 3:40 pm and 6:10 pm
Rink 2 -- 4:30 pm and 7:10 pm
Sun. March 2:
Rink 1 -- 11:00 am and 2:00 pm
Rink 2 -- 2:30 pm and 5:00 pm
-- Semifinals at New England Sports Center; Marlboro, Mass., Sat.-Sun. March 8-9.
Best-of-three series with, if necessary, mini-games on Sunday.
Sat. March 8: 1:40 and 4:40 pm
#1 seed vs. #4 seed
#2 seed vs. #3 seed
Sun. March 9: 1:20 and 4:20 pm
|#1 seed vs. #4 seed
#2 seed vs. #3 seed
-- Dineen Cup: Championship Series
Best-of-3, at Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass.
Sat. March 15, Game #1
Sun. March 16, Game #2
Mon. March 17, Game #3 (if necessary)
Mazzoleni Out in Green Bay
Green Bay Gamblers head coach Mark Mazzoleni has been fired from his position as head coach of the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL).
The Gamblers, last in the East Division with an 11-30-4 record, had lost nine of the last 14.
Mazzoleni, a Green Bay native, was in his fourth year as the Gamblers head coach. Assistant Dave Insalaco will take over as interim head coach/GM for the remainder of the season.
A former goaltender at Michigan State, Mazzoleni, 52, went on to serve as an assistant at Minnesota, and then spent five years as head coach at Miami, and five at Harvard.
Mazzoleni was known for his abrasive style, and had an unusually high number of detractors.
Grady Retiring at HamiltonHamilton College head coach Phil Grady announced his retirement today.
Grady, who just completed his 24th year behind the Continentals bench, will retire with a record of 304-260-34. He led Hamilton to 18 postseason appearances, including a string of 14 straight from 1993-2006, and a number of his former players have followed him into coaching.
Grady cited health concerns – he had a heart attack around Christmas -- and family as the reasons for his retirement.
"Coach Grady feels that he can no longer make the total commitment that all of you know from firsthand experience he expects of himself and his players," athletic director Jon Hind wrote in a statement to men's hockey alumni. "The difficult decision to step down as coach was made in the best interests of himself, his family and the Hamilton hockey program that has been so much a part of his life for nearly a quarter century."
2/24/08 update 2/25 -- Please note: Hebron vs. Worcester has a new time/location. See below.
Exeter @ Belmont Hill now a 4:00 pm start.
Playoff Seedings, Quarterfinal Matchups Announced
It’s official now. Here are the quarterfinal matchups for Wed. Feb. 27. The final standings for both Div. I and Div. II can be found in the USHR Prep News.
Div. I :
Andover (#4 East) @ St. Paul’s (#1 East), 3:30 pm
Salisbury (#3 West) @ South Kent(#2 West), 3:30 pm
The winners will meet at the Icenter in Salem, NH in semifinal play on Sat. March 1 at 3:30 pm.
Berkshire (#4 West) @ Avon Old Farms (#1 West), 3:30 pm
Exeter (#3 East) @ Belmont Hill (#2 East), 4:00 pm
The winners will faceoff at the Icenter in Salem, NH in semifinal play on Sat. March 1 at 6:00 pm.
The Div. I championship game will be held at 3:00 pm on Sun. March 2, also in Salem, NH.
#7 Berwick vs. #2 New Hampton, 3:30 pm (@ New Hampton)
#6 St. George’s vs. #3 Roxbury Latin, 3:40 pm (@ Dexter School)
The winners will meet at the Icenter in Salem, NH in a semifinal matchup on Sat. March 1 at 11:00 am.
#8 Hebron vs. #1 Worcester Academy, 4:00 pm (@ Phillips Exeter Academy)
#5 Brunswick vs. #4 Kents Hill, 4:00 pm (@ Pingree School)
The winners will meet at the Icenter in Salem, NH in semifinal action on Sat. March 1 at 1:15 pm.
The Div. II championship game will be held Sunday March 2 at 12:30 pm, also in Salem, NH.
As always, quarterfinal games will be held at the higher-seeded schools unless the travel time exceeds two hours, in which case the game will be held at a neutral site somewhere between the two schools.
Div II All-New England Teams
The following players have been voted to the Div. II All-New England team by the league coaches.
Nick Blanchette, Sr. (Worcester)
Alex Essaris, Sr. (Worcester)
Nick Trepp, Jr. (Brunswick)
Jeff Ryan, Jr. (St. Georges)
Casey Shaughnessy, Sr. (New Hampton)
Taylor Larsen, PG (Worcester)
Ben Bradley, Sr. (Pingree)
Matt Spurling, Sr. (Pingree)
Brad Suter, Sr. (Berwick)
Ben Weisburger, Jr. (Brunswick)
Brian Gibbons, Sr. (Vermont)
Josh Richards, Jr. (Berwick)
Up on the MountainBack in the day, with guys like Mike Richter, Tony Granato, Dave Tretowicz, Craig Conroy et al, Northwood was a major destination for hockey players.
It’s way too early to say the Lake Placid boarding school is back to those glory days, but under second -year head coach Jeff Matthews, they are having their best season in a long time, with a 27-5-2 record with eight games to play. Since they are a prep school, yet fall a little outside the purview of USHR’s prep coverage, we’ll try to fill you in on a handful of the players.
First off, senior forward Julien Cayer (Clarkson), junior defenseman Nik Pokulok (Clarkson) and PG goaltender Richie LaVeau were all ranked on NHL Central scouting’s mid-season rankings, so NHL scouts have been showing up in large numbers this season.
Cayer is the real deal, a 6’4”, 190 lb. smooth-skating left shot center with excellent hands, reach, and shot. Against Wyoming Seminary last weekend, he scored a top shelf goal from the right face off circle. “It was an NHL shot,” said Matthews. “The goalie reacted two seconds after it went in.”
At Clarkson, Cayer, who was ranked #77 on Central’s list, will be following in the footsteps of older brother David.
And Pokulok, whom we wrote about this morning (scroll down the page), will be following his brother, Sasha, a first round draft choice of the Washington Caps playing at Hershey, to the ECAC. Pokulok, #96 on Central’s list, will be following Cayer, as well, for the two will also be teammates at Clarkson.
LaVeau, a 6’2”, 190 lb. Illinois native who returned for a PG year, is still available to colleges. Plus, as a June ’89 birthdate, he has junior eligibility remaining. LaVeau, however, been set back by a sprained ankle suffered Feb. 2 and is still questionable for this weekend’s action. He’s athletic, moves well, and is strong through the lower body, which enables him to recover quickly. He already has some college offers, but the injury has set him back a bit. He’s just waiting to see how things shake out. LaVeau was ranked #36 among the goalies on Central’s list.
Right now, the college guys are closely following junior Alex Chiasson, a 6’3”, 175 forward from Quebec City. As an Oct. ’90 birthdate, he won’t be eligible for the NHL draft until ’09.
“He’s gotten a lot better over the course of the season,” says Matthews. “And from what I’ve seen, and others have concurred, there’s not a better ’90 birthdate in the east. He’s leading the team in scoring. He’s every bit of 6’3”. He’s crafty. He protects the puck really well. He has really good hands. He’s similar to Krys Kolanos but bigger.”
Matthews says Chiasson wants to keep his college options open until the end of the school year. He’s a good student and should have his pick of schools.
6’3” ’89 forward Matt Firman (Colgate, fall ‘08), 6’2” ’88 forward Jake Morley and 6’2” ’89 defenseman Zac Fulton – all seniors -- have also garnered NHL interest, and all have had excellent seasons. Morley and Fulton are still uncommitted to college.
Morley, a power forward from farther north, in Ogdensburg, NY, will end up at some Div. I school. “He’s improved his quickness from last year to this year,” says Matthews. “He protects the puck well down low and can finish. He’s a good kid with a good attitude. With high-end players like Cayer, Pokulok, and Chiasson, the NHL scouts have also noticed guys like Firman and Morley.”
Fulton, the big defenseman, will also end up somewhere at the Div. I level. He’s waiting for the best offer for next fall. “He’s a big, mobile 6’2”, 195 lb. defenseman. He’s not dynamic offensively but he’s got a good shot and he’s the physically strongest player we have. He’ll end up as a #3-4 D by his sophomore or junior year. He’s on the first PP here.”
Matthews, a former RPI forward who coached at NMH and was a Div. I assistant at his alma mater, raves about the work ethic of his team. “There’s a group of kids lifting every night. Just great work ethic. Excellent students. They are meticulous in all facets of their life here.”
Northwood has two games left in New England, both this weekend. On Saturday, they’ll play at Cushing at 4:00 pm, and they’ve just added a game for the following day, Sunday the 24th. They’ll be facing off against the Boston Junior Bruins EJHL team at UMass-Amherst’s Mullins center at 3:00 pm. Then it’s off to Quebec City for a pair on 2/29 and 3/1 before winding up with four games at the Culver Invitational 3/7 through 3/9 in Culver, Indiana.
Since the Junior Bruins have accommodated Northwood, filling the Sunday afternoon date, we should mention that it will be their fourth game in four days (and sixth in eight). The EJHL regular season ends on Saturday – the Junior Bruins are in the midst of a four-way race to finish first overall – and the following day they face Northwood. Coach Peter Masters didn’t seem fazed, pointing out that his team will have all week to rest up, as playoffs don’t get under way until the following weekend.
UNH recruit John Henrion, a ’91, is the Junior Bruins player to key in on. Henrion, despite being one of the five or six youngest players in the league, is tied for the league lead in goals with 29. He’s been the leading offensive player all year and has made the transition from the Empire Team to the EJ team seamlessly.
Forwards Stevie Moses, also a UNH recruit, and Kyle Solomon have been playing well of late.
On D, Eddie Shea has been solid and leads the team with a +24. He’s fourth overall for the league lead in scoring among defensemen. It’s up in the air as to whether he goes to Boston College this fall or the fall of ’09.
Big 6’5” goaltender Connor Knapp, a Miami recruit, is in the same position as Shea. If Jeff Zatkoff turns pro, Knapp will be at Miami this fall. If Zatkoff stays, Knapp will play juniors for another year. “He’s come on strong,” says Masters, “and we’ll ride him into the playoffs.” Masters says the biggest difference in Knapp’s game is experience. “He’s 6’5” and just growing into his body and maturing athletically. He’s getting better control of his body.”
Once again, the game is Sunday at 3:00, a good take at the Mullins Center.
Avon’s Moffie Chooses MichiganAvon Old Farms 6’2”, 200 lb. junior defenseman Lee Moffie has committed to the University of Michigan for the fall of ’09.
An 8/29/90 birthdate from Wallingford, Conn., Moffie has size, good feet, a powerful shot, sees the ice well, and moves the puck smartly. In 23 games for Avon, he has a 7-24-31 line.
Moffie made his final choice from among UNH and Michigan, who were on his since the summer, and BU, which got into the picture recently (he made his visit there on Friday).
Moffie, who also plays for the Mid-Fairfield Midget AAA squad, has his USHL rights held by Waterloo.
Northwood School 6’5”, 220 lb. LD Nik Pokulok has committed to Clarkson for the fall of ’09.
A junior, Pokulok is a 5/9/90 birthdate from Vaudreuil, Quebec. He’s eligible for June’s NHL draft, and was ranked #96 among Domestic Skaters in Central’s recent Mid-Term Rankings.
Pokulok is the younger brother of former Cornell defenseman Sasha Pokulok, a 2005 first round draft pick of Washington Capitals currently with Hershey (AHL). However, the younger Pokulok doesn’t have the offensive skills of his older brother.
“I see him as an impact player in his freshman year at college,” said his coach, Jeff Matthews, who says Pokulok has moved past the awkwardness he’d shown early in the season. “He moves well now, and is working on his leg strength and agility. He handles the puck well and likes to play physically. He a defensive defenseman. Just really tight gaps, plus he protects the net well. He’s also a really bright kid.”
At Clarkson, Pokulok will join current teammate Julien Cayer on the Golden Knights. Cayer, however, is a senior and will be matriculating there this fall.
UNH Scores a Pair of Blueliners
UNH has received commitments from a pair of defensemen in Joey LaLeggia of the Vancouver NorthWest Giants (Midget AAA) for the fall of ’10; and Brett Kostolansky of Shattuck-St. Mary’s for the fall of ‘09.
LaLeggia is small – he’s 5’8”, 140 lbs., but he’s also just 15 so he’ll add some height and fill out. His father is 6’1”. He’s an offensive defenseman who is the top scoring d-man in the BC midget league with 32 points in 36 games. We got to see him recently when his team made a visit to New England and he struck us as a kid who could be running the UNH power play not long after he arrives on campus. He’s dynamic, and shares some of the same qualities as US Under-18 Team defenseman Dave Warsofsky, though the latter has quicker feet.
His coach, Joe Calvano, describes him as being similar in style to Kris Russell, the Columbus Blue Jackets rookie blueliner.
“He’s an offensive defenseman with really good skills,” Calvano says. “When he QB’s the power play he just frees up so much space for other guys. He moves the puck and sees the ice exceptionally well. He’ll be great on the big ice up at UNH with all that space. He can find forwards and hit them with good passes. The biggest thing for him now is gaining physical strength. He has several years to work on that.”
Undrafted in the WHL Bantam Draft, LaLeggia, a left shot, was subsequently protected by the Medicine Hat Tigers.
A 6/24/92 birthdate from Burnaby, BC, LaLeggia may return to the Vancouver Giants next year, or move on to BCHL or USHL. Much will depend on his physical development.
-- Kostolansky, who’s 5’10” and 185 lbs., is a 1/27/90 birthdate from Denver, Colorado. He’s nowhere near as dramatic as LeLeggia, but he opened a lot of eyes in the fall elite league and has continued his strong play. He has put up a good number of points, so he contributes there. Overall, he’s just solid. He doesn’t make many mistakes, and is really good in his own end.
A left shot, Kostolansky, currently a senior at Shattuck, was drafted in the 6th round of the 2006 USHL Futures Draft by the Chicago Steel and will play there for a season before matriculating at UNH.
The Div. I PictureHere is the updated Div. I picture, through games of Sun. Feb. 17. Not surprisingly, there are a number of external factors that could impinge on things – e.g. keep an eye on whether Tabor reaches the .500 mark. We’ll do our best to keep you updated on changes.
1. St. Paul’s 1-1-2 = 4
2. Belmont Hill 2-2-1 = 5
3. Exeter 3-3-2 = 8
4T. Andover 5-5-7 = 17
Cushing 7-6-4 = 17
6T. Tilton 4-4-10 = 18
Nobles 6-7-5 = 18
1. Avon 1-1-1 = 3
2. Berkshire 2-2-4 = 8
3T. Deerfield 3-3-6 = 12
South Kent 4-5-3 = 12
5. Salisbury 4-4-5 = 13
6. Hotchkiss 7-7-2 = 16
7. Kent 6-6-6 = 18
Note: In cases in which two teams are tied for total points, the team that is ahead in two of three criteria would win the tiebreaker.
Murphy to Fighting IrishSenior Shattuck-St. Mary’s forward Kyle Murphy will be playing for Jeff Jackson at Notre Dame this coming fall.
Murphy is the younger brother of former Boston College forward Ryan Murphy, who played for Jackson while the latter was heading up the NTDP.
The younger Murphy skates well, though he doesn’t have the speed of his older brother. At Shattuck he gets overshadowed by some of their high-end forwards like Derek Stepan and David Toews, but projects to be a solid third/fourth line player who can put up points and is solid in all aspects of the game. At Shattuck, he’s a linemate of Harvard recruit Luke Greiner.
Murphy, who is 5’8”, 165 lbs. and from Fairhaven, NJ, will be a true freshman at Notre Dame. He’s a 5-11-90 birthdate.
South Kent School 6’3”, 185 lb. postgrad goaltender Tyler Scott has committed to UNH for the fall.
Scott, who has compiled a .920 save percentage, is a native of Ridgefield, Conn., and a 4/89 birthdate.
He’s projected to be the #3 goaltender next year, behind Brian Foster, who will be a sophomore; and Matt DiGirolamo (Waterloo-USHL).
Div. I All-New England Prep Teams
Div. I All-New England Prep Teams2007-08 All-New England East Team
Ryan Purdy, Sr., Exeter
Derrick Pallis, Sr., Nobles
Mike Daly, Sr., St. Paul's
Bobby Farnham, Sr., Andover
Wayne Simpson, Jr., Lawrence
Andrew Glass, Sr., Nobles
Jason Bourgea, Sr., St. Paul's
2007-08 All-New England West Team
John Yanchek, Sr., Hotchkiss
Tommy Cross, Sr., Westminster
Connor Goggin, Sr., Choate
Adam Pawlick, Jr., Salisbury
Alex Killorn, Sr., Deerfield
Cam Atkinson, Sr., Avon
--The above teams are selected by the NEPSIHA head coaches. Each coach in the west and each coach in the east is asked to nominate up to five players from his team. That list is then sent back to the coaches and, from it, each coach selects three forwards, two defensemen, and one goaltender. In the east, there was a tie, hence a fourth forward was selected. No coach may vote for any players from his own team.
Div. I Race Heats Up
Here’s how things look heading into this afternoon’s games:
Three teams -- two in the East and one in the West -- are solidly entrenched in playoff spots. St. Paul’s and Exeter are battling for the #1 seed in the East and Avon Old Farms is secure in the top slot in the West. After that, possibilities are numerous. Let’s look at them.
We’ll start in the East, where there are three teams currently leading the hunt for the final two playoff spots. Belmont Hill occupies the third slot and Cushing sits in fourth. Close behind is Nobles in fifth. Of the remaining teams who are technically playoff eligible, only Andover, now in the #6 slot, seems to have any possibility of moving up and snagging the final playoff berth. This afternoon, Cushing visits Andover (3:15 pm) in a big game for both teams. Andover presents Cushing with their last opportunity to knock off an over-.500 team (they wind up the regular season with KUA, Proctor or Holderness) and a win today will, for all practical purposes, both eliminate Andover from playoff contention and strengthen Cushing’s hold on the #4 slot. Nobles will face a series of tough tests in its battle to jump into a playoff spot, with Friday’s tilt against Belmont Hill looming large for both teams.
Here is how the contending teams line up in the East:
1. St. Paul’s (1+1+2) = 4
2. Exeter (2+2+1) = 5
3. Belmont Hill (3+3+5) = 11
4. Cushing (5+4+3) = 12
5. Nobles (6+6+4) = 16
6. Andover (7+7+6) = 20
Other playoff-eligible teams in the East are Tilton, Milton, Lawrence and Governor’s. All, however, are too far behind and have too many teams to climb over in order to have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.
Now, let’s look West, where Avon has run away and hidden from all of the other teams. The Winged Beavers are the clear leader in all three criteria and there is seemingly no realistic—or even plausible—scenario under which they can fall out of the top spot. Salisbury sits in the second position, but cannot feel secure about that seeding -- or even about remaining in the playoff picture! That’s because those two teams are part of a major logjam with South Kent, Berkshire Kent, Hotchkiss and Deerfield right there in the mix. Only eight ratings points separate third place from seventh place. Looking ahead, we expect standings to change, but have no idea how -- that'll be decided on the ice. South Kent has several challenging games remaining, including a crucial battle against Berkshire. Berkshire has a slightly easier schedule, but has a pair of tough battles in South Kent and Westminster. Hotchkiss faces Kent, Salisbury and Taft in its final five games. Kent confronts Hotchkiss, Deerfield, and Choate. Salisbury has Hotchkiss and – gulp – Avon Old Farms -- among its remaining opponents. Deerfield plays Taft, Exeter, Kent and Westminster to finish out the season. If the Big Green make the playoffs, they will have certainly earned their way in! As these teams play each other, it is possible that at least one will fall by the wayside. What appears more likely is that these teams will beat each other up and the battle for these spots will come down to the final day of the regular season.
The West looks like this:
1. Avon (1+1+1) = 3
2. Salisbury (3+2+4) = 9
3. South Kent (2+3+6) = 11
4. Berkshire (4+4+5) = 13
5. Kent (5+6+3) = 14
6. Hotchkiss (7+7+2) = 16
7. Deerfield (5+5+9) = 19
Taft, Winchendon, Choate, Westminster and Gunnery are playoff eligible, but there is no path we can see for any of them making the tournament.
We’ll be back on Sunday with a quick update and the detailed report will follow next Tuesday. And, as if you need more to chew on looking ahead, ponder this. Because of the third criterion—strength of schedule—playoff positioning in the East and West could be determined by whether Governor’s and Gunnery stay at or above the .500 level and whether Tabor, St. Sebastian’s and Williston can climb over it. We’ll take a closer look at this next week. Meanwhile, enjoy this wild sprint down the home stretch.
Note: In cases in which two teams are tied, the team that is ahead in two of three criteria (e.g. Deerfield and Salisbury in the two examples above) would win the tiebreaker.
Bennett to Head West
5’11, 165 lb. Mac Bennett, a sophomore defenseman at Hotchkiss, has committed to the University of Michigan for the fall of ’10.
Bennett, a 3/25/91 birthdate from Cranston, RI, is a member of the first family of Rhode Island hockey headed up by the late Harvey Bennett senior, a goalie who played for the Providence Reds (AHL) for 12 years. The Bennett patriarch, a native of Manitoba, spent the 1944-45 season with the Boston Bruins, while star goalie Frank ‘‘Mister Zero’’ Brimsek served in the Coast Guard during World War II. Bennett became an unwilling part of hockey history when he gave up Rocket Richard’s legendary 50th goal in the 50th game of the 1944-45 season.
We’re getting sidetracked, though.. We were writing of the younger Bennett, who, in addition to Michigan, also drew considerable interest from BU, BC, Harvard, Providence, and Brown. Bennett could have had his pick of any of them, but before things got to that stage, committed to Michigan, where he will have a full four-year deal. Two of his uncles played for the St. Louis Blues in the late ‘79s, when current Michigan head coach Red Berenson was making the transition from player to assistant coach.
Bennett played with the ’91 Providence Capitols squad that reached the Quebec Pee Wee Tournament, and played for a year at LaSalle High School before enrolling at Hotchkiss last year as a repeat freshman where, in 25 games, he had a 6-5-11 line. This year, in 19 games he has a 1-5-6 line. Bennett is a smart, agile defenseman with excellent skating skills. No defenseman in prep hockey breaks the puck out any better than Bennett, who could be a high NHL draft pick in 2009.
Bennett, who also surfs and plays lacrosse, is the son of Jimmy Bennett, an all-Ivy forward at Brown (’75-79) who ran for the state legislature -- and lost -- during his senior year at Brown. Bennett, who was drafted by the Atlanta Flames, played minor pro hockey in the early ‘80’s. Later, he would become a successful businessman. In 2002, he ran for governor of Rhode Island as a Republican, and lost.
Jimmy Bennett is one of six hockey playing brothers. One died tragically as a boy, drowning after falling through the ice at Roger Williams Park in Providence. Of the remaining brothers, all played pro hockey, with three reaching the NHL.
-- Curt, an all-American defenseman at Brown in 1970, played center for St. Louis, the Rangers, and Atlanta. In an era when Americans were just starting to make NHL inroads, Curt played in the 1975 and 1976 NHL all-star games.
-- Harvey, who skated for Boston College, graduating in ’73, played in the NHL for Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, Minnesota and St. Louis.
-- Bill played in the USHL in the mid-70’s and later played briefly for the Boston Bruins and Hartford Whalers.
-- John played at Brown, and afterward with the Philadelphia Blazers of the World Hockey Association.
All are the children of the old Providence Reds goaltender, and Mac is a grandson. The senior Bennett, who died in 2004 at the age of 79, only played 25 NHL games. At age 19, he was, as we’ve already mentioned, in net in the Boston Garden on the last night of the1944-45 regular season.
Red Fisher described the moment in the Montreal Gazette in 2000:“Time was running out, and so was the Rocket’s attempt to score his 50th. Even the Boston crowd was on its feet when Richard came on the ice for what could have been his last shift of the regular season, his last chance to score the goal. Seconds later, centreman Elmer Lach collided with Boston goaltender Harvey Bennett, leaving Richard with what amounted to an empty net for the milestone goal.’’
Bennett never played another NHL game after that night. The rest of his career was spent in the minors. After finishing up with the Reds, Bennett stayed in Rhode Island. The rest is history and, as you can see, ongoing.
Prep Playoff Info
The 2008 NEPSIHA prep playoffs will follow the traditional pattern, with quarterfinals taking place the first Wednesday following the close of the regular season, and the semis and finals taking place that weekend, Sat.-Sun. March 1-2, in Salem, NH.
Quarterfinal action is scheduled for the afternoon of Wed. Feb. 27 at campus sites:
#4 East will play at #1 East; and #3 West will play at #2 West. The winners will meet at the Icenter in Salem, NH in semifinal play on Sat. March 1 at 3:30 pm.
#3 East will play at #2 East; and #4 West will play at #1 West. The winners will faceoff at the Icenter in Salem, NH in semifinal play on Sat. March 1 at 6:00 pm.
The Div. I championship game will be held at 3:00 pm on Sun. March 2, also in Salem, NH.
For Div. II, teams are simply seeded 1-8. As with Div. I, the quarterfinals will take place Wed. afternoon Feb. 27 at campus sites. The games will be held at the higher-seeded schools unless the travel time exceeds two hours, in which case the game will be held at a neutral site somewhere between the two schools.
#2 plays #7 and #3 plays #6. The winners will meet at the Icenter in Salem, NH in a semifinal matchup on Sat. March 1 at 11:00 am.
#1 plays #8 and #4 faces #5. The winners will meet at the Icenter in Salem, NH in semifinal action on Sat. March 1 at 1:15 pm.
The Div. II championship game will be held Sunday March 2at 12:30 pm, also in Salem, NH.
Driving Directions to the Icenter: From Boston, Take Route 93 North. Right after crossing the Mass/New Hampshire border, take Exit 1 (Rockingham Park Boulevard). After exiting, you will see a sign for Mall Road, which will take you up on an overpass. When you come to a traffic light, take a right. This is Mall Road (you will see the race track on your right). Very shortly thereafter, it comes to a T, take a left there (Rt. 38 South), go straight through two sets of lights, and you'll see the Icenter about a half-mile down on the right.
Speedy Forward for the Crimson5’9”, 175 lb. Shattuck-St. Mary’s LW/C Luke Greiner has committed to Harvard for the fall of ’09.
Greiner, a senior who learned his hockey growing up in California and has refined his game over the last five years at Shattuck, will spend a year in the USHL before matriculating at Harvard. A 5/1/90 birthdate, his rights are owned by the Sioux Falls Stampede.
A very fast, skilled forward, Greiner sees the ice very well and has a great shot. With his speed, he’ll put a lot of pressure on opponents. He excels on the penalty kill and power play.
Greiner made his final choice from between Harvard and St. Cloud State, an unusual final two.
2/8/08 Update: Hayes scored a power play goal in Lincoln's 4-0 win over Sioux City tonight.
Hayes to Make USHL Debut TonightUSA Hockey has finally – with the USHL roster freeze looming -- given NTDP forward Jimmy Hayes his release. The 6’5”, 210 lb. RW will be in uniform with the Lincoln Stars tonight as they face off against the Sioux City Musketeers on the road.
For Hayes, the road from Ann Arbor has been long and strange.
A late ’89, Hayes played the ‘05-06 season at Nobles, then went to the NTDP, joining the Under-18s. However, he was still a junior in high school, and, when the other ‘89s in the program headed off to college, Hayes still had another year of school in front of him.
Hayes had three choices: 1) Stay in Ann Arbor and play as an overager, meaning he would be ineligible for international play and would have to play fulltime for the Under-17 Team once the season reached the halfway point and it was time to prepare the Under-18 Team for the World Under-18s; 2) Go play for the Ohio Blue Jackets, who had selected him in the USHL draft; or 3) Return to Nobles for his senior year.
Hayes chose to return to Ann Arbor, but soon realized that he had made a mistake. Unlike all his teammates, he was the odd man out in that he had no opportunity to play for the NTDP in international tournaments, having aged-out. Hayes may have let that disconnectedness get to him, because his play suffered. Once considered a good bet for the first round of June’s NHL draft, his stock has slid (he was #65 on Central’s Midterm Ranking of domestic skaters).
Getting to the USHL hasn’t been easy for Hayes. In early December, the Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets made a deal with the Omaha Lancers, but Ohio GM Donnie Harkins got cold feet and pulled out. A second deal was made with Omaha. Same results. A deal was made with Indiana. Ditto. Finally, with the trading deadline fast approaching, Harkins was able to come to an agreement with Lincoln. One rostered player, Mike Henderson, was sent to Ohio, and, more significantly, Lincoln also sent their first round pick in '09, and second and third round picks in '08. The two teams also traded futures, with Ohio getting a first and second round pick in October from Lincoln, and Lincoln getting Ohio's third and fourth round picks.
At the same time, USA Hockey, upset that ’90 forward Colin Reddin left the program for the Dub on Jan. 10, and fearful of what another player leaving mid-season would do for the program’s image, balked at giving Hayes his release. They waited until this week, when both the Under-17 and Under-18 teams are in Europe, and then allowed him to slip away quietly. The USHL roster freeze takes place on Sunday.
So Hayes, who will be at Boston College in the fall, spent two months in limbo, but will finally get a chance to show what he can do in the USHL starting tonight. We saw Hayes at the Beanpot Monday night and he seemed excited about going to Lincoln and playing in meaningful games. In addition, Hayes will have the opportunity to show the scouts, who were hoping he would be moved to the USHL, exactly what he can do in a situation in which every game has playoff ramifications. Faceoff tonight is at 7:30 pm CST. Drop the puck.
Schultz To Wisconsin
6’1”, 163 lb. RD Justin Schultz of the Westside Warriors (BCHL) has committed to the University of Wisconsin for the fall of ’09.
A 6/7/90 birthdate from Westbank, BC, Schultz is a highly skilled offensive defenseman. In 50 games, he has an 8-26-34 line.
Schultz To Wisconsin
Schultz, who is ranked 56th among domestic skaters on Central’s mid-term rankings, made his final choice from between Wisconsin and UNH.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the Badgers, who, in that time, have also received commitments from highly sought-after playmaking center Derek Lee of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and smooth skating LD Patrick Wiercioch of the Omaha Lancers (USHL). All are British Columbia natives and all are scheduled to arrive in the fall of ’09.
2/7/08 Big Ben to UVM
Big Ben to UVM
St. Paul’s senior LW Ben Albertson has committed to Vermont for the fall of ’09.
Albertson, an 8/6/89 birthdate and a native of Williston, Vt., has had a bustout year for St. Paul’s, where he has a 14-22-36 line in 19 games played and is tied for the ISL scoring lead with linemate Jason Bourgea, a Dartmouth recruit.
At 6’3”, 215 lbs. it’s taken Albertson a little while for his feet to catch up to the rest of him, but the most dramatic improvement in his game over the past year has been the improvement in his skating. It’s really come a long way.
In addition, Albertson has good hands and a strong, heavy shot. His coach at St. Paul’s, Tim Pratt, says that Albertson is one of the smartest players he’s every coached and points to his strong work at both ends of the ice.
Albertson, who will play juniors somewhere next season, was a member of the New England 15, 16, and 17 Select Teams.
His final choice came down to St. Lawrence and Vermont.
They’re Following In Their Brothers’ Footsteps6’2”, 195 lb. Deerfield Academy sophomore defenseman Nick Lovejoy has committed to Dartmouth College. He’ll arrive in Hanover in the fall of ’10.
Lovejoy is the brother of former Deerfield and Dartmouth defenseman Ben Lovejoy, currently with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL).
A 10/3/91 birthdate from Orford, NH, Lovejoy has been out all season with a knee injury suffered in the fall. He’s very similar to Ben at the same age, and, if he keeps developing, could wind up surpassing his older brother. His greatest attributes are the fact that he’s a big, strong kid who is an excellent skater – and he has skill.
By the way, Ben Lovejoy has become a blogger of note, exhibiting a nice conversational writing style. Check it out:
Ben Lovejoy's Blog
5’11”, 180 lb. Shattuck-St. Mary’s LD David Carle has committed to Denver for this coming fall.
Carle, the brother of former Pioneers and current San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Carle, is an 11/9/89 birthdate from Anchorage, Alaska. He’s ranked #74 on Central’s ranking of domestic skater for this June’s NHL draft.
Carle, who has a 8-26-34 line in 43 games at Shattuck, is an excellent skater – just tremendous wheels. On top of that he’s a smart player who sees what’s in front of him, competes hard, and plays with an edge. As his numbers indicate, there’s plenty of offensive upside.
Other schools Carle took official visits to were BC, BU, Michigan State, and St. Cloud State.
Baby Cat’93 Portland Jr. B Pirates forward Connor Anthoine made a verbal commitment to the University of Vermont over the weekend.
Anthoine, the younger brother of Chicago Steel (USHL) forward – and Maine recruit – Mark Anthoine, is the first ’93 to commit to an NCAA program.
Currently a freshman at St. Dom’s HS in Lewiston, Maine, Anthoine, who’s 5’9”, 165 lbs., became familiar with the Burlington area through New England Hockey, which holds their select tryouts there. And he liked the city enough to choose spending his college years there instead of at the University of Maine.
While his older brother is more of a straightaway power forward, Connor is more of a pure skill kid, though he also has power to his game, and plays with an edge. His hockey sense is strong and he’s learning how to play both sides of the puck. When he plays with ‘93s, he really stands out.
Right now, he’s playing Jr. B in the Met League, and was the youngest player in the league’s recent all-star game, notching a goal and an assist. For the current season, the Pirates staff had to get a waiver from USA Hockey, as 14-year-olds are not otherwise allowed to play junior hockey. Anthoine will turn 15 this summer.
-- Also committing to the Cats is big 6’3” ’88-born defenseman Lance Herrington of the New Hampshire Monarchs (EJHL). Herrington will be arriving at the Gut this fall. He’s big, and has improved tremendously playing for the Monarchs this season. A native of Bow, NH, he has posted a 7-12-19 line in 38 games. Don’t look for offensive numbers at the next level – he projects as a big defensive D. Herrington, a strong student, was also getting a lot of Ivy interest.
Watson to Maine? Don’t Bet On ItA lot of eyebrows were raised in Michigan when Compuware Midget Minor forward Austin Watson committed -- for the fall of ’10 -- to the University of Maine last week.
Watson, one of the top ‘92s in Michigan, also had interest from Wisconsin, Miami, and Notre Dame. One would have to wonder why those schools backed off and let Maine, where his coach Todd Jenkins played for Shawn Walsh in the ‘80s, swoop in and scoop up a 6’2” Michigan native who is likely to go in the top half of the first round of this spring’s OHL draft.
Publicly, Watson is saying he wants to play college hockey with fellow Compuware Midget minor teammate Stu Higgins, a 5’8” forward who recently committed to the Black Bears. But in the past month Watson has reportedly visited both the Plymouth Whalers and the Windsor Spitfires. Earlier in the season, while his team was playing in the Whitby tournament, he stopped in and paid a visit to the Oshawa Generals.
OHL teams are not particularly fond of players trying to call the shots months in advance of the draft, and using college hockey as leverage, but this is exactly what’s happening. The leverage chip is in place. This will be a story to follow on draft day.
We can see Higgins, due to his size, possibly taking the NCAA route, and if he does great, he’s also one of the better ‘92s around. But Watson? We’d be amazed.
Avon, St. Paul’s in the Driver’s Seat
It’s taken some time for there to be any sort of clarity in the tournament picture. And, while the picture is still not entirely clear, enough of the season has passed for the true pretenders to have dropped by the wayside and for the teams with a real shot at post-season play to emerge. The tournament rankings, as of now, portray a landscape with clear leaders (St. Paul’s in the East and Avon in the West), some clear (for now) teams solidly in the #2-3 positions (Exeter and Belmont Hill in the East; Deerfield and Salisbury in the West), and a jumbled mass of teams fighting for the fourth and final playoff spot.
Those of you who have followed these rankings articles in the past know the system. For those of you new to these postings, here is a primer. There are four playoff teams each from the East and West. The tournament teams are chosen based on performance against other NEPSIHA Division I and Division II teams according to a pre-determined set of three criteria. Unlike the NCAAs, the formula and the criteria tell the tale. The three criteria are: winning percentage against all NEPSIHA opponents; winning percentage against Division I opponents; and a strength of schedule measure that accounts for the winning percentage against Div. I teams with a .500 or better record and the proportion of NEPSIHA games played against such teams. Each team is ranked (1, 2, 3, etc.) under each of the criteria and their rankings are added up. The four teams with the lowest scores in each conference make the playoffs and are seeded according to their rankings.
This season, there has been a good bit of scrambling for position. Because there are really only two dominant teams emerging from the pack, a small winning or losing streak can turn the standings upside down. So, we will be updating these rankings at least once a week (and sometimes more), as warranted. For the moment, we will present the scores for all tournament eligible teams, that is, all teams with records at or above .500 against Div. I opposition. We will give the total score for each team and its rank under each of the criteria. Again, as in the past, we need to remind all of you: these are unofficial rankings. We gather game information from the most reliable sources available, but we might miss games or make a mistake in posting a score. If you see an error or something that seems wrong, let us know. If we make a mistake, we will fix it. Our goal is to get it right! With that long preamble, here goes:
1. St. Paul's (1+1+1) = 3
2T. Belmont Hill (2+2+4) = 8
Exeter (4+3+1) = 8
4. Cushing (5+5+3) = 13
5. Nobles (8+6+5) = 19
6. Andover (7+7+6) = 20
7T. Tilton (3+4+14) = 21
Milton (6+7+8) =21
9. Lawrence (9+9+8) = 26
10. Governor’s (10+10+11) = 31
1. Avon (1+1+1) = 3
2. Deerfield (2+2+3) = 7
3. Salisbury (3+3+4) = 10
4. Kent (5+6+4) = 15
5T. South Kent (4+4+8) = 16
Hotchkiss (7+7+2) = 16
7. Berkshire (6+5+7) = 18
8. Taft (9+9+9) = 27
9. Choate (11+11+6) = 28
10. Winchendon (8+8+13) = 29
11. Westminster (10+10+9) = 29
Note: In cases in which two teams are tied, the team that is ahead in two of three criteria (e.g. Bel Hill and South Kent in the two examples above) would win the tiebreaker.