February 4, 2014

D3 Journal: And down the stretch they come

By Mike Zhe


New England College head coach Tom Carroll, left, and former coach Leo Callahan, center, take part in a ceremony Saturday in Henniker, N.H., recognizing the hockey program's 500th all-time win. (Photo by Jim Cole)

The first two Mondays in February mean the Beanpot.

The next two full weekends in February mean conference standings shaking out in Division 3.

The regular seasons in the ECAC East, NESCAC, ECAC Northeast and MASCAC have hit their stretch runs, and nowhere is any team a lock for the No. 1 position and home-ice advantage for the league tournament that goes with it.

Let’s take a look:

ECAC East

Inside track: Babson (11-2-1), Norwich (10-3-1)

Keep an eye on: New England College (10-5), UMass-Boston (7-4-3)

How it shakes out: The back-to-back losses suffered by perennial measuring stick Norwich last weekend means this title is still up for grabs. Babson is in the best position to end the Cadets’ regular-season stranglehold on the title; those teams could likely be playing for first place on Valentine’s Day in Norwich, Vt.

Tourney format: Eight teams qualify. Quarterfinals, semifinals and championship at the home of the higher seed.

Crystal ball: Norwich (14-5-2 overall), Babson (17-3-1) and UMass-Boston (14-4-3) all entered the year as – and remain – legit NCAA contenders. The wild card has been NEC (14-6-1), which has beaten both Norwich and UMB in the last two weekends, and is getting a monster season from sophomore Cheyne Matheson (11-18-29).

On Saturday, current NEC coach Tom Carroll and former coach Leo Callahan were recognized prior to the win over UMB for the hockey program achieving its 500th career win. Thirty-four NEC hockey alumni were on hand for the festivities.

NESCAC

Inside track: Williams (9-1-2)

Keep an eye on: Trinity (9-3), Amherst (9-3)

How it shakes out: It’s Williams’ title to lose thanks to a defensive style that’s allowing just 1.61 goals a game – second-fewest in Division 3 – in front of standout goalie Sean Dougherty. But the last three weekends for the Ephs see games against Trinity, Middlebury (twice) and Amherst – no easy home stretch.

Tourney format: Eight teams qualify. Quarterfinals, semifinals and championship at the home of the higher seed.

Crystal ball: The fun in the NESCAC won’t really start until the league quarterfinals, which should be the best of any league in Division 3. A Bowdoin team that nobody wants to play and stands 11-5-2 overall may not even find itself with home ice after an uneven start.

Improved Colby (9-6-3) and Middlebury (8-8-2) round out a formidable top six, which make predicting the semifinals a dicey gambit.

ECAC Northeast

Teams to beat: Nichols (5-2-1), Johnson & Wales (5-3)

Keep an eye on: Salve Regina (5-3), Wentworth (5-3)

How it shakes out: Only one point separates the top four teams listed above, each of whom has played pretty well on home ice. So has Curry (4-4), which shouldn’t be ruled out of regular-season title contention, either. There are all kinds of match-ups among the top teams down the stretch so first place is anybody’s guess.

Tourney format: Six teams qualify, top two get byes. All games at the home of the higher seed.

Crystal ball: Nichols (12-5-2 overall) and JWU (15-4-0) are the two teams who have put together the fullest body of work this season. Sophomores Tyler Beasley, Sean Fleming and Frank Butler (East Haven, Conn.) lead a Nichols attack averaging better than four goals a game.

Meanwhile, only two teams in Division 3 have are allowing fewer goals than JWU’s 1.68 per game. The surging Wildcats own wins over nationally-ranked Williams and Potsdam.

MASCAC

Teams to beat: none

Keep an eye on: Salem State (7-4-1), Plymouth State (7-5), Westfield State (7-5)

How it shakes out: The first three months have told us next to nothing about which team will emerge and grab the MASCAC’s auto bid. Westfield, Plymouth, Salem and Fitchburg State (6-6) can all score goals and have had their moments, but every team in the running has a flaw or two.

Tourney format: Six teams qualify, top two get byes. All games at the home of the higher seed.

Crystal ball: The first four years of the reborn MASCAC tournaments have produced four different champions. Each of this year’s contenders would love to finish first and grab home ice. Truth is, it probably won’t matter.

Player of the Week

Elliot Bostrom, sr., D, Amherst

Bostrom didn’t just play on a unit that helped keep high-flying Trinity in check in Saturday’s 3-2 win, he also collected four assists in two weekend wins, helping the Lord Jeffs move back into second place in the league standings.

Games of the Week

WestfieldState at Salem State, Saturday, 2 p.m.

Certain teams seem to have each other’s number in a jumbled MASCAC, and Salem has not fared well against the Owls in their first two meetings this year, giving up a total of 12 goals in two losses.

The winner of this one could find itself atop the league standings by the end of the weekend.

NEHJ Division 3 Power Rankings

1. Babson (17-3-1, 11-2-1 ECAC East)

Beavers haven’t lost since Fenway game against Norwich on Jan. 9, a streak of seven games.

2. Norwich (14-5-2, 10-3-1 ECAC East)

Losses to NEC and St. Anselm marked first time Cadets suffered a weekend sweep since 2006-07, when they lost one-goal games against Amherst and Hamilton.

3. Williams (13-3-2, 9-1-2 NESCAC)

Dougherty stopped 51 of 53 shots in weekend sweep of Conn. College (1-0) and Tufts (6-2).

4. Trinity (14-4, 9-3 NESCAC)

Jackson Brewer (Newton, Mass.) took over Division 3 scoring lead in Sunday’s 7-1 rout of Hamilton, with goal and two assists.

5. UMass-Boston (14-4-3, 7-4-3 ECAC East)

Sophomore Peter MacIntyre (Norfolk, Mass.) is tied for the Division 3 lead with 16 goals.

6. Johnson & Wales (15-4, 5-3 ECAC Northeast)

A 2-1 loss to Salve Regina last Tuesday snapped a nine-game win streak and tightened up the ECAC Northeast race considerably.

7. New England College (14-6-1, 10-5 ECAC East)

Andreas Persson had the game-winning goal and an assist in Friday’s 4-3 win over Norwich.

8. Bowdoin (11-5-2, 6-5-1 NESCAC)

Polar Bears will play four of last six on the road, starting with a trip to Hamilton and Amherst this weekend.

9. Amherst (11-6-1, 9-3 NESCAC)

Ryan Edwards (goal, assist) and goalie Dave Cunningham of Arlington, Mass. (43 saves) came up big in Saturday’s big, 3-2 win at Trinity.

10. Nichols (12-5-2, 5-2-1 ECAC Northeast)

It took the Bison 58 minutes to get on the board in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to last-place Becker.

Twitter: @MikeZhe603
Email: mzhe@hockeyjournal.com