By Mike Zhe
On a team that entered the season with five goalies on its roster, Sebastian Andersson (above) was the known quantity for New England College.
That didn’t make him the starter, though. It’s his performance that has done that.
A preseason question is developing into a strong answer for the Pilgrims, who bring a 6-2 record (4-2 ECAC East) into this weekend’s home games against St. Anselm and Hobart; they’ll host Cortlanbd twice the following weekend before heading into their holiday break.
Andersson, a senior who played just 12 games combined as a freshman, sophomore and junior, has been in net for all but one of those games, and boasts a 2.29 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.
“He was what we knew,” said NEC coach Tom Carroll. “We had a good sample from him when he was healthy. He’s a battler. He competes hard.
“Whether it was pronounced or not, he wanted that spot.”
In just eight games, NEC has faced everyone who is a player or could be one in the ECAC East this winter. It owns wins against UMass-Boston (2-1), Skidmore (6-4) and Castleton (2-1), and played Babson tough in a 3-0 loss.
Its only really bad game was a 6-2 loss at Norwich on Nov. 23, one that saw the Cadets open the scoring with a shorthanded goal and put things away before the second period was halfway through.
“It happens up there,” said Carroll. “They got a shorthanded goal and we kind of lost our focus. … It’s one we weren’t happy with.”
Norwich, which has been to four straight Division 3 Frozen Fours, defending league tournament champion Babson and UMass-Boston were the preseason picks to set the pace in the league this year, and with good reason.
Now, the Pilgrims are trying to insert themselves in the conversation, if not for the top spot than at least a place among the top four. Carroll likes the development he’s seen from the core of sophomores; forwards Cheyne Matheson (5-5-10), Garrett Brazzier (4-4-8) and Kyle Manlow (4-4-8) are the scoring leaders on a team whose game is all about limiting opponents’ scoring chances.
That’s where the 6-foot-1 Andersson, a native of Sweden, comes in. His best season before this one was his sophomore one, when he went 3-1-1 with a 1.57 GAA and .946 save percentage in a backup role. Last year, he played just three games before an injury felled him, posting a 4.10 GAA and .868 save percentage.
Carroll is high on freshman Brett Kilar, who started the one game Andersson didn’t play – a 5-1 non-conference win at Framingham State last week – but right now it’s the senior’s show.
He’ll also get to perform in friendly surroundings. Nine of the Pilgrims’ next 10 games are at home.
“We’ve been able to respond to a little adversity, which I think has been helped by being on the road,” said Carroll.
Player of the Week
Michael Hawkrigg, soph., F, Trinity
Nice weekend for the Bantams and for Hawkrigg, who set up four goals in a 6-3 win over Salve Regina, and added a goal and an assist in 4-3 win over Wentworth.
Game of the Week
Williams at Amherst, Saturday, 3 p.m.
Two of the stingiest teams in Division 3 battle at Orr Rink. Williams is allowing 1.60 goals, seventh-best in the country. The Lord Jeffs are at 1.17 allowed (third-best).
NEHJ Division 3 Power Rankings
1. Babson (8-1, 4-0 ECAC East)
Skated to a weekend split against some NESCAC heavies, blanking Amherst 2-0 and falling at Williams, 3-2.
2. Williams (4-0-1, 3-0-1 NESCAC)
Sean Dougherty (39 saves) showed why he’s one of Division 3’s best as Ephs held on to beat Babson Sunday.
3. Norwich (5-1-2, 4-0-1 ECAC East)
Despite outshooting Wisconsin-Superior, Cadets suffered their first loss in the PrimeLink tourney Saturday, 3-0.
4. Amherst (5-1, 4-0
Sophomore Dave Cunningham (Arlington, Mass.) has been strong for Jeffs: 1.40 GAA, .939 save percentage in five games.
Middlebury (3-1-2, 3-0-1 NESCAC)
Awful first six minutes doomed Panthers in 3-1 loss to Plattsburgh, but they showed they can skate with anyone during weekend that also saw 1-1 tie with Norwich.
6. UMass-Boston (4-1-2, 1-1-2 ECAC East)
Hat trick by Peter MacIntyre (Norfolk, Mass.) powered 5-2 win over the University of New England in PAL Stovepipe final Sunday.
(6-1-1, 3-1-1 ECAC Northeast)
Tyler Beasley had a goal and three assists as Bison beat Worcester State (4-1) and Assumption (5-3) to win Worcester City Shootout over the weekend.
(4-2-1, 1-2-1 NESCAC)
Polar Bears weren’t tested in wins over Suffolk (5-0) and UMass-Dartmouth (5-1) over the weekend.
9. Trinity (5-1, 3-1
Non-conference games against Stonehill (Thursday) and at Manhattanville (Saturday) close out the 2013 portion of the Bantams’ schedule.
10. New England College (6-2, 4-2
Pilgrims have played all the heavy hitters in the ECAC East once and have a nice record to show for it.