February 21, 2013

Prep Journal: Tourney time just around the corner

By Mike Zhe

Alex Carle and Kimball Union suffered a surprising loss to Phillips Andover earlier this month. (Dave Arnold Photography)

For teams that have visions of reaching a New England tournament next week, these next few days are the equivalent of cramming for a test.

This is the final weekend of games before the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association unveils its fields for the Stuart/Corkery (elite), Martin/Earl (large school) and Piatelli/Simmons (small school) tournaments. Each field will be made up of eight teams and hold quarterfinal games next Wednesday at sites to be determined.

The semifinals and finals will be held next weekend at the Icenter in Salem, N.H.

For much of the season, the New England pace has been set by Kimball Union and its 11 Division 1 college commits. But even the Wildcats were scrambling to pad their resume after getting surprised at Phillips Andover, 4-3, earlier this month.                                               

"For us to find success down the stretch we need to continue to stay focused, work hard and have the ability to overcome any adversity thrown at us,” said KUA coach Mike Levine. “If we can figure out how to put bad shifts behind us and stay positive for 54 minutes, well have a shot."

The Wildcats were squeezed out of the Stuart/Corkery tournament on the final day of the season last year and would love to get back and take their crack at the region’s top teams.

"We had a tough loss against a well-coached Andover team and I told these guys, 'Shame on you if you let this negatively effect what you've accomplished thus far,'” said Levine. “Hopefully we rebound and pull together down the stretch.

Some key games to keep an eye on Saturday:

* Gunnery at Berkshire. The premier game in New England this weekend could be a Stuart/Corkery preview.

* Avon Old Farms at Loomis Chaffee. Traditional power visits perhaps the region’s most improved team this winter.

* Deerfield at Westminster. Westy has hit its stride down stretch with recent wins against Berkshire and Choate.

* St. Sebastian’s at Thayer. Always a good show when these ISL rivals get together.

* Kent School at Choate. Couple of Founders League heavies moving in opposite directions.

NEHJ New England Power Rankings

To read Mike Zhe's analysis of each team in the top 20, head to our prep school power rankings page.

1. Kimball Union (24-2)
2. Berkshire School (19-3-3)
3. Belmont Hill (21-3-2)
4. Gunnery (20-3-3)
5. Salisbury School (16-5-3)

6. Westminster (15-6-2)
7. Dexter School (16-2-3)
8. Kent School (14-6-3)
9. Avon Old Farms (12-7-4)
10. Cushing Academy (19-7-1)

11. Middlesex School (14-5-4)
12. St. Sebastian’s (15-9-1)
13. Rivers School (16-7-2)
14. Choate (11-7-3)
15. Buckingham, Browne & Nichols (14-7-3)

16. Phillips Exeter (12-7-5)
17. Milton Academy (13-9-1)
18. Kents Hill School (16-6-1)
19. Brooks School (12-7-5)
20. Deerfield (12-9-2)

Mike Zhe can be reached at mzhe@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeZhe603.