Elite Eight Rundown

Note: The following rankings are taken from USHR. 

1. Avon Old Farms (17-1-2)

This is no surprise here as the Winged Beavers top the poll for the sixth week in a row. Up until this past week, however, Avon had been lacking a convincing win against a real contender. Their 5-3 win against previously #6 ranked Gunnery on Wednesday proved that they belong here. Avon have two remaining contests against ranked teams to cement their number one position: at Salisbury this Saturday the 20th and then the last game of the year at home against Founders League rival Loomis.

Check out this assist by Avon defenseman Adam Karashik ’16 that made the SportsCenter Top 10 on Wednesday:

2. Kimball Union (24-3-1)

Kimball Union has been an offensive powerhouse ever since their last loss to Tabor. Since then, they have won ten games in a row and have scored four goals or more in every one of those wins. They have shot up the rankings the past few weeks for good reason. The Wildcats’ best game came against #3 Exeter last month in an 8-3 statement win. They also won against #4 Salisbury. Their only dark spot this year has been Milton who they tied and lost to in their two meetings this season. They’ll most likely have to cross paths with them again to get to the trophy.

KUA has two tough match-ups this week against Proctor who they beat 7-2 earlier in the season, but the Hornets have only lost two of their last eleven games, and Cushing, who can beat anyone if they play their game, but have been inconsistent to say the least.

3. Exeter (22-3-1)

Exeter have not lost a game since they were humbled by a strong Wildcat squad and in that stretch have picked up good wins against contenders Cushing and Proctor. Overall, though, the Big Red really lack that defining win that both KUA and Avon have. They squeaked by Gunnery 7-6 early in the season, but that was before Gunnery turned it on and became a force in prep hockey. They lost to Kent (who have a losing record), and they tied Brunswick (who are currently ranked eight, but their spot there is tenuous). The one really strong team they played so far, KUA, blew them out by five goals.

Exeter’s remaining schedule does not present too many challenges besides Deerfield, at least on paper. It seems as though the Big Red will find themselves in the Elite Eight barring an upset, but they will need to put in some work to have success when they get there.

4. Salisbury (18-4-0)

One bad period turned into the fourth loss of the season for Salisbury and their first since December 19th. If not for the loss to Loomis, Salisbury probably would have moved up in the rankings after being stuck at four the past two weeks. They rebounded well, though, with a 6-3 victory over Cushing on Saturday.

https://salisburyschool.smugmug.com/Athletics/2015-2016-Athletics/20152016-Varsity-Hockey/i-hZ7JGK3

https://salisburyschool.smugmug.com/Athletics/2015-2016-Athletics/20152016-Varsity-Hockey/i-hZ7JGK3

Salisbury have used two goaltenders for the entire season. Juniors Nick Sorgio and Jonah Capriotti have been pretty even in their numbers. Sorgio sports a .907 save percentage and has allowed 27 goals in 561 minutes of playing time. Capriotti, meanwhile, boasts a .940 save percentage and has allowed just 14 goals against in 590 minutes of playing time. While Capriotti’s numbers are better, Sorgio has had to make 46 more saves than Capriotti which suggests he has been in net for more challenging contests. Additionally, they each have two losses. It will be interesting to see if they continue to split time for Salisbury, or if they choose to lean to one goalie more often in advance of the playoffs.

5. Milton (16-3-2)

Milton’s drop in the rankings comes as a result of their overtime loss to a surging Nobles team on Saturday. They were down 3-0 before coming back to take a 4-3 lead only to let Luke Stevens ’16 of Nobles score a late power-play goal to tie it and then another one with 27 seconds left in overtime to seal the win. All three of Milton’s losses this year have come in overtime.

The Mustangs will be one of the top competitors come playoff time and probably deserve to be higher in this ranking. They have all the necessary tools: balanced scoring with seven players over a point-per-game, great goaltending in Ethan Domokos ’17 who has a .918 save percentage this season, and great defense as they have only allowed over three goals once this season and that came in that last game against Nobles. They face them again to end the season in addition to a home and home sequence with a sneaky Thayer squad.

6. Loomis Chaffee (14-4-3)

The Pelicans are surging and have only lost two games since December 18th. They proved they belong here too with a come-from-behind victory over Salisbury in which they scored three third period goals to overcome a 2-0 deficit. Their last loss came to #1 Avon Old Farms who they tied late before the Winged Beavers’ Jamie Armstrong ’16 salvaged the game with a goal with only nine seconds left. In short, Loomis is for real.

The Pelicans’ success has come on the shoulders of goalie Tim Birarelli ’16 who has an astronomical .941 save percentage while starting the bulk of the games. He will have to continue to carry his team as they have sometimes struggled to produce offensively.

Loomis have three big Founders League games left that will also determine whether they stay in the top eight or not. First, they rematch Westminster: a team they lost to 5-1 earlier this season. They then travel to Choate who has shown they can pull off an upset. Finally, they finish at Avon who they, as mentioned before, gave a tough battle in their first meeting.

7. Gunnery (17-6-1)

Gunnery is another team on a tear as they have only lost two of their past eighteen contests. Those losses came to Salisbury and Avon who are both currently ranked in the top five of New England. Both of those losses were 5-3 scores, so they can hang with anyone. Despite this streak, however, the Highlanders still find themselves without that crucial proving win against a true contender. They tied Loomis early in the season and lost to Exeter by one, but other than that they have nothing against top teams. Some can argue their win against Cushing can qualify, but they have been very inconsistent since their hot start.

Gunnery is another team that has relied on their goaltender for their success. With only two players over a point-per-game, they have turned to the Army committed goalie, Trevin Kozlowski ’16, to shut the door. He has done just that with a .937 save percentage and a whopping six shutouts. He will be instrumental for Gunnery has they attempt to knock off some of the offensive powerhouses.

Gunnery will have two difficult contests against Westminster and #8 Brunswick before the season ends. Wins in those games should ensure their spot in the Elite Eight.

8. Brunswick (16-5-2)

This was the most surprising reveal of this week’s rankings as Brunswick clings onto the final spot for the fifth week in a row. They lost in a 1-0 shocker to Berkshire this past weekend for their fifth loss of the year. That should have knocked out Brunswick in favor of St. Mark’s who have gone on a ten game unbeaten streak and have accrued a 16-4-1 record. Brunswick, meanwhile, have now lost three of their last seven games and do not have a win against a top eight team. They did tie #3 Exeter, but they lost to #4 Salisbury and #6 Loomis by a combined 7-2 score.

http://www.wickpics.org/p253419522

http://www.wickpics.org/p253419522

Following the trend of the bottom few teams here, the Bruins have rode goaltender Brian Ketchabaw ’16 and his .944 save percentage to a good amount of success this season as Brunswick’s hockey program has become notable in New England the past two years.

Brunswick’s final chance at proving they belong in the Elite Eight is a game at Gunnery for their last game of the season before the Empire Cup tournament. If they lose that game, they will all but certainly find themselves in the Large Schools tournament for the second year in a row.