Hockey Update: Halfway Point

Written by Aidan Murphy

If anyone thought this season would be easy to predict, they would be lying to themselves. This year has been unprecedented in its unpredictability. Each team has won some big games and stumbled in others. As each team transitions into playoff readiness, we have provided an in-depth rundown of the ups and downs of each team.

At the bottom you can see an in depth look to the Founders League results and Standings and the season comes to a close.

Avon: (Overall Record, Founders League Record) (9-4-3, 5-2-1)

Before the season began, many wondered how Avon would fare after losing the star-studded bulk of their team. Adjusting to the losses of Patrick Harper (BU), Jamie Armstrong (Northeastern) and Ben Mirageas (Providence) has been an up an down journey for the Winged Beavers. Understandably, Avon stumbled early with uncharacteristic losses to both Albany Academy (3-8) and Taft (2-3). Though after beating Loomis at the Avon Christmas Classic, it appeared as though the Winged Beavers were finally finding their stride. Followed up by wins against Founder’s League foes Taft (4-2) and Hotchkiss (4-2), it is clear AOF is not in the rebuild year that was expected. However, losses to “weaker” teams in NMH and Westminster leave them scrambling in the fight for a playoff spot. For the rest of the season, Avon will continue to be a very streaky team.

The biggest strength of this new Avon team has been the emergence of young goaltender Spencer Knight ‘19 (BC). Touted as potentially the best ‘01 goalie in the country, Knight has been a savior for the often times offensively struggling Beavers. Against Loomis in the Classic Championship game, he had 42 saves on his way to the Tournament MVP. Another young talent brought in to Avon this year Trevor Zegras ‘19 (BU) out of Bedford, NY has provided a spark to an offense that lost 6 out of their 7 top scorers coming into this year. Zegras currently has 25 points by the way of 10 goals and 15 assists. The return of John Madden ‘18 (Northeastern) from injury should bolster the skill and playmaking ability up front for AOF. With 9 D1 commits on the roster, Avon Old Farms is in no way lacking talent. Can they bring the pieces together to make a run at the title? Only time will tell.

Choate: (4-7-3, 2-5)

The boys from Waterbury have struggled to find their footing in this year’s turbulent Founders League. The Wild Boars have struggled to find the net against many strong opponents. With high hopes of improvement leading into the season, Choate remains just under .500, and is desperate for a big win. Not to say they have not performed well. Two big wins against rival Deerfield (7-3, 5-1) show the potential of the team, but without consistent goal scoring, those quality wins are few and far between. While losses to Loomis, Salisbury and Trinity- Pawling(3-1, 5-1, and 4-1 respectively) may take them out of the Founders race, a turnaround in the second half of the season would give Choate a chance at the Large School Playoffs. Big, upcoming games against Avon, Westminster and Pomfret offer the Boars the opportunity to surprise some people down the stretch.

For Choate to play spoiler, top scorers Jack Hoey ‘18 (Colgate) and Bobby Goggin ‘17 need to improve their numbers and provide leadership for a struggling Choate offense. When they get going, they have the ability to put up a large number of goals. Choate needs to make their goalscoring routine if they want to have any chance at shaking up prep hockey. Cal Stewart ‘18 has performed admirably in goal, racking up a .926 save percentage across 715 minutes played. If he performs consistently, Choate stands a chance to stay in games against the best in New England.

Deerfield: (9-6-1, 3-4)

Perhaps the most intriguing team of the 2017 hockey season has been the Doors out of Deerfield. After finishing a disappointing 10-13-2 last season, Deerfield has drastically improved their record to 9-6-1 through the mid way point of the season. Back to back losses against Choate (3-7) and Avon (2-4) usually does not bode well leading into the storied Flood-Marr Tournament. However, Deerfield battled and grinded their way to a 3-1 record and their first Flood- Marr championship since 2002, when Stanley Cup champion Ben Lovejoy ‘03 (New Jersey Devils) played for the team. During the tournament Deerfield toppled the top ranked team in New England, KUA (1-0), in a defensive battle. They had a similarly strong showing against Loomis Chaffee by hustling their way to a 3-2 win in overtime. Despite these impassioned results, they have struggled against arguably weaker competition losing to a depleted Cushing Academy 3-2 in overtime and then again losing to rival Choate (5-1).

Without a doubt this unforeseen success of Deerfield can be attributed to the work between the pipes. Notably, Thomas Gale ‘19 has been unbelievable, stopping a huge amount of shots game after game. After claiming the Flood- Marr Tournament MVP, Gale stopped 40 shots vs Loomis and then an incredible 50 shots in a 1-1 tie vs KUA. Without his quality play, Deerfield would have likely lost both games and been out of contention. Thomas Dale ‘17 and Michael Holland ‘19 lead the Green in scoring, both with 17 points. However, the 6 losses are alarming. While these losses may prevent them from the Elite Eight, Deerfield is a force to be reckoned with on the ice and should be optimistic about their potential return to prominence soon.

Hotchkiss: (3-12-1, 0-5)

Hotchkiss has had a very disappointing year thus far on the ice. 0-5 currently in Founders play, the Bearcats do not have the depth necessary to contend for many close games. To be fair, Hotchkiss has lost many close games where if the puck bounced their way, the season’s narrative could be much different. Nine of their sixteen games have been decided by two goals or less, with another five games decided by three. Closely contested games against the likes of Avon and Salisbury (both games 2-4) shows the fight in the Bearcats.

Hotchkiss is led by two Canadian seniors playing very well despite the team’s results. Forward Chris Theodore ‘17 has 21 points, placing him in the top 10 of Founders scoring. Additionally, Captain Marshall Rifai ‘17 (Harvard)  has 16 points himself at the blue line. Unfortunately for Hotchkiss, seven out of their eight top scorers are seniors. Coach Traggio and company must heavily reload for next year if they want any chance to succeed in the competitive state of the League right now.

Kent: (9-4-2, 3-2-1)

Kent’s 2016 campaign defined in one word: underwhelming. Skating to an exact .500 record was not what the Lions expected coming into that season. Fortunately, last year’s troubles are dormant this year as Kent seems to be finding its identity as we enter the latter half of the regular season. They have grinded their way to three straight victories over Hotchkiss, Salisbury and Taft, showing perseverance and heart in these games to seal the win. Losses to Brunswick and Exeter could come back to haunt them in playoff seeding. If they keep this hot streak, Kent will be a forced to be reckoned with.

Kent does not have a star. They do not have a Joey Cipollone (Loomis), a Trevor Zegras (AOF), or a Tyce Thompson (Salisbury) to consistently skate on the ice and score effortlessly. However, they have toughness. They have tenacity. They have trust. Tommy Tanner ‘17, Jeremy Routh ‘18 and Augie Burkhardt ‘17 all average about a point a game. Peter Negron ‘17 has served dutifully in the crease with a .934 save percentage for the Lions. Some might argue you need a stud to go far in the tournament. However, as of late Kent has shown you only really need one thing: heart.

Loomis Chaffee: (9-4-1, 4-3)

After returning nine out of their top ten scorers this year, Loomis should be a dominant presence and was one of the favorites entering the season. To say they have not lived up to expectations would be unfair, but if the Pelicans want any shot at the Elite Eight they need to kick it to the next gear. In each loss Loomis has significantly outshot their opponents, but have been stopped by a hot goalie. Spencer Knight (Avon) stopped 43, Thomas Gale (Deerfield) stopped 42, Andrew Farrier (Taft) stopped 33, Knight again stopped 35. LC has the talent to win the whole thing. Save Avon, Loomis accounts for the best roster on paper. It is just a matter of executing. Strong wins against Westminster, Cushing and Gunnery provide some confidence, but there is very little room for error if Loomis wants to live up to its potential.

Loomis may have the best top line in New England. Joey Cipollone ‘18 (Vermont), Justin Grillo ‘17 (Colby), Harry Roy ‘18 (Maine) average 1.57, 1.50 and 1.42 points per game respectively. Along with the smooth skating defensemen Andrew Lucas ‘18 (Vermont, 1.43 ppg) the Pelicans account for four out of the top five scorers in Founders. The one glaring issue is the point production ends there. The next player averages .64 ppg and after that  in the .43-.30 range to round out the top 10. If Loomis wants to contend with the perennial favorites, they need production from their second and third lines. In the net, Adin Farhat ‘17 (.946 sv %) and Pat Pugliese ‘18 (.941) have shared duties remarkably this year. Both top 5 goalies in New England. Ultimately, Loomis has very little breathing room on their road to St. Anselm. As trivial as it sounds, they need to find ways to win close games.

Salisbury (11-4-1, 7-1)

After the three-peat of New England championships from 2013-2015, Salisbury were left discouraged after their defeat to the eventual champions last year in the quarterfinals. Similar to rival Avon, Salisbury lost their offensive core as their top seven scorers were seniors. An influx of quality recruits and the leadership of returners have Salisbury back atop the Founders League with a 7-1 record. After an embarrassing loss to Williston in their second game of the season, the Knights have rebounded justly in winning nine out of their last ten games. With the exception of their surprising 0-4 loss to Kent, Salisbury has limited most of their opponents to one goal. As they have sufficient skill up top, Salisbury enters the remaining half of the season as heavy favorites to close out and win the Founders League.

Salisbury currently has three players above a point a game and 3 others right on it. With Tyce Thompson ‘18 (Providence, 1.40 ppg) routinely back in the lineup, the Salisbury forward crew will be difficult to contain in thanks as well to Alex DiPaolo ‘18 (1.35 ppg), Kevin Wall ‘18 (1.2 ppg) and Jacques Bouquot (Harvard, 1.00 ppg). Salisbury’s top blueliners, Nick Hale ‘18 (Holy Cross), Michael Foggia ‘17 (UNH), and Peter Diliberatore ‘18 (Quinnipiac), have shut down the front of the net for Salisbury. Jonah Capriotti ‘17 has played 935 minutes for a .928 save percentage. If they can beat Avon and Loomis down the stretch, Salisbury will win Founders and be the favorites for the Elite Eight.

Taft: (9-5-1, 4-3)

Following last winter’s 9-15-1 season, Taft has vastly improved their team and their record exemplifies this development. Having already matched last year’s win total of 9, the Taft Rhinos have some big upcoming games to see if they are legit contenders or if they are having a lucky run. They are by no means tearing it up on the stat sheet, but they have found ways to win games. They beat Avon before the holiday tournaments (3-2) and then held off a Loomis comeback (3-2) to claim two upset victories. However, bad losses to Canterbury (2-3) and Berkshire (2-3) discredit Taft from becoming a top team at this point.

Similar to Kent, Taft lacks star power. They have won games by working as a cohesive unit that seeks a team victory. Perhaps the best soccer player in New England, the quick Matteo Mangiardi ‘17 (Colgate-soccer) leads Taft in hockey with 14 points through 15 games. With no players over the point per game benchmark, the Rhinos need to get more point production to continue to compete with the top teams. Andrew Farrier ‘17 has posted a .935 save percentage on his way to some crucial wins for Taft. Taft has also surprised people this year. If they win most of their games from here on out, they could do some damage in the Large School Tournament.

Trinity Pawling: (2-10, 2-5)

Trinity Pawling started the season with eight straight losses. When a team lets in an average of 4.5 goals a game, the results of games are not going to go in their favor. Following Christmas Break, TP played a statement game against Kent, reigning victorious 6-3. Hopefully, the Kent game broke off some nerves and TP is ready to compete for some more hard fought wins. Their record as it stands is deplorable. The recent 4-1 against Choate shows some hope and fight in the Pride. They have very winnable games ahead of them in Hotchkiss and Canterbury, and if goalie Justin Lampert ‘17 finds his groove again from last year, TP will be the favorites entering them. Led by Jordi Jefferson ‘17 and Joey Musa ‘ 19 (Dartmouth) up front, if Trinity- Pawling starts to click, they have the talent to win some games.

Westminster: (5-8-2, 3-4)

Westminster’s season thus far has been very unpredictable and unsatisfactory given last year’s success. With Taggart Corriveau ‘16 (St. Lawrence) and Johnny McDermott ‘16 (BU) both graduated, Westy has missed a lot of talent this year. The Martlets play a very physical game with every player finishing their checks. However, because of their heightened physicality, speedy opposing players can skate by them. They get themselves into trouble versus faster teams such as Taft and Loomis as the quickness of play deceives them. Their biggest win of the year came on Monday against AOF in Avon’s barn. The annual rivalry game always gets heated but Westy gritted their way to victory with both Ryan Doolin ‘18 and Tasso Housakos ‘18 finding the back of the net; with the latter doing so in overtime.

Along with Doolin, Westminster’s two other leading scorers are defensemen. Peter Horsfall ‘17 and Patrick Dawson ‘18 both have 10 points on the season. Young goalie Kai Edmonds ‘19 has led them throughout the year and won the big game against Avon. If Westy consistently plays like they did at Avon, they would have a chance at making a tournament. The instability of the team does not translate well for persistent success.

 

Overall, the Founders League has been nothing short of exciting. The saying “Anyone can beat anyone”  has been embraced and exemplified by every team this season. With each and every game, the points could go either way. Whereas last season offensive ability controlled play, this year’s general gameplay has shifted towards a defensive approach thanks to the superb net minding across New England. As each team has 10-12 games remaining, every game is crucial and should be seen as a “must win”.