Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge hits the NESCAC

Unless you still use Myspace or think the Hurricanes play in Hartford, you are probably aware of the latest viral social media phenomenon, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (err #IceBucketChallenge).

The challenge is pretty simple: You film yourself dumping a bucket of ice water over your head, post it on your social media outlet of choice, and tag specific people to the challenge. The newly nominated then have 24 hours to dump a bucket of ice water on their heads or they are supposed to donate money to an ALS charity of their choice.

The challenge has taken off by any metric you choose, from the google search trends below, to the numerous celebrities and athletes taking part, to the $1.35 million the ALS Foundation has raised from July 29th to August 11th. The non-profit organization received only $22,000 in donations in the same period last year.

Aymotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's disease as it is known colloquially, is a serious neurodegenerative disease that affects nearly 30,000 Americans. The average survival time is two to five years after diagnosis with only 4% of those afflicted surviving longer than 10 years. The disease's namesake, immortal Yankees slugger Lou Gehrig, died of ALS in 1941 at the age of 37, just two years after his initial diagnosis.

There's obvious criticisms for a charity challenge in which the donation part is the "punishment" and the origin mythology of the challenge seems to be a bit apocryphal, but at the end of the day awareness and money are being raised for a worthy cause. Plus, we got to see NHL free agent and twitter hero (@BizNasty2point0) Paul Bissonnette do this, so that's worth it, right?

But what does this have to do with the NESCAC? you astutely ask. Well, besides the numerous men's ice hockey players that have taken to social media for the cause, several NESCAC coaches have taken the challenge and even everyone's favorite Mighty Duck/Hamilton alum, Guy Hebert, indicated on twitter tonight that he would take a break from making us jealous of his life  to pour some ice water on his head for charity.

The first coach to accept was 2013 NESCAC  coach of the year, Matt Greason. As part of his video, Greason announced that the Bantams charity game for the 2014-15 would be to benefit ALS research. Greason then called out three people, including reigning NESCAC coach of the year, Conn College's Jim Ward. The Camel coach did accept the challenge and posted his freezing cold video on Facebook instead of twitter.
Traveling northword to the Pine Tree State, Colby coach Blaise Macdonald tapped his assistant coach, Chris Hall, who promptly dumped a bucket over his head lakeside.

Whether you dump ice water over your head or not, I nominate all of you to donate to a worthy charity of your choice. If you want to donate wisely, check out charity navigator  to make sure altruism is not wasted. And remember, soon those buckets of ice water will turn into actually ice as the start of NESCAC men's ice hockey team activities on November 1st is (just?) 80 days away.

Friday, May 30, 2014

2014 NESCAC recruiting as told by the twitterverse

We will have to wait until November until we find out who officially makes the 2014-15 NESCAC men's hockey rosters, but with the age of the internet we are aware of who the vast majority of recruits will be.

The WordPress blog currently has 83 names and with five months until team activities can begin, we'll have plenty of time to discuss which school has the best haul, the breakdown of juniors/prep, age of incoming class, favorite animals,etc.

But for now, let's talk a look at who twitter has confirmed as incoming recruits. This list is by no means comprehensive and is mostly just for fun. We'll update it as more tweets are discovered and as always, let us know if you know of any more twitterfirmations.






Saturday, May 24, 2014

Alleged Sexual Assault by Williams Hockey Player and Response

Williams College has come under fire for their handling of an alleged sexual assault
 by a men's hockey player in the fall of 2012
Last week, Boston's NPR station, WBUR 90.9 FM, reported an alleged sexual assault of a 17 year old Williams freshman girl by a 21 year old Ephs freshman men's hockey player in the fall of 2012.

The female student, Lexi Brackenridge, and her family (as well as many others) have expressed their outrage with the handling of the case by the Williams administration. The school found the alleged assailant guilty of sexual assault and suspended him for three semesters, a sentence that is set to expire this fall.

The assailant's name was not published by WBUR, as no criminal charges were filed. Lexi's name was published only after permission was given by both her and her parents. With regards to not filing criminal charges, the WBUR article states that the attorney the Brackenridges contacted advised them not to press charges as it could remove Lexie out of college and take two years. In addition, the deans at Williams  reportedly encouraged the Brackenridges to address the matter through the college's disciplinary process.

Brackenridge said she was harassed by members of the hockey team after the alleged sexual assault, including having full beer cans thrown at her head and being placed in housing with hockey players for her sophomore year. She has since transferred to Columbia University in New York, where she is finishing up her sophomore year. In her May 14th essay in the Williams Record, "A survivor speaks out", she said that it became clear that Williams would not be a safe place for her.

The issue has understandably generated a lot of reaction, including heated words in comments sections and coverage from the Williams Record up to the Boston Globe. Ms. Brackenridge has created a change.org petition with specific proposed reforms to the handling of sexual assault on the Williams campus. The petition has 713 supporters as of May 24th.

The Williams administration has put out several statements defending themselves, including a point by point response to the change.org petition.  Williams is not the only NESCAC school to come under fire recently for mishandling of sexual assault cases. Earlier this month, Amherst was included on the Department of Education's list of 55 colleges with open Title IX sexual violence investigations. Tufts isn't on the open investigation list, but this month they accepted the DOE's finding that they violated Title IX in the handling of a 2010 sexual assault case.

The age of incoming hockey players and hockey culture have come up as topics of discussion in the Williams case. The Brackenridges indicated in the NPR article that they believe a desire to protect the hockey team played into the handling of the case by the school and that the advanced age of freshmen hockey players also contributed. They even insinuated that the coach played a role by fostering a culture in which players closed ranks to defend their teammate.

Bill Kangas, head coach of Williams men's hockey since 1989, did not return NPR's requests for interview for their reporting.

One Williams alum and school fundraiser, Ken Hillman, '85, was even more explicit in his diagnosis of the problem of older hockey players. Hilman told NPR he was suspending his fundraising efforts for the school until they look into the practice of recruiting 1/3 of their players from junior hockey. In Hillman's eyes, placing players that spend up to three years in the  "minimally supervised" environment of junior hockey in a small, rural campus like Williams is a "powder keg of trouble."

There's no hard evidence that in this specific case junior hockey had anything to do with the alleged assault and Williams reports that no group, including varsity athletes, are over-represented in allegations of sexual assault.

The trend to recruiting older players out of juniors has already been a topic of debate on the USCHO forums, although for much more benign, hockey specific reasons. And no less than Jack Parker, he of 40 year Boston University men's hockey coach fame, lamented the increasing age of incoming freshman at his retirement presser last year. At that presser, Parker referenced a discussion with one of his former captains at BU, Bowdoin head coach Terry Meagher, who confided in Parker that he was "aggravated" that college hockey had become what senior hockey had once been in Canada.

The merits of recruiting junior players aside, there's certainly no need in the Williams case to paint juniors players, or collegiate hockey players in general, with a broad brush. What the situation does represent, however, is a chance to talk about locker room culture.

Last year, former Bowdoin goalie Nick Smith (G, '09) wrote an opinion essay in response to the Steubenville High School rape case. Smith presented his views on a locker room culture that can promote team loyalty but at the same time can be a bastion of "vile, homophobic, and sexist attitudes." Smith relayed an experience of a gentlemanly hockey role model from his youth and calls for more role models, who would promote respectful attitudes towards women, in locker rooms.

The piece appears on the website for "Speak About It," a "performance-based presentation about consent, boundaries and healthy relationships." Smith, now a med student at Boston University, was a cast member for Speak About it in 2010 and 2011. 

In the Williams case, the accused's lawyer told NPR that his client has yet to speak publicly because of a confidentiality agreement with the college. With his client set to return to Williamstown come fall and increasing media coverage of the issue, expect to hear more about this case in the coming months. 

Read More:
Fred Thys,  90.9 WBUR - - Family Has Harsh Words for William's College's Handling of Alleged Assault 

Fred Thys,  90.9 WBUR - -  Two Williams College Fundraisers Suspend Activities to Protest Handling of Alleged Assault 

Here and Now, 90.9 WBUR - - The Anatomy of a College Rape Accusation

Lauren Bender, The Williams Record - - Former student speaks publicly on sexual assault case 

Lexie Brackenridge, The Williams Record - - A survivor speaks out 

Sarah Bolton, Williams Dean of the College - - Response to Petition Regarding Sexual Assault at Williams 

Matt Rocheleau, Boston Globe - - Williams College roiled by report of rape 

Nick Smith., SpeakAboutIt - - A Reaction to Steubenville 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Recruiting in NESCAC, an updated look

By Benet Pols

Union College, one of the founding members of NESCAC, has won the 2014 NCAA DI men's ice hockey championship. As we wrote a couple of weeks ago, Union left the conference back in 1977 after its ambitions for a DI program rocked the campus and eventually cost its coach and president their jobs.

In the wake if Union's success and our brief view what recruitment was like back in the 1970's it is a good time to look into how current recruiting practices at NESCAC colleges have evolved both from an academic standpoint and an athletic standpoint.

Fortunately for the staff here at HockeyInTheCac, the hard work has been done for us by the Bowdoin Orient in a recent three part series on athletics at Bowdoin. The first part, Banded Together, gives an excellent overview of recruitment practices and policies across the conference and across all sports.

Posters on the USCHO online forums frequently denigrate the conference's stringent recruiting standards and point out that success like that had by Middlebury on the 1990's and 2000's is unlikely to be repeated.

In reading the Bowdoin Orient's Sam Weyrauch's excellent three part series on athletics at Bowdoin, we have to wonder if the forum gripers may not be right?  Weyrauch's first piece, Banded Together, certainly points out a homogenization across the conference that suggests it is unlikely that one school will ever be able to collect enough "B Band" students to dominate the way Middlebury once did.

Below are links to the three stories.

"Banded Together: recruited athletes with sub-average academics can receive preference in admissions."

"A Path to Campus: looking at the weight of recruitment visits and 'early reads.'"

After the Acceptance: walk-ons and GPAs.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Union College, we remember you well

By Benet Pols

Union College.

The Dutchmen take on the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers for the NCAA DI men’s championship on April 12, 2014.

Union College. Little Union College.

It’s old.

Founded in 1795 it was the first college chartered by the Board of Regents of the State of New York. In NESCAC only Williams, founded in 1793 and Bowdoin in 1794 can claim to be older. Even its nickname, the “Dutchmen,” hearkens back to the oldest days of the country when New York City was New Amsterdam and the Dutch Reform Presbyterian Church was influential in the young New York State.

It’s small.

With 2133 undergraduates Union comes in smaller than Trinity (2300) and the relatively behemoth Wesleyan (2870). With 213 faculty members in outdistances Bowdoin and can boast a student to faculty ratio of 10:1.

It’s rigorous.

With SAT scores for the class of 2017 running 640/670/640, admission to Union would make almost any set of parents proud. US News and World Report’s annual list of the best liberal arts colleges in the country puts all 11 NESCAC schools in the top 50, starting with the one-two punch of Williams and Amherst. Union makes this class too; the Dutchmen hold down the 41st spot just behind Trinity at #38 and Connecticut College at #45.

Its iconic campus architecture screams tradition.

With the Nott Memorial, reminiscent of a renaissance baptistery adjacent to any of Europe’s cathedrals as it’s centerpiece, it’s almost enough to make the average Dutch boy or Dutch girl forget about junior year abroad. But no, 60% of Union Students do go looking for the real thing in Paris, Cologne or Florence.

So why isn’t Union College a member of NESCAC?

In a word: hockey.

Union was a member of NESCAC from its inception in 1971 until May 1977 when it withdrew in the wake of recruiting violations and on campus brouhaha surrounding the Schenectady school’s nascent hockey program.

Hockey at Union had gone dark following the 1949 season but started up with a bang again in 1976. The Dutchmen had big ambitions right from the start setting their eyes on a quick move from what was then DII and the ECAC, on up to DI. With the support of its President and Board the little school moved quickly by hiring the legendary Ned Harkness. Harkness had led both RPI (1954) and Cornell to national championships. His time with the Big Red from Ithaca cemented his “legendary” tag. Under Harkness Cornell won NCAA titles in 1967, with Ken Dryden between the pipes, and again in 1970. The 1970 Cornell team rolled though an impressive season culminating in an NCAA championship. That team, at 29-0-0, still stands as the only undefeated National Champion.

Immediately before landing back in college hockey at Union Harkness served as Coach and GM for the NHL’s Detroit Redwings. It’s hard to say he enjoyed his time in the NHL; most sources conclude Harkness wasn’t suited for the NHL and his players were in open rebellion during his short stint in Detroit.

But he brought something to Union: an ability to recruit. But perhaps his ability to recruit was too good.

According to an Associated Press article “Ned Harkness Out of the Penalty Box” appearing in the Lewiston Evening Journal, Mar 31, 1977, using just freshmen during Harnkess’s first season the Dutchmen went 21-2. In his second season Union was 28-3-1 and lost to Merrimack 6-4 in the ECAC DII finals. Merrimack had lost to Bowdoin 6-5 in the 1976, and lost again to Polar Bears 3-0 in 1978. But in 1978, due to pesky NESCAC restrictions on Bowdoin, Merrimack went on to win the NCAA DII championship.

Those same pesky NESCAC restrictions proved too much for Harkness. According to Out of the Penalty Box “Harkness has been a vocal critic of the conference and (Union) is considering pulling out of the conference and seeking DI status.” Harkness had been suspended after being caught visiting the home of a recruit on violation of NESCAC rules. A lot was made of the fact that it was just conference rules Harkness violated; the conduct was allowed under existing NCAA rules. For his part, Harkness was unrepentant and was quoted by the AP as saying, “I lied, but I lied to save my hockey program.”

The Union program was back in the news just two months later when, after much on campus debate, the college voted to withdraw from NESCAC and retain both its hockey coach and President. The Schenectady Gazette of May 18, 1977 reported:

Yesterday’s vote to retain (President) Bonner and withdraw from NESCAC amounts to a victory for the Union President. . . .The board voted confidence in President Thomas N. Bonner (who had earlier submitted a resignation) and further voted to leave NESCAC. . . . However the board voted to abide by the principles of NESCAC and the highest standards of integrity . . . .The attention drawn by the hockey team, 42-6-1 for the last two seasons, also became a concern for some students and faculty, the primary fear being that Union would sacrifice it’s academic standards to go “big-time.”

But by the next season the wheels had come off the program completely. In December 1977 the Bangor (Maine) Daily News printed an article about the demise of Union hockey. The University of Maine, in its first season of hockey, had been scheduled to take on Union but the game was canceled as the result of a player walkout. Harkness had resigned the week before and players were unwilling to go on without him. In resigning Harkness said that hockey and Union had been a “bad marriage, “ and that his players were harassed and denigrated on campus. Four players had been dropped for academic deficiencies and Harkness complained the media learned of it before the players themselves. According to the Bangor Daily News Harkness complained the news was leaked.

President Thomas Bonner lasted just a few months longer, resigning in 1978. At the time he was quoted as saying: “It has been alleged that admission standards are too high at Union College, and that they should not be applied evenly to the athlete and non-athlete. The college pleads guilty and offers no apology.”

The Dutchmen, 4-1-1 at the time Harkness resigned, went 0-13 the rest of the season, presumably using non-recruited players to fill the void along with an interim coach, Bob Driscoll. The following year under Coach Charles Morrison the Dutchmen began a ten-year run in DIII enjoying eventual success before turning again to DI in the early 1990’s.

And on April 12, 2014 Union will take on perennial national power Minnesota for the National DI championship.

As the 2013-14 Union season unfolded, and their current coach, Rick Bennett, was suspended for a post game brawl it’s difficult not to reflect on the distinctions between DI and DIII and the NESCAC in particular. It’s hard to imagine Bowdoin’s Terry Meagher and Colby’s Blaise MacDonald going at it on the ice after a game and facing just a two game suspension.

For an interesting view on Harkness written in 1977 before his suspension at Union see this piece from Sports Illustrated.

More information:

More from Union College

Friday, March 21, 2014

Trinity's Jackson Brewer wins 2014 Joe Concannon Award, named runner-up for Sid Watson Award

Jackson Brewer (F, '15) and his flowing locks had quite the season 
Trinity junior forward Jackson Brewer was named the 2014 Joe Concannon Award winner this week by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston. In addition, the Newton, MA native was also named the runner-up for the 2014 Sid Watson Award, given to the best player in D-III men's hockey by the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA).

The Joe Concannon Award is awarded to the best American born D-III men's hockey player in New England. NESCAC players have taken home the hardware in seven of the award's 14 year existence. Brewer becomes the first 'Cacer since Amherst's Jeff Landers (D, '09) won Conncan honors in 2009. The Trinity forward also becomes the first Bantam to win since Joseph Ori (F, '05) in 2005. Back in February, 18 semi-finalists for the award were announced, including Brewer and seven other NESCAC players.

The Sid Watson Award, named after the legendary Bowdoin Coach, is the D-III version of the Hobey Baker Award. This year, St. Norbert's goalie David Jacobson (G, '15) took home the award after posting a 22-1-1 record thanks to a 1.24 Goals Against Average (2nd in D-III) and a .935 Save % (7th in D-III). Jacobson's Knights will play Geneseo in one half of the D-III semifinals, hosted by Bowdoin, this afternoon in Lewiston, ME.

While Jacobson won, Brewer was named the runner-up for the award. The last NESCAC player to win the Sid Watson Award was Amherst goalie Jonathon La Rose (G, '12) in his senior season of 2012 when he took the Jeffs to the national semifinals. La Rose was not eligible for the Concannon Award that year as he is a Canadian national. Seven 'Cacites have won the award since its inception with Middlebury taking home the hardware four times, Amherst twice and Bowdoin once.

The Concannon Award win and Sid Watson runner-up designation cap off an impressive 56 point season for Brewer (14-42-56) in which he was named to First Team All-NESAC and was selected NESCAC Player of the Year. After amassing only 32 points (15-17-32) in his first two seasons in Hartford, Brewer now sits just 12 points from joining the hallowed 100 point club. Brewer will end up leading the D-III nation in points despite Trinity not playing in any NCAA Tournament games. The Bantams lost, 5-4, in the NESCAC semis to eventual tournament champion Bowdoin. Despite coming in at number one in the east in each of the three public NCAA Regional Rankings, Trinity was denied one of three at-large bids for the 11 team NCAA tournament.

Read More: Trinity Athletics - -  Trinity's Brewer Named New England's Top American-Born Division II/III Men's Ice Hockey Player

Read More: ACHA - - David Jacobson is D-III Ice Hockey Player of the Year 

Read More: Benet Pols, Hockey in the 'Cac - - 8 NESCAC players among 18 semi-finalists for the Concannon Award 

Read More: Mike Zhe, New England Hockey Journal - - Brewer, High flying Trinity are all grown-up 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day: Unofficial 2013-14 NESCAC All-Irish Teams

It's back, the NESCAC All-Irish (last names) team. To celebrate a routine Catholic holiday turned de facto Irish Heritage Day in America, as well as it being awards season in college hockey, we again present the NESCAC men's hockey All-Irish (last names) Teams for the 2013-14 season.  For information on the Irish origin of these players' last names, whether they are actually Irish or not, check out House of Names.

Our apologies to those players that are of Irish heritage but don't have Irish last names or a player's inclusion if he is not in fact of Irish origin but has a last name that could be Irish. Selection is based on a complex algorithm balancing performance in the 2013-14 season with Irish-ness of name. 

This should go without saying, but these honors are completely unofficial and the conference has absolutely nothing to do with them. 

  1st Team NESCAC All-Irish
Mcginnis family shield 

Sean Dougherty*     Williams         (G, '15)
John McGinnis         Bowdoin         (F, '15)                                                                                  
Connor Quinn*         Bowdoin         (F, '15)
Ryan Cole*              Trinity             (F, '17)
Colin Downey *        Bowdoin         (F/D, '15)
Mike Flynn*            Trinity             (D, '15)

2nd Team NESAC All-Irish
Dave Cunningham*    Amherst       (G, '16)
Conor Brown              Amherst       (F, '16) 
Tommy Hartnett         Wesleyan     (F, '15) 
Liam McKillop           Trinity          (F, '15)
McNamara Bros        Williams       (D, '15 and '17)
Robbie Donahoe       Middlebury    (D, '14)

*Indicates player was selected to 2013-14 1st or 2nd All-NESCAC team