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

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Three third period goals lift Oswego past Bowdoin in NCAA First Round

by Ray Biggs

Harry Matheson (#12) had a goal and an assist to
end his Bowdoin career with 100 points.
Oswego State Lyrics (21-6-2) 4
Bowdoin Polar Bears (17-9-2) 3

On Wednesday, an already long road to the postseason got even longer for both Oswego and Bowdoin. The night’s scheduled NCAA tournament contest between the two was temporarily wiped off the schedule as a sizeable blizzard pelted Central New York that afternoon, prompting Oswego to cancel classes and the game along with it. No matter what team you happened to be rooting for, the rescheduled matchup was worth the wait as Oswego advanced in an intense seesaw battle by a 4-3 final.

With the way the final score was decided, it was only fitting that the two teams played to a 0-0 tie at the end of the opening frame. Oswego had several chances to break open the scoring early, aided by their first powerplay opportunity just 3:22 into the matchup, but two hit posts and the outstanding goaltending of Bowdoin’s Max Fenkell (G, '15) helped keep the game scoreless. Fenkell’s first period performance was highlighted by a spectacular kick save with four minutes to go in the first period. Meanwhile, Oswego’s Matt Zawadzki (G, '17) was terrific as well, coming up with 13 saves.

But, with two offensively gifted teams, something had to give, and it was the young Lakers who would draw first blood by virtue of one of the components of their program's identity throughout the years: the transition game. At the 6:04 mark of the second period, freshman Alex Botten (F, '17) took advantage of crisp north-south passing from Nick Rivait (D, '15) to Matt Galati (F, '17). Botten took the entry pass over the offensive stripe, cut to his right, and backhanded a shot over the shoulder of Fenkell to give the Lakers a 1-0 lead.

But as fate would have it, the Polar Bears and Lakers would end the period tied. Coming up on the final minute of the period, Bowdoin’s Jay Livermore (D, '14) cranked up a blast to the top shelf to even things up at one.

Both goaltenders were lucky that two goals were all that was scored in the second period. Zawadzki and Fenkell both found themselves saved by a stoppage in play in a dangerous situation over the course of the period. First, a scrum erupted in front of Fenkell, who made the initial save through traffic but could not hang onto the rebound. Before either team could move in to clean up, the referees blew the play dead. Then, in the closing seconds of the period, Bowdoin’s Connor Quinn (F, '15) jumped on a pass and brought John Mcginnis in tow for a shorthanded rush, but it was not to be as the period expired when Quinn got to the offensive stripe.

Bowdoin carried the momentum forward into the third period as they killed off the remainder of the carryover penalty from Zach Kokosa (F, '17), then went on to lead by as many as two goals. Matt Rubinoff (F, '16) knocked home one of the two Bowdoin tallies in the period with the assist coming to Harry Matheson (F, '14), before Matheson assumed the role of goal scorer to give Bowdoin a 3-1 lead. The two points (1-1-2) on the afternoon gave Matheson exactly 100 (53-47-100) for his Bowdoin career.

With Bowdoin in command of the game, Oswego head coach Ed Gosek burned his timeout after the Matheson goal in attempt to turn the tide in the Lakers favor. The strategy paid off as Oswego rattled off three consecutive goals from Botten, David Titanic (F, '14), and Mike Montagna (F, '15). After the game, Gosek looked back on his game-changing decision to call timeout.

“With the timeout, the reality was, we had to change or the outcome was going to stay the same. We started moving our feet, started getting pucks in deep and with that came the momentum shift,” Gosek said.

Botten’s game-winner highlighted the Laker run, as Titanic drove in from the right wing side and dished out a picture perfect pass across the crease to Botten to pick up the go-ahead goal with 3:20 to go.

Bowdoin continued to fight all the way to the end, punctuated by reigning NESCAC Playero of the Week John McGinnis' (F, '14) shot block to deny Montagna the empty-net goal with under five seconds remaining, but Oswego would prevail, 4-3. Zawadzki racked up 27 saves to pick up the win for Oswego, while Fenkell nailed down 32 saves for Bowdoin.

Despite taking the loss, Bowdoin head coach Terry Meagher had reason to be proud of his team and the effort they put together on the road not only in this game, but throughout the postseason.

“I thought it was a great game today, I couldnt be more proud of a group of young men on not only how they performed today and how they’ve represented the conference, but the run they’ve been on in the past month. We haven’t been home in a month, they’ve dealt with it, and they met those challenges, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The Polar Bears fall to a final record of 17-9-2 on the season, as their season once again came to an end in an NCAA Tournament game in Central New York for the fourth time in five years. Meanwhile, the Lakers improve to 21-6-2, and advance to the quarterfinal round, where they will square off with the Babson Beavers on Sunday, March 16th at 3 PM.

NCAA 1st Round FINAL: Oswego 4 Bowdoin 3

Oswego   4
Bowdoin  3

After falling behind 1-0 in the second, Jay Livermore, Matt Rubinoff and Harry Matheson scored within eight minutes of each other over the course of the second/third period to give Bowdoin a 3-1 lead with thirteen minutes to play in the third. But then the powerful Lakers offense went off, scoring three unanswered goals down the stretch to eliminate the Polar Bears from the NCAA Tournament and to end NESCAC hockey for good in 2013-14.

Stay tuned for more coverage, including a write up of the game from Ray Biggs, who was on site at Oswego covering the game for us. Thanks again to Biggs and our other round table panelists, Rob Kennedy and Andrew Pugilese. All three had the right score of this game within one goal and the Oswegonian writer, Pugilese, actually predicted the exact right score.

NCAA Tournament 1st Round: Bowdoin at Oswego 3PM 3/13/14

Who: Bowdoin Polar Bears (17-8-2)  at  Oswego State Lakers (20-6-2) 
Where: Campus Center Ice Arena  Oswego, NY 
When: 3 PM Thursday 3/13/14
Video          Audio          Live Stats

Number in parentheses is national rank 
Offense: 3.93 G/GM (9th)                   
Defense: 2.85 G/GM (29th)                    
Power Play: 24/109 - 22/02% (15th)           
Penalty Kill: 97/106 - 83.6% (23rd)       

Number in parentheses is national rank 
Offense: 4.11 G/GM (6th)                   
Defense: 2.39 G/GM (16th)                    
Power Play: 38/130 - 29.23% (4th)           
Penalty Kill: 80/101 - 79.2% (48th)  

The Lowdown
The third NCAA Tournament meeting in five years between Oswego and Bowdoin is here...finally. After a State of Emregency was issued for Western New York, the game, originally scheduled for 7 PM last night, was re-scheduled to today at 3PM. In weather related news but unrelated to the postponement, Bowdoin's parked team bus slid down a hill and crashed into the side of Canale's Restaurant in Oswego, NY. No one was on board, as the team was in the restaurant eating a pre-game meal. No one was injured in the restaurant and damage to the establishment was minimal. 

Back to hockey. Oswego has handled Bowdoin at the Campus Center Ice Arena in the past two meetings with a 7-5 victory in the 2011 NCAA Quarterfinals and a 9-2 victory in the 2010 NCAA Quarterfinals. Historically, this is the sixth NCAA men's hockey tournament appearance for Bowdoin and the 15th for Oswego, including five straight trips to the tourney and four straight appearances in the D-III Frozen Four. The Lakers won the national title in 2007, defeating Middlebury in overtime in the last appearance by the Panthers (or any NESCAC school) in the title game. Oswego has been the brides-maid more than the bride as national runner-up four times, including the last two years. The Polar Bears have never made it past the Quarterfinal round in their previous appearances, including an exit in the quarters last year at Utica. 

But the past is the past. As Bowdoin coach Terry Meagher said in the USCHO preview for this game, "Every year is really different for every team." This year, both the Polar Bears and Lakers enter the game having beaten their conferences 1st and 2nd seeds to win the NESCAC and SUNYAC conferences, respectively. 

For X factors, keys to the game, players to watch and predictions, you should check out our round table preview with the voice of Utica hockey, Ray Biggs, the voice of Bowdoin hockey, Rob Kennedy, and the hockey beat writer for the Oswegonian, Andrew Pugilese. 

For Bowdoin Athletics written preview, click here. For Bowdoin's interview with senior co-captain Harry Matheson, find the embed below.


For's preview of the NCAA first round, including a breakdown statistically, click here. The aformentioned USCHO preview with quotes from Bowdoin coach Terry Meagher can be found here.

The jokes will get old quick, but at least give us a 24 hour shelf-life to crack fun as no one was hurt and damage was minimal. Today's preview song is Dave Matthews "Crash into Me")