As we move into the fourth weekend of NESCAC play, the teams start to recognize the significance of each game. There is room to rise, but even more room to fall. Here are my thoughts about the upcoming games, most of which have potential playoff significance.
Colby (3-3-1, 1-2-1) at Middlebury (2-2-0, 5-2-0)
Statistically up to this point, the Mules and the Panthers boast similar figures. They each have a positive goals to goals against ratio and sit in the middle of the pack in the conference standings, respectively. Middlebury, on one hand, opened up ‘Cac play with a tough draw against Conn., Amherst, and Bowdoin; all of whom look to be formidable opponents in the first half of this season. The Panthers, at times, have shown that they can muster up tenacious play, as exhibited against Amherst, but their defeats against the Camels and the Polar Bears leaves definite questions about their ability to find success in the future. Middlebury currently relies on a balanced attack led by Drew Goulart ’20 and Daniel O’Grady ’19, who are able to both score and dish out an assist when called upon. Their backs Peter Davis ’19 and Aidan Robinson ’20 continue to help out senior keeper Jeremy Yeager ’18; all three will need to maintain their focus against a Mules team that has struggled to manufacture to this point.
Speaking of the Mules, this Colby team has surprised followers and continues to battle against intimidating competition. They took the defending national champion Jumbos into OT, tied the current conference leading Camels, and shutout Trinity in a decisive 2-0 victory. That being said, that amounts to only one victory, and in this league, you need points to be successful. Yes, they have faced very tough competition (their other game was a 1-0 loss to 4th-in-conference Williams), so they should not hit the panic button just quite yet. I expect this game will be a closely contested match all the way through. Asa Berolzheimer ’20 and Jansen Aoyama ’19 lead this Mules offense, and will look to get on the other end of a Kyle Douglas ’19 pass (Douglas leads team with 3 assists). At the end of it all, the result from this match will help paint a much clearer picture of each team’s capabilities.
Prediction: Colby 1 – Middlebury 2
Wesleyan (1-2-0) at Hamilton (5-2-0)
The struggle for the Cardinals up to this point has been maintaining their great level of play against out-of-conference teams in their NESCAC matches. They have shown they have the talent and the pieces needed to develop a quality season, but they need to show more flair and play with less hesitancy. In their two conference losses, they failed to score a goal against both Bowdoin and Tufts. Only against Bates were they able to net 4, but this is coming against a Bobcats squad that is less than stellar defensively. The Cardinals depend on recent conference Player of the Week (Harold and) Komar Martinez-Paiz ’19 to preserve their inconsistent offense. Additionally, the team has a constantly reliable backfield composed of Teddy Lyons ’19, Nick Jackson ’18, and keeper Brian Harnett ’18. Wesleyan cannot keep relying on their defense to win these games, as they can only do so much work before the opposing pressure breaks through.
Hamilton, similarly, comes into this game looking to turn their season around. The Continentals have definitely not given their best performances, as they suffered stinging losses to Bates, Middlebury, and Conn. College. The main focus for Hamilton this weekend will be their offense, as they have scored only two goals in their four conference games. They need their strikers Jefri Schmidt ’20 and Matt Casadei ’19 to tally up some points against the Cardinals, but that gets a lot harder when looking at the strength of the Wesleyan defense. Playing at home, the Continentals look to give their fans something to cheer about as each team fights to jump up the conference table.
Prediction: Wesleyan 3 – Hamilton 1
Trinity (0-5-0, 1-6-0) at Bates (1-1-1, 3-1-1)
The Bantams head up to Lewiston this upcoming Saturday as both teams seek to redirect the path of their seasons. For Trinity, they simply need to find a way to score in conference games. They have netted only 1 goal in five conference games (just taaaap it in). In those five games, they have also conceded 9 goals, which must seem like a giant mountain to climb over every time they give up a goal considering they cannot really find a way to score. The Bantams have managed to score out of conference, placing 7 goals in the back of the net in seven non-conference games, so they have shown they have the ability to score. Hoping to tally some goals this weekend for Trinity is Bantams points leader Cody Savonen ’18, who has scored half of the team’s goals this season.
Defensively, Trinity will need Henry Belt ’21 and Mateo Zabala ’18 to be on top of their game to thwart the Bobcats. Hosting the Bantams this weekend is Bates, who, unlike its opponent, maintains a solid goals to goals against ratio. The Bobcats have scored 5 goals and let up 6 in conference. I would not necessarily say that these are favorable numbers, but the goals-for stat shows some merit when comparing it to the Bantams’. Leading the charge for Bates is senior Nate Merchant ’18, who has scored 5 of the team’s eleven goals for the season. He will be backed by senior Max Watson, sophomore Julien Williamson, and juniors Sam Huebschmann ’19 and Robbie Montanaro ’19. I have got to give the edge to this Bates squad, as they have shown they can manufacture goals in the heat of conference competition.
Prediction: Trinity 0 – Bates 2
Connecticut College (3-0-2, 6-0-2) at Williams (2-1-2, 4-1-2)
As the current leaders of the conference, Conn must continue to prove their worth. The Camels have a very young roster, which will get only better the more they play together. Freshman Liam Noonan ’21 and junior Ben Manoogian ’19 lead this Conn. offense, an attack that is currently averaging close to 3 goals per game; however, this statistic decreases to just over 1 goal per game against conference opponents. The Camel defense has been extremely solid, averaging 0.59 goals against per game, which is easy to believe considering they have stalwart and lone starting-senior Nate Summers ’18 defending for the team. Conn. College’s only real test up to this point has been the Tufts Jumbos, which ended in a 0-0 draw.
Williams will be looking to place the first loss in the Camel’s season as they play host this weekend. The Ephs crew has enjoyed quite a lot of success so far in their campaign, with their only stint coming from a loss at Bowdoin. Despite their adequate offensive numbers, they truly excel on the defensive side of the ball. Senior Tobias Muellers ‘18 and Bobby Schneiderman ‘18 have been locking down offenses throughout the 2017 season. The Ephs boast 0.54 goals against per game, and will hope to shutdown this pesky Camels attack. Look for this matchup to be closely contested until the final whistle.
Prediction: Conn. College 2 – Williams 1
GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts (3-0-1, 6-0-1) at Amherst (1-1-1, 2-1-1)
If you looked at this matchup a year ago, or even at the beginning of this season for that matter, it would have appeared to be one of the best collegiate games all year in Division III. However, Amherst has gotten off to a slow start, at least to their typical standards. They have shown that they can compete with the best, (see: their victory against Bowdoin)St but they have also shown that they can let the game get away from them, as seen when they hosted and lost to Middlebury. The Mammoths need a turning point to their season, a jolt that can propel them atop the ‘Cac standings. This game is their chance. Luckily for Amherst, the team has shown that they do not have to rely on a single player to score goals. In fact, 7 Mammoths have found the back of the net this season for Amherst, but they have scored only 2 goals in 3 three conference games. Their defense has been very trustworthy, with help from Sean Fitzgerald ’19, Cutler Coleman ’20, and freshman Bryce Johnson ’21. Together, this backline averages less than half a goal per game. Considering that this team is going up against the penetrating Jumbo offense, the defense will need to stick together.
The Jumbos, on the other side of the ticket, have been relatively unstoppable. They have not lost a game to this point and, more impressively, have not even given up a goal. Their defense has yet to falter thanks to seniors Conor Coleman ’18 and Matt Zinner ‘18, and junior Sterling Weatherbie ’19 (fantastic name). These three must continue their focus if they want their clean sheets to keep rolling in. Despite the Mammoths’ struggles to this point, I expect them to unnerve Tufts with their home field advantage, and actually sneak one past that unyielding Tufts defense.
Prediction: Tufts 1 – Amherst 1 (Double OT)