Neutral Zone scouts were all over the past week watching many of the top ranked teams in our Preseason Top 15 poll. After Sunday’s games the NZ team came together to formulate a new Top 15 Rankings. We have noted here where the teams were the week before and added some commentary. The Monday games do not factor into this poll.
1. Kimball Union (3-0-0) Previous (#1) This Week: Wins over Brunswick and Vermont Academy
NZ’s Take: Won both games at the Exeter Invitational and where somewhat dominate in their win over a talented Brunswick team. This team has three deep lines up front, a balanced defensive corps and great size and speed. Goalies weren’t really tested here but over the next two weeks, particularly at Flood Marr, their goalies will be called upon to perform.
2. Salisbury School (2-0-0) Previous (#2) This Week: Wins over Taft and Williston Northhampton
NZ’s Take: Salisbury is a younger team this year but they very well may be more skilled than they were a year ago. Lack of experience was one of the question marks going into the season and they played two good teams early and handled them. Flood Marr will put them up against #1 KUA which will show just how good this team is, but from what we saw at Taft, this is likely the deepest team in the league and can beat teams in a variety of ways. Question mark, like KUA, is in net as they too have a new netminder between the pipes.
3. Dexter School (2-0-0) Previous (#3) This Week: Wins over St. Andrews and Cushing
NZ’s Take: Hard to bet against the best player in the league in John Farinacci and likely the best goalie in the league in Derek Mullahy. They played a talented Cushing team to start the year off and won 2-0, showing they can break pucks out against anyone, their defense can really skate and handle the puck and their younger players are high end. This is a team who will put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with their speed and skill in the open ice. They have a big test this week against #5 Exeter and that will be a good matchup to see how they handle an older, more physical, direct team.
4. Lawrence Academy (1-0-0) Previous (#4) This Week: Win over BB&N
NZ’s Take: While we were in attendance for the Lawrence vs. BB&N game, it wasn’t much of a game winning 5-0 and out-shooting them 70-7. However, they have the LA/Groton Holiday Tournament and big matchup against rival Cushing Academy that Thursday night which will tell a lot about what this team is made of. On paper this team is one of the very best and they’ll have a chance to prove it over the next weeks before Christmas break.
5. Exeter (3-0-0) Previous (#8) This Week: Wins over Gunnery and Kent
NZ’s Take: Nobody had a better resume after this week than Exeter knocking off two talented Connecticut teams in Kent and Gunnery. The team has a great combination of veteran leadership, size on the backend, grit and hustle up front and forwards who can score. There aren’t a lot of individual game changers but they play an excellent team game and were able to shut down both Kent and Gunnery’s high power offenses. Big test this week against #3 Dexter which will tell a lot because Dexter could end up being the best team they play all season.
6. Thayer (3-0-0) Previous (#14) This Week: Wins over St. Georges, Rivers and Governors (3 wins in 4 days)
NZ’s Take: Thayer lost a lot off last years runner up Large School finals team so we bumped them down to #14, but after winning 3 games in 4 days, one of which against a talented Rivers team, Thayer looks to be recharged and ready for another run. They are younger than they were a year ago but they have several high end prospects and they play a tough, high pace game. They play an undefeated Andover team this week which will be a good measuring stick but they are the polls largest climber this week.
7. Cushing (2-1-0) Previous (#5) This Week: Win over Winchendon, Loss to #3 Dexter
NZ’s Take: Cushing had a pretty dominating win over rival Winchendon but came up short in a 2-0 loss to #3 ranked Dexter. They are a big, physical team with a lot of depth one the blue line. They are tough to play against, they are strong on pucks and they don’t give up many chances against. However, they’ll need to find ways to score and it’s too early to tell on that front. Big test coming up at the LA/Groton Tournament where they’ll face #4 Lawrence Academy opening night.
8. Loomis Chaffee (1-0-1) Previous (#12) This Week: Win over Trinity Pawling, Tie to Brunswick
NZ’s Take: We only saw them during the scrimmage so far, but beating Trinity Pawling on the road is a quality win and tying Brunswick on the road isn’t too shabby either. They are a team with speed and quickness and can present problems in the transition game. They have a tough lineup ahead playing Kent-TP-Gunnery in the Avon Holiday Tournament but if they can 2 of the 3, they’ll be in good shape going into Christmas break.
9. Rivers School (1-1-0) Previous (#9) This Week: Win over St. Sebastian’s, Loss to Thayer
NZ’s Take: Rivers School started their season with a big win over a talented St. Sebastian’s team but followed that up with a tough loss to Thayer. They have Groton and St. Georges this week before heading to the St. Sebastian’s Christmas tournament.
10. St. Sebastian’s (1-1-0) Previous (#6) This Week: Win over Milton, Loss to Rivers
NZ’s Take: Seb’s is a talented team but got shut down against a defensively stout Rivers squad but rebounded to beat Milton. The team has difference makers up front and on the backend and can skate with anyone. They have their holiday tournament coming up which will be a major test to see where this team is going into the Christmas break but there is not shortage of talent on this roster.
11. Northfield Mount Hermon (2-0-0) Previous (#16) This Week: Wins over Westminster and St. Georges
NZ’s Take: NMH was a question mark heading into the season on how they would replace the leagues top netminder in Eric Green but after a big win over Westminster followed up by shutting out St. George’s they look to be right back where they were a year ago. They are making an upward move up the poll and face a solid Deerfield squad before heading to the Lawrenceville Holiday Tournament.
12. Nobles & Greenough (2-0-0) Previous (NR) This Week: Wins over Pomfret and Belmont Hill
NZ’s Take: Nobles has played two solid teams in Pomfret and Belmont Hill and not given up a goal yet. The team is a bit top heavy with most all of their points coming from their first and second line, but their goalie Marc Smith has been impressive so far this season. They are a sneaky team but they have a tough week ahead with Tabor and Dexter on the schedule before heading into the Flood Marr.
13. Andover (2-0-0) Previous (NR) This Week: Wins over Albany and Tabor
NZ’s Take: Andover has been a pleasant surprise so far this season knocking off two good prep teams in Tabor and Albany. They have grinded out low scoring victories scoring just 3 goals in 2 games but giving up only 1. They have a a nice corp of 9 seniors sprinkled in with some new talent. They faceoff against Thayer which will be telling and follow that up with two Lakes Region teams in Brewster and New Hampton before heading to Flood Marr. We’ll have a much better idea about this team after this week.
14. Hotchkiss (2-0-0) Previous (NR) This Week: Wins over Gunnery and Canterbury
NZ’s Take: We have only seen this team at the Hotchkiss jamboree but were impressed with their size and goaltending. They have not allowed a goal in 2 games and had a big road win against a talented Gunnery team. It’s too early to get overly excited, but their body of work is deserving of a top 15 team. They’ll face Salisbury before heading to the Flood Marr, so a lot could change in a weeks time.
15. Tilton (3-0-0) Previous (NR) This Week: Wins over Kents Hill, Proctor and St. Pauls
NZ’s Take: Tilton is the best team you don’t know about. They have a solid group of seniors and juniors who play hard and aggressive. Their blue line is good enough and they have a talented netminder; all the making of a sleeper team. They’ll face Lakes Region rivals New Hampton and KUA this week before going to the Pingree Holiday Tournament. Both games will have major playoff implications despite being early season games.
Next Best: #16 Taft, #17 Gunnery, #18 Avon Old Farms, #19 Kent, #20 Milton
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling / Hickling Images