Neutral Zone scouts were scattered throughout New England and New Jersey to see the Prep Holiday Tournaments. After Sunday’s games the NZ team came together to formulate a new Top 15 Rankings. We have also added some information below on winners of the Holiday Tournaments and some notes from around the league on teams who may not have made the poll but made an impression.
- Salisbury (8-2-0) Previous (#14) This Week: Wins over Albany, Deerfield, KUA, Nobles and Andover
NZ’s Take: After seeing most all teams this weekend in prep hockey, there is nobody better than the Knights of Salisbury School. This team started out with a few blemishes, particularly on the defensive side, but this week swept through not only 6 consecutive wins; but wins over quality opponents. This team has a lot of talent; they can beat teams with size and toughness, they can beat teams with depth, they can beat teams with speed and have a plethora of playmakers and goal scorers. Although they had some close games on the score sheet at Flood Marr, they were fairly dominate in each of their games in what proved to be the most competitive field of the prep tournaments. There is a lot of hockey left to be played this season, but these guys are the team to beat.
- Dexter (4-1-1) Previous (#9) This Week: Wins over Culver, Cushing and Proctor
NZ’s Take: Dexter has only one loss on the season to Nobles and were able to run through the LA/Groton Tournament unscathed with 3 wins over quality opponents Culver, Cushing and Proctor outscoring them 12-3 without their best player John Farinacci who is injured. This group is young but they have a lot of speed and skill and should only get better as the season goes on. Mullahy between the pipes makes them the most complete team in the league top to bottom.
- Gunnery (7-2-1) Previous (#13) This Week: Wins over St. Pauls, Loomis Chaffee, Trinity Pawling. Tie to Kent
NZ’s Take: Since their loss to Exeter on 12/2, Gunnery is 6-0-1 with most of those games coming against .500+ teams. This team is versatile; they can play hard and fast, they can play physical and tough to play against and they find ways to score goals. They are coming off a win at the Avon Holiday Tournament with a win over a gutsy St. Paul’s team and both their losses this season come against teams in the Top 15.
- Lawrence Academy (3-0-3) Previous (#4) This Week: Ties with Culver, Cushing and Groton
NZ’s Take: Lawrence is the only team left in prep without a loss on the season. With that being said, they weren’t able to move up the poll because one of their ties comes against an unaffiliated team in Culver and the other two ties to Cushing and Groton are both unranked opponents. This team has a lot of potential and should be there in the end but doesn’t seem to have the killer instinct yet that will be needed to win big games. No signature win on the schedule yet and low RPI ranking.
- Deerfield (6-2-0) Previous (#3) This Week: Wins over KUA and Hotchkiss; Losses to Salisbury and Nobles
NZ’s Take: Deerfield had the toughest schedule of anyone this week playing 4 straight ranked opponents at Flood Marr Tournament. They started out the week with loses to Nobles and Salisbury (both 4-1); however, rebounded nicely to beat KUA in overtime on a great come from behind victory and then took it to the previous #1 ranked Hotchkiss 6-2 on the final day. Deerfield doesn’t have a star-studded lineup like the teams above them; but they are balanced. Tough to play against, good size, they have enough skill to make some plays and a talented goalie. Not sure the upside of this team yet but a split 2-2 against this competition is promising for a playoff run.
- St. Sebastian’s (5-2-0) Previous (#15) This Week: Wins over Brooks, Winchendon, Albany and Northwood
NZ’s Take: Watching St. Sebastian’s win their holiday tournament showed what the team is capable of as Northwood is a talented, older team. The Arrows are led by NHL Draft prospect Jayden Struble but they have several D1 prospects and commits and depth at every position. Goaltending is a question mark and the road will get tougher for the Arrows before it gets easier but heading into Christmas they are one of the hottest teams in prep hockey with the talent to back it up.
- Tilton (8-1-0) Previous (#5) This Week: Wins over NYA, Pingree and Berwick. Loss to Millbrook
NZ’s Take: Tilton falls slightly in this week’s poll after losing to Millbrook in the Brooks-Pingree Holiday Tournament. They won their other three games but the only ranked team they faced beat them 4-1. Tilton’s strength of schedule doesn’t rival that of the teams ranked above them so while Millbrook is their only loss, they don’t play 10 more ranked teams for a chance to move them up the list. Proctor win on the road is looking better and better but KUA win is also looking less impressive after they went 2-2-0 over the weekend.
- Kimball Union (7-2-0) Previous (#7) This Week: Wins over Nobles and Milton, Losses to Salisbury and Deerfield
NZ’s Take: KUA is not playing its best hockey right now as evidenced by their 2-3-0 record in their last 5 games. However, it is important to note all three of their losses were against ranked opponents. They lost to Deerfield and blew a lead late in the game, but were the better team for most of the game, they handled Nobles which is another ranked team and had chances to beat Salisbury so while the wins weren’t there, they are close. Losses came against the #1 team and the #5 team in the poll.
- Exeter (7-2-1) Previous (#6) This Week: Wins over New Hampton and Hoosac; Loss to Governors
NZ’s Take: Exeter doesn’t play in a holiday tournament but they still managed to get 3 games in; however they fell to a sub .500 Governors squad at home which takes them down a peg. Exeter has a lot going for them, they have depth offensively, they have size defensively and a quality, experienced goaltender. A minor set back but have all the pieces to make a run and their win over St. Sebastian’s and tie against Dexter on the road are looking better and better as they both won their Holiday tournaments this weekend.
- Andover (8-2-0) Previous (#11) This Week: Wins over Groton, Westminster, Hotchkiss, Milton; Loss to Salisbury
NZ’s Take: Andover was on a 6-game win streak before losing in the Flood Marr finals to #1 ranked Salisbury in a one-goal game where they clawed back in the third period. Andover is the real deal; they don’t have the depth as some of the teams above them but they compete hard, they play the game the right way, they have strong goaltending and their top line is producing consistently. When they return from break they’ll play two gutsy Lakes Region squads in Proctor and Tilton then will play Exeter and Dexter the following week. How they get out of that stretch will likely determine if they are an Elite 8 team or not.
- Nobles & Greenough (5-3-0) Previous (#2) This Week: Win over Deerfield, Losses to Salisbury, KUA, Westminster
NZ’s Take: This was a tough week for Nobles who opened up the Flood Marr with a win over #5 Deerfield but lost the next three games to finish 1-3-0 for the week. With that being said, their losses came against an underrated Westminster team, #1 Salisbury and #8 KUA. Despite the losses this week, they have wins over 2 teams in the Top 5 so their record is better than it gets credit for and 4 of their 8 games have been against teams ranked in the top 10. They very well could be there in the end; they are a good skating team, they have balance, skill and good goaltending. They were without Stevens this weekend who would have made a difference.
- Northfield Mount Hermon(5-2-0) Previous (#12) This Week: Wins over Canterbury, Nichols, Lawrenceville; Loss to Taft
NZ’s Take: NMH walked out of the Lawrenceville Tournament with 3 wins over quality opponents and a loss to the tournament champions Taft. The score was 4-1 Taft but it was a pretty even game overall and NMH had chances to win. They move their record to 5-2-0 with their only losses coming to #5 ranked Deerfield and #19 ranked Taft. They’ll return from Christmas break to play in the Cushing Tournament which will go a long way in showing what kind of team this is and if they have Elite 8 potential or not.
- Millbrook(5-2-1) Previous (NR) This Week: Wins over Tilton, Pingree, NYA; Tie to New Hampton
NZ’s Take: Millbrook slides into the poll for the first time after winning the Brooks-Pingree Holiday tournament in a shootout against New Hampton. This is a team that has two quality wins over top 10 teams in Salisbury and Tilton and only one loss against NEPSHIA competition. While Brooks-Pingree tournament isn’t the Flood Marr in regards to talent pool; but three of their wins came against teams with .500 records or better. They have their work cut out for them with a difficult remaining schedule but a great start to the season capped off by a holiday tournament win.
- Hotchkiss (5-3-0) Previous (#1) This Week: Win over Milton; Losses to Westminster, Andover and Deerfield
NZ’s Take: Hotchkiss had quite a fall, similar to Nobles, entering the Flood Marr undefeated and going 1-3-0 in 4 games. However, important to note that two of those losses were against teams ranked in the poll and the other was to a Westminster team on the rise. Hotchkiss’ wins against Gunnery and Salisbury who won arguably the two toughest Holiday Tournaments look better and better as the season goes on so despite a tough week, their resume still looks impressive. They have relied heavily on goaltender Henry Wilder who had 3 shutouts and allowed just 3 goals against in 5 games heading into Saturday night at Flood Marr and came back to earth over the next 3 games letting up 10 goals against.
- Avon Old Farms (6-2-1) Previous (NR) This Week: Wins over Berkshire, Tabor, Kent; Tie to St. Paul’s
NZ’s Take: Avon is a talented team; they lost in a shootout to St. Paul’s but finished the week unbeaten in regulation and improved to a 6-2-1 record with their sole losses against #5 Deerfield and Williston Northampton which was the first game of the season. They have an abundance of speed and young talent which will bode well for them as the season goes on and they get more experience. Inconsistent at this point in the season, but they have more upside than most teams ranked above them.
Next Best: #16 Taft, #17 Proctor, #18 Cushing, #19 St. Paul’s, #20 Westminster
Holiday Tournament Winners:
Flood Marr: Salisbury, defeated Andover
Avon Old Farms: Gunnery, defeated St. Paul’s
LA/Groton: Dexter, defeated Proctor
Lawrenceville: Taft, defeated Choate
Barber: St. Marks, defeated Middlesex
Brooks-Pingree: Millbrook, defeated New Hampton
Teams Outside the Top 15 who made an impression this week:
- Kent is the best .500 team in prep hockey; they have had a daunting schedule thus far and all four losses have come against team in the Top 15.
- Mark’s has 6 straight wins and their only two losses were to St. Sebs and Proctor. They will get better as the season goes on and are a legit Small School competitor.
- Taft lost to Canterbury on opening night but responded with 3 straight victories to capture the Lawrenceville Tournament Finals win. They sit at 4-3-0 with their 3 losses coming against #1 Salisbury, #15 Avon and Canterbury.
- Proctor has 6 wins on the season and 3 losses; those loses were against #2 Dexter, #8 KUA and #7 Tilton. They haven’t beaten a ranked opponent yet, but wins over St. Paul’s (runner up in the Avon Tournament) and St. Marks (winner of Barber Tournament) are looking better and better. Leads prep hockey in goals for.
- Paul’s had a strong showing at the Avon Holiday Tournament and their goaltender Andy Beran is deserving as one of the top goalies in the league. They gave up just 4 goals against over 4 games; two of which were against ranked opponents.
- Westminster is a sneaky good team. They have a 4-3-1 record but won 3 games in a talented Flood Marr field including a 5-3 win over Nobles and 3-0 win over Hotchkiss who are both ranked teams.
- Albany is better than their record indicates. They are sub .500 but their three losses against NEPSHIA competition have been against Andover, Salisbury and St. Sebastian’s; all ranked opponents. They had a nice win over Williston Northampton and almost pulled off the upset against St. Sebastian’s.
- Rivers slipped from the poll after going 1-2-0 on the week, but they have a hard-working team with a lot of talent on the blue line. They’ll be a contender as the season goes on as they are a bit young and still figuring it out.
- Choate who hadn’t won a game going into the Lawrenceville Tournament defeated two solid teams in Belmont Hill and Lawrenceville for a trip to the finals. They ultimately lost to Taft 5-0, but a nice showing nonetheless.
- The idea that Milton, because they have only 1 win in 8 games, is a bad team is false. In those 8 games they have played 5 teams ranked in the top 15 and lost them all. They are certainly not what they were last year and will have a tough time putting together a playoff run, but this is a decent team who has just had a really tough schedule to star the season.