Our week #7 Prep Poll saw a few new faces with Proctor and Westminster making their debuts. A few of the returning teams made significant jumps forward including NMH from 11th to 5th and St. Sebastian’s from 13th to 7th. Salisbury keeps their rightful place at the top of the poll followed by Lawrence, KUA and Dexter which are, by most observers, the 4 most talented teams in the league. As we head into February this week, games will start to have major playoff implications.
1. Salisbury (17-2-0) Previous (#1) This Week: Wins over Berkshire and Gunnery
NZ’s Take: Salisbury has now won 15 straight with their last loss coming on December 5, 2018. The Knights have averaged 7 goals per game in their last 8 contests. They are undefeated against ranked opponents and the toughest part of their schedule is behind them. The team to beat in New England.
2. Lawrence (10-0-6) Previous (#3) This Week: Wins over Governors and Tabor, Tie to Dexter
NZ’s Take: Lawrence continues it’s unbeaten streak to 16 games with 10 wins and 6 ties. They are coming off a quality 1-1 tie to Dexter. What is possibly more impressive is that through the first 16 games Lawrence has never given up more than 3 goals against in a game and they’ve only done that 5 times. Therefore 11 of their 16 contests they’ve given up 2 goals against or less. Depth, talent and balance. Lawrence has all the components to make a run in the Elite 8.
3. Kimball Union (18-4-0) Previous (#4) This Week: Wins over Exeter and Tilton
NZ’s Take: Kimball Union is on a roll winning 12 of their last 13 games including a pair of wins this past week against ranked opponents. KUA in that stretch has been averaging 1.23 goals against average. If the adage defense wins championships, don’t count out the Wildcats for a three-peat in the Elite 8. They have 3 tests upcoming this week against NMH, Holderness and New Hampton.
4. Dexter (12-3-4) Previous (#6) This Week: Win over St. Georges and Tie to Lawrence
NZ’s Take: Dexter has given up just 2 goals against in the past 5 games and the team is 6-0-2 in their last 8 contests. Farinacci is back off injury ready to make a strong playoff push for the Elite 8 as they face Pomfret, Exeter and Andover this upcoming week.
5. Northfield Mount Hermon (14-4-1) Previous (#11) This Week: Wins over Tilton and Worcester and Tie to Cushing
NZ’s Take: NMH continues to climb the prep poll this week after defeating Tilton and getting a tie against Cushing. They are a gritty team, tough to play against and they have a balanced attack. They have given up just 8 goals against in the last 7 games. They have a big matchup this week against KUA but the schedule softens up after that until mid-February. A lot will depend on the next 10 games but NMH could make an Elite 8 run.
6. Gunnery (15-4-1) Previous (#2) This Week: Loss to Salisbury, Win over Hill School.
NZ’s Take: Gunnery has taken a step back after an impressive 14 game unbeaten streak and has suffered 2 losses in the past 2 league games. This week they faced #1 ranked Salisbury and were dominated in a 8-3 loss at their home rink. They rebounded nicely against Hill School. They will have a good schedule remaining full of .500 teams that will only help them secure an Elite 8 playoff spot and they have enough depth to make a run in the end.
7. St. Sebastian’s (12-4-0) Previous (#13) This Week: Win over Nobles & Greenough and Thayer
NZ’s Take: St. Sebastian’s has been a bit of an up and down team throughout the season but this week they picked up two important victories over crosstown rivals Thayer and Nobles. The Arrows are 10-2-0 in their last 12 games and they can beat teams in a variety of ways. 3 of their next 5 games are against ranked opponents so they’ll have ample opportunity to prove themselves Elite 8 capable or not.
8. Westminster (9-4-2) Previous (NR) This Week: Wins over Avon, Deerfield and Kent
NZ’s Take: Westminster is a team that showed well at the Flood Marr but has really taken a step forward since going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Their only loss in that stretch was to #1 Salisbury. They are averaging nearly 4 goals for in that stretch and have quality wins over Avon, Deerfield and Kent in their last 3. Tough schedule ahead so they’ll have their hands full in trying to grab a spot in the Elite 8 shuffle.
9. Andover (12-5-1) Previous (#8) This Week: Wins over Winchendon and Loomis
NZ’s Take: Andover was battling injuries after the Holiday tournaments but is back in form and put up two victories this week over Winchendon and Loomis. They are on a 3-game winning streak where they are averaging nearly 6 goals for. The week prior they were riding a 3-game losing streak where they scored just 1 goal in 3 games. Looks like Andover is turning it around as they head into their playoff push. They have a tough upcoming stretch where they’ll face Deerfield, Dexter and KUA in their next 4 games. How they fair in those games will have major playoff implications not only for them but the teams they face.
10. Exeter (13-5-2) Previous (#10) This Week: Wins over Berwick and Cushing, Loss to Kimball Union
NZ’s Take: Exeter has won 6 of their last 7 games with their only loss coming to #3 ranked KUA. They have allowed an average of 1 goal against in that span. Their next 3 games are at home against ranked opponents in Tilton, Proctor and Dexter. The outcome of those games will go a long way in determining if Exeter is an Elite 8 contender or not. Their most recent win against Cushing should give them momentum heading into this important upcoming week.
11. St. Paul’s (12-5-1) Previous (#14) This Week: Wins over Berwick and Belmont Hill
NZ’s Take: St. Paul’s is 9-2-1 in their previous 12 games and in that time they’ve beaten 3 ranked teams. They are finding different ways to win games, they have excellent goaltending and play a disciplined defensive game but they are scoring almost 4 goals a game over the past 12 games. They have a tough road ahead having Lawrence, St. Sebastian’s, Thayer and Cushing remaining on the schedule.
12. Tilton (15-4-0) Previous (#7) This Week: Win over New Hampton, Losses to KUA and NMH
NZ’s Take: Tilton has compiled an impressive 15 wins this season with some impressive victories to hang their hat on but they have fallen in the rankings due to back to back losses against ranked opponents in KUA and NMH. Tilton is on the outside looking in for a spot in the Elite 8, but the Lakes Region up and coming program will almost certainly make a playoff spot.
13. Deerfield (10-6-1) Previous (#9) This Week: Losses to Westminster and Hotchkiss
NZ’s Take: Deerfield is 0-2-1 in their previous 3 games which has led to a slide in the standings but they have arguably the toughest schedule in prep hockey at this point and have still compiled 10 wins. Of the teams 8 remaining games, none of them are going to be easy so Deerfield has quite a test ahead but if they can win a high percentage of those games then they could surprise people and make and Elite 8 push.
14. Proctor (14-6-1) Previous (NR) This Week: Wins over Vermont Academy and Roxbury Latin
NZ’s Take: Proctor has a strong resume with 14 wins including a win over ranked St. Paul’s. They have 3 remaining games against ranked opponents starting with St. Sebastian’s this week. The team makes its poll debut this season but the high powered offensive Hornets are finding ways to win games and are 6-1-1 in their previous 8 contests.
15. Avon Old Farms (11-5-1) Previous (#5) This Week: Win over Choate, Loss to Loomis and Westminster
NZ’s Take: Avon took quite a step back in the past two weeks going 2-3-0 in that span; but the Winged Beavers face ranked opponents in 4 out of their next 5 games and can turn their Elite 8 fate around starting with Westminster on the road.
Next Best: #16 Rivers, #17 Nobles & Greenough, #18 Hotchkiss, #19 Kent, #20 Cushing
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images