NZ scouts were spread throughout New England at nearly all the holiday tournaments to see over 75% of the prep teams play. There were a lot of upsets and great games along the way which has shaken up the prep poll for this week.
NZ Prep Poll Week #3
1. Kimball Union (8-0-1)
2. Noble & Greenough (7-0-1)
3. Avon Old Farms (8-1-0)
4. Belmont Hill (6-0-1)
5. Holderness (7-0-0)
6. Cushing (6-1-1)
7. Kent (7-3-0)
8. Dexter (5-2-1)
9. Milton (5-2-1)
10. Brunswick (5-2-1)
Honorable Mention: St. Sebastian’s, Westminster, Frederick Gunn, St. Mark’s
Hard to make an argument against KUA, they remain undefeated with wins over Salisbury, #7 Kent, Westminster and a tie against #9 Milton. This team has no obvious holes, they are big, strong, physical, fast and deep. The most talented team we saw this weekend and arguably the best coached as well and they can beat you in different ways. Their only hicup was the start of their game against Milton where they got down in a 2-0 hole but climbed out of it in Milton’s home rink and outplayed them down the stretch to get the tie and almost the win.
2. Noble & Greenough
This team is young and while they may not blow you away on the eye test; they have as good a resume as anyone in the league with a Flood Marr title, a tie against #4 Belmont Hill and wins over #8 Dexter and bubble teams Milton and Salisbury. They have arguably the best goalie in prep hockey and have excellent team speed that never lets up and a consistent, high energy, high pace approach.
3. Avon Old Farms
The Winged Beavers have just one loss so far this season and that came in the Christmas Tournament finals in overtime. They are up there with KUA in regards to talent, they have a hot goalie, a strong defensive core and three lines up front who can all score goals and create. A legit contender this year down the stretch.
4. Belmont Hill
New Head Coach Brian Phinney has turned this program around in short order with an undefeated record heading into Christmas break. They may not have a resume of the teams above them yet but their tie against Nobles is looking better and better and they are coming off a championship in the Lawrenceville Holiday Tournament beating a good Nichols team. They also blew out a talented NMH team that is 7-3-0 at the break. They have two good goalies, they are big on the backend and have speed and skill up front. They should be favorites heading into their Holiday Tournament later in the month.
5. Holderness School
Like Belmont Hill, Holderness doesn’t quite have the resume of the top 3, nor do they have any wins over Top 10 opponents but they are 7-0-0 heading into the break winning their division at LA/Groton Holiday Tournament. They don’t have a juggernaut of a schedule when they return home from break and could continue to pile on wins throughout January but come Frebruary they’ll have no shortage of tests as they’ll face KUA twice, Exeter and Tilton in a 10 day stretch. This is a fast team, they play hard, they play dicisplined, they’ve had good goaltending up to this point, and they have a mobile backend and a deep forward group that can roll three lines all game.
6. Cushing Academy
Cushing didn’t play their best hockey this weekend but as a sign of good teams they still won close games beating Thayer in overtime, beating Lawrence 1-0 and then narrowly losing to #8 Dexter 3-2; a team they had beaten earlier this season. Cushing has a lot of pieces; they have a stellar netminder, they have a mobile and skilled defensive core and up front they have some speedy,skill guys and they have some big, strong power forwards that all compliment eachother well. It’s a well-balanced, talented team that can beat anyone in the league. They didn’t have their strongest showing this weekend and got bumped down a few pegs on this weeks poll.
7. Kent School
Kent won the Avon Christmas tournament which along with Flood Marr is the the toughest tournament on the wekend. They went unbeaten and knocked off #3 Avon in their home barn in overtime. A well-coached team that is disciplined, they have depth at every position and play hard and within a structure. They are the hottest team in the league right now on a 5-game win streak against a really tough schedule in Salisbury, Loomis, Gunnery, Trinity Pawling and Avon. The only thing keeping them down here at 7 is their 3 losses earlier in the season as every team above them has just 1 loss or less.
8. Dexter School
Dexter took a few lumps early in the season but appear to be firing on all cylinders after winning their division at LA/Groton Holiday tournament with convincing wins over Thayer and Lawrence and a tight win against #6 Cushing. As noted in earlier write ups, this team doesn’t have the star power of some previous Dexter rosters but they are bigger and stronger and have more grit to them as a whole. They are a good skating team, they won races to pucks all week long and got the offense going with 17 goals in 3 games here. They do have two losses on the season but both came against ranked teams in #6 Cushing (who they avenged this weekend) and #2 Noble & Greenough.
9. Milton Academy
Quite an impressive run unranked Milton made this past weekend with wins over Hotchkiss and Westminster and a tie against #1 KUA to make their way to the Flood Marr finals where they fell to #2 Nobles 2-1. They don’t have a prolific offense or a big haulking defensive unit; they win games by outworking their opponents, outskating their opponents and with great coaching and discipline. Milton is going to be a tough team to beat regardless of the matchup; they can play with speed, they can play with physicality, they can lock it up in the neutral zone and showed well on both special teams units.
10. Brunswick School
The 10th spot is always the most difficult; their were strong arguments for St. Mark’s who lost in the finals in their home tournament; Westminster who is very similar to Milton and has just two losses both against ranked opponents and Brunswick. Brunswick got the nod as they made it to the finals of the St. Sebastian’s Holiday Tournament and lost in a shootout to Northwood. They won a great game against St. Sebastian’s in the semi-finals which ultimately earned them the bottom #10 spot and remain one of the top 2-loss teams in prep. Noteworthy both losses were on the road, one against #7 Kent and one against honorable mention Westminster.
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images