Avon Takes over Top Spot in NZ Prep Poll

Over 100 games were played this past weekend across New England in Holiday Tournaments which has reset the landscape heading into Christmas break. Avon has moved up from #2 to #1 after winning the Avon Christmas Classic while three teams fell out of the poll. Below is our most recent poll, based on team performance through the first few weeks of the season and NOT a forward-looking projection of how the season will end up.

1. Avon Old Farms (9-0-0-0) – Avon Old Farms went into one of the most competitve holiday tournaments and ran the table en route to capturing the finals with a win over ranked Loomis. They are one of two undefeated teams in prep with two victories over ranked opponents putting the Winged Beavers comfortably at #1 in Prep. They also hold the best scoring margin in the league with an impressive 43 goals for and just 8 goals against.

2. Cushing Academy (5-0-3) – The Penguins are the only other undefeated team left in Prep so far this season coming off a convincing sweep at the LA/Groton Holiday Tournament where they defeated rival Lawrence Academy, Holderness and Dexter. While they haven’t yet beaten a ranked opponent; their wins against Holderness (2-loss), Hill School (William Barber Tournament Champions) and Dexter are all quality wins. Landan Resendes and Ethan Gardula continue to prove to be one of the best one-two punches in the league.

3. Milton Academy (6-1-1) – Milton went from unranked in the previous poll to winning the prestigious Flood Marr Holiday Tournament over a highly competitive field. They defeated Andover and Deerfield, then a 1-1 tie before defeating former #1 KUA in the final. They allowed just two goals against in the four game tournament and have just one loss on the season. They don’t play again until the new year and have a tough slate over their next three games facing Belmont Hill, Tilton and Tabor Academy.

4. Tilton (9-1-0) – Tilton is coming off their first ever Brooks/Pingree Holiday Tournament Championship and riding a 9-game win streak. Their only loss came on the first game of the season against prep affiliate Stanstead. Having not lost a single NEPSHIA game through their first 9 matchups, the only knock would be that their strength of schedule hasn’t been stellar. However, they have two wins against winning teams Holderness and Millbrook. Tilton will have a great test when they return from break facing #3 Milton and #9 KUA.

5. Tabor (6-1-1) – The Seawolves are the highest ranked team in the poll that did not win a Holiday Tournament; however, they have just 1 loss on the season and that came against #1 ranked Avon Old Farms. Not only that, they have wins over quality teams in Kent and Frederick Gunn as well as a tie against ranked Nobles & Greenough. They are one of the toughest teams in the league to play against, have secondary scoring and depth up and down the lineup.

6. Nobles & Greenough (6-1-1) – Nobles 3-1-0 in the Flood Marr which is impressive including a win over former #1 ranked KUA. They have had one of the tougher strength of schedules thus far and have met the task with a tie against #5 Tabor, win over #9 KUA as well as quality wins over Belmont Hill, Westminster and Dexter. Averagine over 4 goals per game of offense and just under two goals against makes Nobles a real threat in the second half; especially with star netminder Thatcher Bernstein between the pipes.

7. St. George’s (7-1-0) – The Dragons are off to a great start with 7 wins and just 1 loss despite losing to affiliate team Wyoming Seminary for their first loss off the season in their Holiday Tournament. They have just one win over a team with a winning record but the second half of the season gets tough for them with a run of road games and then ranked opponents later in the month of January. A team to keep an eye on.

8. Salisbury (6-2-1) – The eye test would say Salisbury is probably the #2 team in prep hockey but they came into Flood Marr with 2 losses. They would then go undefeated 3-0-1 with a tie to #3 Milton, whom they outplayed most of the game. They don’t have a signature win on the books yet but keep in mind last season the Knights were 5-4-0 coming out of Flood Marr and went on to capture their 6th Elite 8 Championship under Andrew Will. They have the best defensive core in the league and if they can find more ways to score, they’ll be a legit threat to repeat going forward.

9. Kimball Union (7-2-0) – The Wildcats were ranked #1 going into the Holiday Tournaments and at times looked the part making it to the Flood Marr finals against Milton but seemed to struggle in the tight games. They haven’t beaten a ranked team yet but they have the offensive firepower and depth to hang with anyone. They’ll need to tighten up a bit defensivley to play against the top teams but they are a talented roster ranking 5th in total offense in the league. They’ll return from break to play in the True Cup at Merrimack against some of the other top Prep/U18 programs in the country.

10. Loomis Chaffee (6-2-1) – Loomis didn’t have their best showing at the Avon Christmas Classic but still managed to get to the Championship game where they lost to home team Avon. He has two quality wins on their resume beating Frederick Gunn and winner of the St. Sebastian’s Holiday Tournament Brunswick and one of their two losses came against #1 ranked Avon. They are averaging just 1.88 goals against which is a winning formula and when their offense is firing they are tough team to beat.

Honorable Mentions: Holderness, Belmont Hill, St. Mark’s, Frederick Gunn, Taft

Photo Credit: Dan Hickling / Hickling Images