NZ Prep Poll: Week #9

The New England Prep School league enters the regular season’s final month as teams fight for playoff positioning. The past two weeks have seen a shift in the prep poll and overall standings, with Avon gaining their first loss on the season, Holderness being knocked off twice to league rival Kimball Union, and Brunswick falling to Cushing in a neutral site game. We have also seen a few new admittances into the poll this week and a few teams fall out.

1. Avon Old Farms (18-1-1) – The Winged Beavers saw their first season loss against Frederick Gunn but responded well to beat a playoff-contending Deerfield in a tight game. They are still the only one-loss team left in prep hockey but that will be tested on Saturday as they face rival Salisbury School for the NZ Prep Game of the Week. Avon has scored three or more goals in 18 of their 20 games this season.

2. Kimball Union (23-2-0) – The Wildcats have played a lot of hockey in the last two weeks, coming off six wins over that stretch, including three against teams in the last poll (Holderness 2x and Andover). KUA has just one loss against teams eligible for the NEPHSIA playoffs, and it was their first contest of the season. Since then, they have been on an impressive run. Since Christmas break the team has played 17 games and scored a total of 106 goals in that stretch, averaging over six per game. Their wins over Holderness and Andover have proven it doesn’t matter who they play against. They can find ways to score. Right on Avon’s heels for the top team in the land.

3. Cushing Academy (22-2-0) – The Penguins are arguably the hottest teams in the league right now, having run the table in 2024 with a 14-0-0 run. They haven’t been able to move into the top three this season because they didn’t have much in the way of quality wins, but this past week, they are coming off back to back to back playoff-bound teams, including the former #3 ranked Brunswick team in a neutral ice game. Cushing is averaging 5.8 goals per game in their last ten games and allowing just nine goals against for a 0.90 GAA, including six shutouts in that period. Andover and back-to-back contests against KUA will determine their seeding in the Elite 8, but this team is practically a lock at this point.

4. St. Georges (18-3-1) – St. George’s is 9-1-0 in their last 10 games, with quality wins over Groton, Dexter, St. Marks, Rivers, and Brooks. This team could be dangerous as a road team in the first round of the Elite 8 with their depth, team speed, and goaltending. The Dragons have three tough matchups this week, all on the road, against Roxbury Latin, Tabor, and Groton. A sweep this week could help secure Elite 8 placement and could even put them in striking distance for home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

5. Brunswick (17-3-2) – Brunswick gets a bit of a raw deal here, falling two spots after losing a tight game to #3 ranked Cushing and then responding with back-to-back wins over playoff-bound teams in Frederick Gunn and Berkshire. Their resume regarding quality wins is as high as any team ranked above them, but they’ll have a tough test this week facing Salisbury, Frederick Gunn, and a stingy Taft squad.

6. Holderness School (19-3-0) – The Bulls went 2-2-0 the past two weeks with wins over Exeter and Tilton but lost twice to Lakes Region rival Kimball Union. These losses have knocked Holderness down several spots, but they may see the Wildcats again in the Lakes Region finals. Holderness has four regular season games left and then Lakes Region playoffs; they’ll need a strong finish to secure their Elite 8 placement as they face Winchendon, Vermont Academy, and St. Paul’s this week.

7. Salisbury School (15-4-1) – The Crimson Knights haven’t lost since the middle of the month against #3 ranked Cushing and are 8-0-1 in that stretch with their most recent win coming against a talented Loomis Chaffe team by a 5-1 margin. They also had wins against Kent, Berkshire, and Frederick Gunn during that time, showing they could handle any style of play. Salisbury is ranked 7th because of their record, but in regards to their talent, structure, and depth – they have all the makings of a championship roster. Their toughest week of the season is upon them as they’ll face rival and #1 ranked Avon Old Farms and #5 ranked Brunswick. This week’s outcomes will majorly affect the Elite 8 and its seeding.

8. Groton (12-5-3) – Groton has been a bit of an underdog all season but is playing their best hockey in the last few weeks, going 6-1-1 in their last eight games. They are averaging 4.25 goals per game in that stretch and have quality wins over Rivers and St. Marks. The schedule gets tougher for them in the season’s final weeks as they’ll face St. George’s, Noble & Greenough, and St. Mark’s down the stretch, but a strong run in February could put them in a solid playoff seeding.

9. St. Sebastians (16-6-1) – The Arrows are a team that is playing its best hockey here in the final month of the season, going 7-1-1 in their last nine contests. They are coming off a strong week with wins over Belmont Hill, St. Mark’s, and Lawrence Academy, all playoff-contending teams, and they beat them by a 14-6 margin. It could be a dangerous team down the stretch and facing Tabor and Governors this week to continue to improve their resume.

10. Berkshire (16-8-1) – Berkshire is a well-coached, structured hockey team that may have eight losses but an impressive 16 wins in one of the tougher schedules in prep hockey. They are 13-3-0 in 2024, with their losses coming against #1 Avon, #5 Brunswick, and #7 Salisbury. They’ll match up against Westminster and Hotchkiss this week as they are on the outside looking in for the Elite 8, but it’s not out of the question now.

Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images