It’s the best time of year in Prep School Hockey – Playoff Time! Neutral Zone’s scouting staff will break down each of the upcoming playoff matchups. Our scouts have seen each team remaining multiple times and will give insider info on styles of play, key matchups in the game, and some statistics to help preview the games.
#8 Loomis Chaffee (14-5-4) @ #1 Williston Northampton (22-1-1)
Williston Northhampton: Williston comes into the playoffs with an impressive 22-1-1 record with their only loss coming in mid-December and then going on a 17-0-2 run. They are the fastest team in prep hockey and that speed creates mismatches and puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenders. They win races and they are dangerous in the transition game. Their record against D1 playoff teams is 4-1-0 and they are built for playoff hockey giving up just 24 goals on the season, including 12 shutouts. They have allowed two or less goals against in their last 22 games.
Key Players: Bryn Saarela and Christina Vote (Wisconsin) are their two best players. Saarela is a mature prospect who thinks the game and plays the game with great pace and has the versatility to create plays or finish. Vote is a small, gritty forward with great hands and speed who is dangerous around the net. Caroline DiFiore (Boston College) is a well-rounded senior who plays an honest two-way game and provides the leadership for this squad. Two seniors Kate Holmes (Northeastern), teams leading scorer, and Maura Holden (Hamilton) will be key in their playoff run providing the experience, leadership and scoring. Kate McDermott (Princeton) and Riley Roche are two younger forwards that provide depth and are emerging prospects up front and on the backend Williston is led by senior Claudia Capone (Trinity), Madison Cardaci and freshman standout Sophia Jones. Both goalies Tayah Sommer and Natalie Scott have proven themselves throughout the season.
Loomis Chaffee: Loomis started the season with a modest 3-2-3 record through the first 8 games but came back from Christmas break and went on a 12-game unbeaten streak going 11-0-1 through that stretch. They slid however in the standings in the final weeks losing their last 3 games. Loomis ranks top 5 in the league in goals per game with 3.53 average, which makes them a tough matchup because they force you to defend. They are quick, smart team who is dangerous in transition and create offense off the rush. They are 1-3-1 against D1 playoff teams but have played them all tight except for one 5-0 blowout loss to Tabor in mid-December.
Key Players: Jess Schryver (Northeastern) is their top prospect and the heart and soul of the team. She’s fast, she’s quick, she can read the whole sheet and has a scorer’s blade. Jenna Donohue (Dartmouth) has size and leverages it well to create time and space for herself and teammates by playing a hard-nosed two-way game. Anna Hurd (Brown) isn’t flashy but outworks opponents and can play in any situation which will be needed in this game. Senior Georgia Kraus (Darmouth) is another scoring threat as she’s got the speed and shifty footwork and stick to beat defenders in open ice and create scoring chances for herself and her teammates.
The Matchup: Williston is the favorite in this one and for good reason; they are deeper, they are faster and are coming off a 4-2 win against them just a week ago. With that being said, Loomis isn’t to be taken lightly; they have enough offensive talent to play with anyone. The key matchup here is Williston’s depth and speed against Loomis’ defense and goaltending. If Loomis can neutralize their speed, take away time and space they have a chance to pull off the upset, but 23 teams have tired that this season and only 1 team was successful.
#7 New Hampton (19-6-2) @ #2 Noble & Greenough (25-0-5)
Noble & Greenough: Nobles is the only undefeated team in prep hockey this season and it all comes down to their defense as they have given up the fewest goals in the league with 23 and have the lowest goals against average at 0.76. They have an amazing 13 shutouts and in 26 of their 30 games they have given up 1 or less goals against. Heading into the playoffs they have a 5-0-3 record against D1 playoff teams of which they have played every team. They beat #1 Williston, #3 Tabor, #5 Kent, #6 Andover and #7 New Hampton as well as tying #4 St. Paul’s and #8 Loomis. Nobles is a tough matchup because they are the deepest and most talented team in the league and play a poised, possession style game where they have the puck most the game while their opponents chase them around. A confident, well-coached team with a plethora of talent.
Key Players: Nobles has 12 NCAA D1 commits! Cassidy Piersiak (Brown), Katie Pyne (BC), Lily Farden (Harvard), Courtney Hyland (Harvard), Jenna MacDonald (Harvard), Kaley MacDonald (Harvard), Katie Ham (BC), Madison Michals (UVM), Maeve Connolly (Penn State), Nicole Lutschaunig (Harvard), Rose O’Connor (Harvard) and Taylor Hyland (Princeton). Not only 12 D1 commits but they are built from the goal out with one of preps best goalies in Taylor Hyland and 5 D1 commits on their blue line so they are built to keep pucks out of the net. Their top defenseman is Lily Farden (Harvard) who bring size and mobility and a complete game to the lineup and has been their anchor on the blue line all season. Up front they have 6 D1 commits and can roll 3 lines all game which allows them to have fresh legs, grind down opponents and be at their best when the game is on the line. Their top forward is Katie Pyne (BC), one of the top ‘21s in the country who has the poise and puck skill of a college player already.
New Hampton: The Huskies are one of the best offensive teams in prep hockey scoring 127 goals (1st) this season or an average of 4.7 per game (2nd). They are a talented, explosive team with 5 NCAA D1 commits and could be several more before it’s all said and done. They have a great first line both up front and, on the backend, but don’t have the depth some of the others have ranked above them. This is displayed by their 0-4-1 record against D1 playoff teams this season. That being said, this isn’t a team you can ever count out because they have the ability to score in bunches with their speed and puck possession skill and a great power play.
Key Players: New Hampton has 5 D1 commits; Lauren DeBlois (Providence), Lily Humphrey (UVM), Taze Thompson (Harvard), Mckenzie Haberl (UNH) and Anna Shelden (Brown). DeBlois is their top player; an offensive minded defenseman who can control the puck like a forward, is shut down in her own end and can stretch the ice with her passing and skating ability. Humphrey and Thompsons are well-rounded, smart/skilled hardworking forwards who are tough to play against and won’t be intimidated by Nobles. Haberl and Shelden are great skaters, they can push the pace and make plays at top speed.
The Matchup: You have to feel for Nobles a bit here in this spot; the only undefeated team in the league who has beaten the #1, #3, #5 and #7 seeds and has to play New Hampton in the first round. New Hampton is a dangerous team given their talent and goal scoring ability. These two teams actually had their first game of the season against one another where Nobles won 6-1; however, a lot has changed since then. One of these two teams will start their season and end their season with the same team. Anyways, the game will come down to Nobles team defense versus New Hamptons offense. This game showcases the league’s best defensive team who has given up the least amount of goals this season against the leagues best offensive team who has scored the most goals of any team. A great test for both teams and a great matchup.
#6 Andover (13-5-4) @ #3 Tabor (20-1-3)
Tabor: The Seawolves didn’t lose a game until February 16th and that was a 1 goal game to #2 Nobles. Their record against D1 playoff teams is 4-1-1 which shows they can win the big games. The strength of Tabor is their offensive ability; they average 4.83 goals per game and have arguably the best power play and puck movement in prep hockey. They have the skill and puck possession ability of Nobles but play with more pace and urgency. They are creative, they have a lot different players who can score and they have a versatile approach where they can create on the rush, they can make plays in transition, they can score in zone, they can throw pucks on net and attack rebounds or make highlight reel give and go’s or one-timers. They are also good in their own end giving up just 1.08 goals against per game for an average scoring margin of +3.75 (best in prep hockey). They have some talented defenseman too but in all honesty our scouts have been to several games and they haven’t really needed to defend in any of those games. A legit contender to win it all.
Key Players: Tabor has 6 NCAA D1 commits; Abigal Newhook (BC), Anne Berry (UNH), Ashley Clark (Providence), Julia Shaunessy (BU), Olivia O’Brien (Yale) and Skylar Irving (Northeastern). Irving has been their top player all year, she’s very controlled, dynamic, deliberate offensively and can really score. If Irving is the finisher than Clark is the playmaker, the selfless setup player who goes to the dirty areas and moves pucks to the right spots. O’Brien brings a speed and work ethic to the lineup and also can find teammates in scoring areas and has the skill to get them the puck.
Andover: Andover started their season with an impressive 8-1-3 record through their first 12 games but have gone 5-4-1 in the final 10 games of the season ending with a big win over rival Exeter to secure a playoff spot. They have a respectable 2-3-1 record against D1 playoff teams and were able to play #1 Williston to a tie and then lost to Nobles in a tight game the next game. They don’t have a ton of offensive firepower and rely heavily on some younger prospects up front but they have one of the best goalies in the league which keeps them in games. Solid three zone team that plays the right way and is tough to play against.
Key Players: Andover’s best player is netminder Sophia Merageas, a good-sized, athletic, composed uncommitted goalie and they have a group of freshman prospects in Rachel Neyman, Gwyneth Lapp and Indi Wagner. Most of their offense comes from the junior class with Lilian Feeney and Maddy Silveira leading the way.
The Matchup: These teams played each other in late January and Tabor won 3-1 at Andover. This game will be played at Tabor so the favorite has even more of an advantage. It will be difficult for Andover to match Tabor’s offensive ability and team skill and speed, especially with how young their roster is; but if there is a goalie in the league that can steal a big game its Andover’s Merageas. Wouldn’t count Andover out but it will be a tough matchup for them as their style isn’t overly explosive and Tabor will look to move the puck, stretch them out and use their skill and speed to create scoring chances.
#5 Kent (16-4-0) @ #4 St. Paul’s (21-2-4)
St. Paul’s: Hard to imagine that St. Paul’s is a 4 seed with only 2 losses on the season and 21 wins but the top 4 in this bracket are all very strong. They don’t have as many high-end prospects as team 1-3 but they get the most out of their players and they work really well as a team. They work hard, they are relentless on the forecheck and play a complete 200-ft game without any real holes. They are 1-2-4 against D1 playoff teams.
Key Players: Kristina Allard (Northeastern) is only a freshman but one of the best offensive defenseman in the country for ’22 and plays like a veteran anchoring the St. Paul’s backend. Gabrielle Roy (BC) is a skilled goal scorer who can make defenders miss and has a nose for the net. Another bright spot for St. Paul’s is uncommitted goalie Maddie Beck who has displayed great composure and rebound control throughout the season. A butterfly goalie who moves well laterally and willing to play the puck.
Kent: Kent enters the playoffs on a 7-game win streak including 4 shutouts. They have a 1-3-0 record against D1 playoff teams but they are playing their best hockey as of late. They are a team that doesn’t really stand out in any one area, they are solid in all facets of the game. They have good goaltending, they have a reliable defensive core and some depth up front where they can put pressure on opposing defenders and still get back in transition. In their recent streak they are averaging 5 goals per game which is what plagued them mid-season when they went 2-4-0 and were averaging just 2.5 goals per game.
Key Players: Kent has 3 NCAA D1 commits; Kiersten Goode (Yale), Julia Nearis (BU) and Catie Boudiette (Quinnipiac). Nearis is a strong skater who works well below the dots and creates lanes for herself to get pucks to the net or to her teammates. Boudiette is a good-sized talented young goalie who has the ability to steal a game and Goode is a senior and leader up front who plays hard, kills penalties and does all the little things to help her team win. Sophomore Luisa Welcke is a tireless worker with speed and vision to make plays. Her hockey IQ and goal scoring ability make her a scoring threat anytime she’s in the offensive zone.
The Matchup: These two teams have not played this year but both have only 1 win against a D1 playoff team. St. Paul’s has 4 ties and there are no ties in playoff games so it will be interesting to see if they have the killer instinct to close out games that won’t end in a tie. St. Paul’s has bit more talent but they are both solid teams with good goalies and not many holes. This will likely be a tight, low scoring game and both teams have a chance but St. Paul’s will be favored.
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images