January 1, 2013

Division 3 Journal: Babson, Amherst head to 2013 on roll

By Mike Zhe

Defenseman Ryan Heavey (Andover, Mass.) helped Babson enter 2013 on a roll. (Photo: Babson College Athletics)

Collectively, the last weekend of 2012 was a light one for New England teams, most of which don’t return to action after their holiday breaks until this week.

But for those who did play, it was a great chance to make final statements before the old year was out.

And make them, they did.

Take Babson, for instance. Already on a five-game win streak to close the first semester, the surging Beavers went to Middlebury and clipped the 14th-ranked Panthers, 2-1, in the first round of the Middlebury Classic on Sunday.

On New Year’s Eve, junior Connor Berto scored two goals, including the game-winner, as Babson knocked off No. 12 Manhattanville, 3-2, to claim the tourney title. Junior defenseman Ben Kravitz and freshman goalie Jamie Murray (Scituate, Mass.) joined Berto, the tournament MVP, on the All-Tournament team.

The Beavers (7-2-2, 3-2-1 ECAC East) return to action on Saturday with an anticipated game against MASCAC frontrunner Plymouth State.

Or how about Amherst? The Lord Jeffs continue to play strong defense and get great goaltending. They beat Elmira (5-1) and No. 9 Plattsburgh (3-2) to win the Cardinal Classic in Plattsburgh, N.Y., over the weekend.

In the opener, Belmont Hill product Dave Cunningham got the nod in net and made 31 saves while allowing just one goal. In three games backing up Nathan Corey, the freshman has a 0.99 goals-against average and .962 save percentage.

A night later, leading scorer Mike Rowbotham set up a pair of goals as the Jeffs jumped ahead of Plattsburgh 3-0, with Corey making 26 saves to preserve the win.

Conference play resumes in the NESCAC this weekend, with several intriguing match-ups on tap. In the MASCAC, ECAC East and ECAC Northeast, it’s another weekend of non-conference action before plunging back into their league slates.

Happy New Year … for Babson and Amherst, especially.

Game of the Week

Bowdoin at Amherst, Friday, 7 p.m.

The Polar Bears, one of two unbeatens left in Division 3 – with Norwich -- put their unbeaten record on the line at Amherst, one of the team’s chasing them in the NESCAC standings.

Bowdoin has been idle since winning at Tufts and Conn. College Dec. 7-8.

New England Division 3 Power Rankings

1. Norwich (10-0, 7-0 ECAC East)

Back to work for the top-ranked Cadets, who welcome Conn. College, Neumann and UMass-Dartmouth Northfield Bank tourney Friday and Saturday.

2. Bowdoin (9-0-1, 5-0-1 NESCAC)

Month-long layoff ends this weekend for the Polar Bears, who were playing as well as anyone in the country when they entered it.

3. Amherst (7-3-1, 4-2 NESCAC)

Only Norwich is allowing fewer goals per game in Division 3 than the Lord Jeffs (1.45 a game).

4. Plymouth State (8-3, 5-1 MASCAC)

Panthers came up empty at the Pathfinder Bank Classic, getting handled by host and No. 2 Oswego (6-2) and then seeing a third-period lead slip away in 4-3 loss to Castleton in consolation.

5. Babson (7-2-2, 3-2-1 ECAC East)

Murray leads all Division 3 freshman goalies in GAA (1.74) and save percentage (.937).

6. Williams (6-2, 5-1 NESCAC)

Goalie Sean Dougherty (.939 save percentage) looking to build on strong first half for the Cardiac Ephs.

7. UMass-Boston (7-2-1, 3-2-1 ECAC East)

Not many players have been more productive from the blueline than junior defenseman Rob Florentino of West Roxbury, Mass. (3-12-15).

8. Trinity (5-3-1, 2-1-1 NESCAC)

First rough weekend of the season for the Bantams, who lost to Nichols (5-3) and Becker (3-0) in non-conference play.

9. Middlebury (4-4-2, 3-1-2 NESCAC)

Panthers managed just three goals in losses to Babson (2-1) and Wentworth (3-2) in Middlebury Classic this weekend.

10. Nichols (8-4, 3-2 ECAC Northeast)

Bison have won four of six – including Saturday’s 5-3 win over Trinity -- and seem to be hitting stride under first-year coach Kevin Swallow (Peru, Maine).

Mike Zhe can be reached at mzhe@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeZhe603.