November 9, 2011

Small college rankings: Norwich starts year on top

New England Hockey Journal’s preseason power rankings of
the region’s top Division 3 men’s college teams. Rankings will be updated each week during the season on hockeyjournal.com. 

1. Norwich (ECAC East)

Forward Kyle Thomas (Waltham, Mass.) of Norwich (photo: Norwich University)

Forward Kyle Thomas (Waltham, Mass.) of Norwich (photo: Norwich University)

Just two years removed from its third national championship, coach Mike McShane’s team has 20 players back from a Frozen Four squad, including seven of the top 10 scorers.

2. Middlebury (NESCAC)

The Panthers relied heavily on juniors, sophomores and freshmen a year ago, and coach Bill Beaney’s squad will be as seasoned as anyone in the NESCAC this winter.

3. Bowdoin (NESCAC)

All-American defenseman Kyle Shearer-Hardy is gone, but many players are back from an offense that managed 4.32 goals a night, fourth-best in Division 3.

4. Castleton State (ECAC East)

The Spartans have everyone but four players back from a team that
went 22-4-1. National scoring co-leader Josh Harris was a big reason they finished second in the nation in offense.

5. Salem State (MASCAC)

The MASCAC champion gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament
this season, and the Vikings will start that chase in the pole position after losing to Fitchburg State in the championship last season.

6. Curry (ECAC Northeast)

The Colonels went 16-9-3 and won the ECAC Northeast last season
with a junior-dominated roster. We like their chances of repeating.

7. Williams (NESCAC)

The Ephs have work to do to replace the departed production of Ben Contini and Matt Masucci, but Ryan Purdy in goal should keep them in games until the situation up front shakes out.

8. Plymouth State (MASCAC)

The Bobcats have finished third and third in their first two seasons in the MASCAC. This could be the year they move up.

9. Amherst (NESCAC)

Big shoes to fill in goal for the Lord Jeffs with Cole Anderson departing,
but a defense that returns largely intact will ease the transition.

10. Fitchburg State (MASCAC)

With Salem State, Plymouth State and UMass-Dartmouth, the Falcons are one of the four teams that have the strongest chance to skate off with the MASCAC’s auto bid.