February 13, 2014

Prep Journal: Healthy Nobles is returning to form

By Arielle Aronson

With a healthy roster, Miles Wood and Nobles are back in a familiar place, atop the Keller Division standings and ready to make a run at the Elite 8 Tournament. (Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

Nobles tends to be one of the fixtures in prep hockey’s Elite 8 tournament, but when selection time came around last season, the Bulldogs were dressing 11-12 players per game and were way out of contention for a tournament spot thanks to an 11-15-1 record.

One year later, it’s a different story. Nobles sits atop the Keller Division standings in the ISL, and the Bulldogs’ 17-5-1 record puts them in serious contention for an Elite 8 tournament spot.

According to coach Brian Day, the biggest factor in Nobles’ success so far is health, but the Bulldogs also feature a trio of junior forwards and a pair of elite defensemen who create a dynamic offensive attack with a strong defensive base for Nobles.

Leading the way is Miles Wood, the oldest of those three junior forwards as a ’95 birthdate and a Brown University commit. Wood is one of the best scorers in the region with 43 points (25 goals, 18 assists) in 23 games. He is joined on what Day considers one of his two top lines by Cody Todesco, a ’96 birthdate with 30 points (seven goals, 23 assists) in 23 games.

Then there is Cal Burke, a Notre Dame commit and the youngest of those three juniors with a ’97 birthdate. Burke centers the other top line and has 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists) in 23 games.

The effect all three can have on a game tends to be a difference-maker for Nobles. In a 5-3 win over Milton Academy last Saturday, Wood and Todesco both enjoyed three-point games while Burke earned two assists. Wood scored the game-winning goal.  

A look at most of Nobles’ wins reveal the same trend; Wood, Todesco and Burke all put up multi-point games with one of the three typically recording the game-winner. But the trio provide more than just clutch goals.

“They’ve created a lot of offense, and they’re also very responsible defensively,” Day said. “They do a good job managing the puck, not turning pucks over on dangerous parts of the ice. They come back hard to the net and take care of our defensive zone well.”

In addition to a dynamic offense, Nobles has one of the best defensive cores in prep hockey. Junior defenseman Billy Sweezey (a Yale commit) and senior defenseman J.C. Brassard are responsible in their own end and also show a proclivity to jumping up on the play, as both average over a point per game this year.

“That’s one of the things I’ve seen as the season has progressed is really a coordinated attack,” Day said. “Once we’re in the offensive zone, our forwards are doing a really good job of incorporating our D offensively. We’ve got guys who can do it and guys who like to do it, so we’re able to generate a lot of offense from that.”

With playmakers all over the ice, Nobles has proven a tough team to beat this year. They wins against teams like Thayer, Berkshire, Belmont Hill and Rivers on their resume, and those will be key come tournament selection time. When Nobles does lose, it’s usually against a quality opponent. Four of their five Bulldog losses this year came against Top 10 teams, and three of those four losses were virtually one-goal games.

The Bulldogs have won 11 of 13 games since the start of the 2014 calendar year, so it makes sense when Day claims his team is playing its best hockey at the moment. With four games remaining in the regular season, it’s a good time for Nobles to be hitting its stride.

Day’s claim is not quite as good news for Belmont Hill coach Jeremiah McCarthy, whose squad will face Nobles on Friday as they seek revenge for their 7-3 loss to the Bulldogs earlier this season.

McCarthy, like Day, said the Bulldogs’ depth in all areas of the ice makes them one of the toughest opponents in prep hockey.

“They’re getting excellent performances by their best players,” McCarthy said. “Five-on-five, they roll out as a unit that you really, it’s very hard to manage to be honest because they have such talent. They’re physically relevant and they play very well together, so that’s a team that really gave us headaches the first time through. They ran away from us, so we’re very excited to get them again.”

Game of the Week

Kent at Berkshire, Monday, Feb. 17 at 5:45 p.m.

The Bears are a fringe team for the Elite 8 tournament, and a win in this late season matchup against a top team could push Berkshire over the edge.

Prep Power Rankings

  1. Kent School (16-2-1) – The Lions suffered their first loss since Dec. 8 when they dropped last Friday’s game against Loomis-Chaffee, 5-4.

  2. Salisbury School (16-1-4) – The Smith twins helped the Knights to two one-goal wins last week, as Mitchell scored an overtime game-winning goal against Taft Tuesday while Evan recorded four assists in a 4-3 win over Cushing Sunday.  

  3. Phillips Exeter (19-3-2) – Senior goaltender Jack Parsons earned a shutout in two of Exeter’s last three games.

  4. Thayer Academy (18-4-0) – After dropping a 5-3 contest to Belmont Hill last Friday, Thayer responded with a 10-1 win over Lawrence Academy on Saturday.

  5. Cushing Academy (19-7-0) – The Penguins dropped consecutive games for the first time this season when they fell to both Canterbury and Salisbury by 4-3 margins last weekend.

  6. Gunnery (15-6-0) – The Gunnery has the week off between games against Pomfret last Saturday and Albany Academy this Saturday, and they will look to use that late-season rest as an advantage come tournament time.

  7. Noble & Greenough (17-5-1) – Freshman Cam Burke, the younger brother of Nobles junior and Notre Dame commit Cal Burke, out-scored his brother in a 5-0 win over St. Sebastian’s with a goal and an assist.    

  8. Dexter School (15-5-1) – Dexter responded to an overtime loss to Andover with a two-win week in which it out-scored its opponents, 11-4.

  9. Berkshire School (15-4-3) – Senior defenseman Bryan Gerstenfeld is moving the puck well, as he recorded five assists through Berkshire’s two wins last week.

  10. Kimball Union (19-6-5) – The Wildcats took a step in the right direction last week with two wins and a tie, but they close out the regular season with a tough match-up against Cushing on Saturday.

  11. Northfield-Mt. Hermon (16-7-2) – Last week’s schedule proved difficult for the Hoggers, who tied Williston-Northampton and lost, 1-0, to Exeter.  

  12. Choate (13-5-3) – Junior goaltender Andrew Tucci has shutouts in his last two games.  

  13. Groton (12-5-3) – Junior Ace Cowans recorded a hat trick and added an assist in a 9-3 win over Worcester Academy.

  14. Belmont Hill (12-7-4) – The high of a 5-3 win over Thayer last Friday was countered by the low of a 3-1 loss to BB&N last Saturday.

  15. St. Mark’s (14-6-4) – Four players enjoyed two-goal nights for the Lions in a 9-1 win over Middlesex.  

  16. Brooks School (14-8-1) – Brooks struggled in a 2-1 loss to St. Mark’s last Thursday but managed to beat St. George’s on Saturday.

  17. Proctor (14-10-1) – The Hornets unraveled in a game against St. Paul’s by giving up six goals in the third period of the 6-3 loss.

  18. Rivers (13-9-1) – The Red Wings got back on the winning track with victories over St. George’s and Roxbury Latin.  

  19. Andover (11-6-3) – Defensemen usually don’t score hat tricks, but that didn’t stop senior captain David Belluche from posting three goals in a 7-1 win over Governor’s Academy.

  20. Loomis-Chaffee (10-8-2) – The Pelicans had the unpleasant task of facing Kent and Salisbury on back-to-back nights, but L-C showed its strength in a 5-4 win over Kent and held Salisbury to a 1-1 tie up to the final three minutes of the game before surrendering a power-play goal and an empty-netter to finish with a 3-1 loss.

Twitter: @aharonson28

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