Middlebury will look for its ninth NESCAC Championship when the journey begins this weekend with a quarterfinal game at Amherst on Saturday. Trinity has earned the top seed and home ice advantage throughout the tournament for the second consecutive season. The Bantams are in pursuit of their third conference crown when quarterfinal round action commences on Saturday, February 28. Amherst, Connecticut College and Williams also earned the right to host quarterfinal contests. The highest remaining seed following the weekend will host both semifinals and the final from March 7-8. This year's champion will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Trinity (21-2-1, 16-1-1 NESCAC) secured the top seed by defeating Bowdoin and Colby on February 13 and 14, respectively. The Bantams have been on a mission this season since being bounced from last year's conference championship in the semifinal round by eventual champion Bowdoin. As a result, Trinity enters the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country, having won 17 of its last 18 games. The lone loss during this stretch came to Amherst on January 30 in a 3-1 decision. The Bantams lead the league in scoring offense and defense, scoring 4.38 goals per game while limiting opponents to 1.79 goals per contest. Trinity, which aims to hoist the NESCAC trophy for the first time since 2008, are 10-4 in conference quarterfinal appearances. Its other league crown came in 2003.
The Bantams start their postseason journey against eighth-seeded Tufts (8-14-2, 5-11-2 NESCAC). The Jumbos clinched their first playoff berth since 2012 by defeating Colby, 4-1, on Friday night. Tufts also picked up a critical win over Middlebury and a pivotal tie versus Hamilton in the second half of the season to secure its seventh overall quarterfinal appearance. The Jumbos come into the tournament searching for the program's first NESCAC quarterfinal win. Trinity swept the season series against Tufts, posting a 7-2 victory on November 16 and a 4-1 win on January 24. The only previous conference postseason meeting between the squads came in the 2005 quarterfinal round with the Bantams prevailing, 9-2.
Amherst (18-4-2, 14-4-0 NESCAC) locked up the No. 2 seed for the second straight season by defeating Middlebury, 4-0, on Friday night. The Jeffs opened this year's campaign with a 6-1-0 record and have won nine of their final ten games down the stretch. Amherst, which is 6-9 in NESCAC quarterfinal appearances, hopes to add its third overall league title to its 2009 and 2012 titles. Last year, the Jeffs came up just short of winning their third conference trophy following a 3-2 double-overtime loss to Bowdoin in the championship tilt. Amherst will face seventh-seeded Middlebury (10-11-3, 7-8-3 NESCAC) in the quarterfinal round. The Panthers enjoyed a 4-0-1 span in the middle of January, which included wins over Wesleyan and Colby and a tie versus Bowdoin, and grabbed a spot in the league championship by registering back-to-back wins against Wesleyan and Williams. In the 15-year history of the NESCAC Championship, Middlebury has advanced to the finals 12 times and owns eight league titles after posting a 10-2 mark in all-time quarterfinal appearances. The Panthers own a 3-2 record versus Amherst in the conference championship with Middlebury most recently coming away with a 4-3 win in a 2013 quarterfinal game. However, the Jeffs have won both games in the season series, including a 5-3 win back on December 5.
Connecticut College (13-9-2, 10-7-1 NESCAC) and Williams (14-8-2, 10-7-1 NESCAC) tied for the third and fourth seeds. Both teams were 1-1-0 in head-to-head play and finished with the same number of league wins (10). Both teams also had matching 2-4-0 records against the top four teams in the standings. The tiebreaker came down to records against the top eight teams. The Camels posted a 7-7-0 mark, while the Ephs went 6-7-1 to give Connecticut College the No. 3 seed and its first home quarterfinal game. After getting off to a sluggish start, the Camels went 9-2-1 in 2015 en route to earning the program's highest-ever seed in the NESCAC quarterfinals, as well as registering the most wins in a season since 1997-98 when they won 14 games. If Connecticut College is going to make its first semifinal appearance in five opportunities, it must first get past sixth-seeded Hamilton (9-9-6, 7-7-4 NESCAC). The Continentals punched a ticket into their sixth quarterfinal appearance in seven years after going 5-4-2 in league games since January 16. Two of those wins came against the Camels on January 17 and February 14 by the scores of 3-1 and 4-2, respectively. Hamilton hopes to make its second semifinal appearance in nine years, as the other appearance came in 2010 during that span. Saturday's quarterfinal game marks the first postseason meeting between the programs.
Williams went 12-4-2 in the first three months of the season to secure a home quarterfinal game, but has gone 1-4-0 in the last five games. The home game is important for the Ephs, who went 7-2-1 on their home ice compared to going 6-5-1 when on the road. Williams has appeared in each of the 15 NESCAC Championships, but is still looking for its elusive first title. The Ephs are 6-9 all-time in league quarterfinal games, but have gone 5-1 in the last six years. Standing in the Ephs' way is fifth-seeded Bowdoin (14-7-3, 8-7-3 NESCAC). The two-time defending NESCAC Champions raced out to a 6-0-1 start, but needed wins over Hamilton, Amherst, Wesleyan and Tufts in February to earn the No. 5 seed. The Polar Bears aim to extend their semifinal appearance streak to six with a win over the Ephs. During the regular season, the teams skated to a 3-3 tie on November 16 followed by Williams winning the rematch on January 24, 5-2. Bowdoin owns a 2-1 edge over Williams with the Polar Bear wins coming in the 2011 and 2013 NESCAC title games.
Results for the NESCAC Men's Ice Hockey Championship will be available at the completion of each day on the NESCAC website.
2015 NESCAC Men's Ice Hockey Championship
Quarterfinals – Saturday, February 28 (at Higher Seeds)
#8 Tufts at #1 Trinity – 1:00 p.m.
#7 Middlebury at #2 Amherst – 1:00 p.m.
#6 Hamilton at #3 Connecticut College – 3:00 p.m.
#5 Bowdoin at #4 Williams - 3:00 p.m.
Semifinals – Saturday, March 7 (at Highest Remaining Seed) - 1:00 p.m. | 4:00 p.m.
Highest Remaining Seed vs. Lowest Remaining Seed
Remaining Quarterfinal Winners
Sunday, March 8
Championship - 2:00 p.m.
NOTE: If both the men's and women's semifinals and finals are being played at the same site, the men's games will be played on Friday and Saturday. Game times for Friday's semifinals will be 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Saturday's championship will be played at 7:00 p.m.