Coyne v. Censer: Joel Sees Parity, Huge Lead
Tufts pulled goalie Steven Foglietta late in the third quarter of a surprisingly close win over WNEC, less than a week after he was the hero against Stevenson. Both Coyne and Censer say the Jumbos get back to their dominant ways against Wesleyan.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
Joel starts us off this week:
CENSER: We're about halfway through the season, and I'm starting to learn one thing about this Division III season. The less you know, the better.
Tufts flexes its muscles against Stevenson last week, and on Monday the Jumbos are deadlocked 10-10 in the fourth quarter against unranked Western New England.
Fresh off taking down Gettysburg this past Saturday, Muhlenberg gets ground up by a young Swarthmore squad.
Right when you think Jim Townsend and RPI are ready to assert some Liberty League dominance, Skidmore pops the Engineers' square in the mouth and shows its Dickinson win was no fluke.
So in these dog days of parity, relying on comparative scores or traditional power teams is risky. Sure, some teams will cakewalk through their conference schedules like they always do (yes, I'm staring at you, Cabrini), but I'm kind of excited by the volatility of it all. At this point I am just hoping my Squirrels can survive the cutthroat Centennial with a Pool C bid intact.
COYNE: It's always nice to wax philosophical about Division III "parity" when gazing atop a commanding lead in this competition.
We're incomplete this week. The game between Gwynedd-Mercy and Centenary was pushed back until Thursday afternoon, so either Joel is going to pick up two games on me (if Centenary wins) or we'll be even (should Gwynedd pull it out). As we await that result, Censer is leading, 17-12 to 13-16.
As such, I might have to get a little loose with my picks. Either I'm going to make a comeback or I'm going to bury myself even further. Don't me surprised if we have a 10-game lightning round in the next couple of weeks to get me back in the mix.
Onto the games...
No. 9 Haverford (7-2) at No. 11 Dickinson (7-1) – 3 p.m., Saturday
COYNE: We're almost into April and I could be down by five games heading into this set, depending on what happens in the rescheduled game this afternoon, so I need to take some chances here and there, or I might not be able to get back into this competition. This game will provide me with decent percentages, so I'm going to jump on it.
Joel will ride the Squirrels, and that's a smart move. They are the favored team with how they've been playing, along with the inconsistency Dickinson has shown of late. I'm going to bank on home field magic for the Red Devils, as well as a reality that even Censer will admit: Dickinson is a bad stylistic matchup for Haverford. Goals are going to be at a premium, and the Fords have shown an inability to pull away from inferior opponents. The Devils stick around until the fourth, where they find two fortuitous markers. Dickinson, 8-7.
CENSER: Jac, if you think this is the most important game of the day in Carlisle, you're sadly mistaken. The Haverford and Dickinson alumni are getting together for an ole-fashioned hamstring-pulling alumni game an hour before. Walking around the office this week, I'd randomly "punch the sky" to try and loosen the muscles up before unleashing the whole barrage of over-the-head stuff. Unfortunately, I think I pulled my oblique (is that possible?) in the process.
But I don't know if Jac's right about this being a bad matchup for the Fords. Personally, I'm not convinced the Dickinson offense can put up a bunch of goals in a hurry. Dropping double-digit goals on the likes of Roanoke, Kenyon, Montclair State and St. Mary's doesn't scream explosive to me.
I think the most interesting matchup will be between the stripes, where LSMs Brandon Palladino and Dillon Hamill will duke it out for Centennial long pole supremacy.
At this point, I'm holding my breath that Haverford can keep it even at the faceoff stripe and Dickinson's youngsters on offense will have just enough trouble scoring against Hamill, Joe Banno, Scott Kelley and the rest of the Ford defense. 9-8, Squirrels.
No. 19 Skidmore (7-1) at St. Lawrence (2-4) – 1 p.m., Saturday
COYNE: This might be the toughest pick of the week. I've learned a long time ago to rarely pick against the Saints in conference play. But this SLU team isn't up to past standards, and the Thoroughbreds have looked good, especially in the command performance against No. 8 RPI on Wednesday. I'm not fully confident, but I'll take the Skiddies, 13-9.
CENSER: I know Skidmore, after knocking off Dickinson and RPI, is a trendy pick these days. Probably less surprising is Jac finding another northern squad to hitch his bandwagon too.
But I'll channel my best Lee Corso and say, "Not so fast." Sure, Skidmore's Ryan Paradis is going to have a huge advantage over the Saints at the faceoff "X." But extra possessions don't mean much when you can't capitalize, and St. Lawrence (even with the whole musical chairs thing it's got going in goal) has always been tough on defense.
I'll take the Saints in an 8-7 slugfest.
No. 16 Wesleyan (6-1) at No. 1 Tufts (6-0) – 1 p.m., Saturday
COYNE: After Tufts' near-miss against WNEC on Monday, some might be tempted to take the Cardinals in the upset. That concept had already gone out the window -- for me at least -- when Wesleyan inexplicably lost to Bates last weekend. Tufts will win the game.
But what of that 14-13 victory for Tufts over the Golden Bears -- a game that was tied at 10 in the fourth quarter? Were the Jumbos exposed in some way? I wouldn't read too much into it. It was their third game in six days, and after playing Stevenson on Wednesday and conference foe Williams on Saturday, it would be understandable if WNEC didn't have the champs' full attention. Wesleyan will have the Jumbos' complete focus. Elephants, 10-7.
CENSER: I think the most interesting thing about Monday's WNEC game was that starting goalie Steven Foglietta was pulled in favor of freshman Patton Watkins near the end of the third quarter. It comes less than a week after Foglietta played folk hero against Stevenson with 24 saves.
Maybe Coach Daly was just giving the kid a shot in the arm, or maybe Watkins, who was great in high school at McCallie (Tenn.), had earned his shot. Still, potentially lacking some confidence in your keeper isn't what you want going into the heart of the NESCAC schedule.
Against Wes however, I think Tufts rolls. I don't care if Cardinal coach John Raba throws enough zone to make Jim Boeheim blush. It's hard to grind out games and slow tempo when Hessler, Molloy, Kirwan, Witko and McCormick keep coming. 14-5, 'Bos.
Geneseo (3-3) at No. 5 RIT (6-0) – 3 p.m., Saturday
COYNE: This is a dangerous selection for me. I'm just hoping the Blue Knights haven't gone in the tank, although that 16-7 loss to St. John Fisher has me worried. There is way too much talent on the Geneseo roster for it to be .500 at this point. While the at-large possibilities are non-existent, the Knights just need to win one game against Cortland in the SUNYAC tournament to punch their ticket.
Playing the Tigers will be a trial run for that undertaking. Genny will have a slight competitive advantage, as RIT comes off a short week in which it played Cortland on Wednesday. It will boil down to faceoffs and the Knights' offense taking the pressure off the defense with quality possessions. Come on, Genny. I need this one. Knights, 11-10 in overtime.
CENSER: RIT solidified its status on Wednesday as a contender in the North when it went on the road and knocked off Cortland. On that same day, St. John Fisher -- the same Fisher team that stomped Geneseo last Saturday -- lost to an unproven Ithaca squad (making Genny's early-season struggles look even worse).
And for that earlier paragraph, where I waxed on parity, anyone being able to beat anyone, and ignoring comparative scores? Ugh. Tigers keep it going in a 15-9 upstate rout.
No. 17 Hampden-Sydney (6-2) at Lynchburg (4-5) – 7 p.m., Saturday
COYNE: This is when it was all supposed to pay off for Steve Koudelka. The thinking was whether the Hornets had success against the brutal non-conference schedule or whether they struggled -- the outcome was certainly the latter -- they would be a grizzled bunch as they went into the ODAC slate. Well, Lynchburg is 0-2 in conference play so far. So much for that theory.
I'm going to stay glass half full with Lynchburg. The Hornets should have beaten Roanoke (they had an epic fourth-quarter collapse), they should have defeated W&L (the Generals managed to win the battle of tempo), and they should beat Hampden-Sydney. The 'Burg has the better talent and is playing at home. I expect goalie Franc Cook to be the difference. Bugs, 9-7.
CENSER: Should've, would've, could've. I'm hesitant to bet against Lynchburg, especially at home (those fans who line the field are enough of an advantage) and with its back against the wall. But the Hornets have flushed games in the fourth quarter.
While Sydney hasn't been dominant, an early-season win against Gettysburg showed it could at least finish games. So I'll expect senior middie Cole Hawthorne (doing his best Thomas Jennings, Ryan Harrington impression) to give the Tigers some late-game mojo. 8-7, HSC.