Coyne v. Censer: It's Time to Make a Move
Max Landow and Wesleyan head to Amherst in hopes of pulling a key late-season upset. Neither Coyne nor Censer see that happening.
Joel leads us off this week.
CENSER: It feels like just yesterday that Jac asked me to join his pick 'em game. So far, I've had a blast. I'm not sure if the fact that I can speak competently about Vassar's defensive bonafides makes for much of a career (we all can't be like Jac), but anytime you have a weekly opportunity to take subtle digs at the NESCAC, it is time well spent.
It's shaping up to be eventful postseason. Of course, there's some of those annual late-season annoyances -- this year's "Pool B" has more sewer water than Hef's grotto. But having to watch an NCAC bottom feeder in some play-in game is just one one of the trials and tribulations of being a Division III fan.
And if it's any consolation, it looks like we have a whole host of competitive conference playoffs in the queue. Whether its Amherst, Middlebury or Tufts fighting for bragging rights in Cape Cod this summer; or Gettysburg, Dickinson and Haverford heading for a two-day throwdown in the urban recesses of Carlisle; or Stevens trying to pick up the pieces in the E8 tourney after RIT gave 'em the garbage-plated business in Roc City last Saturday.
As for my own playoff push, I've let Jac continue to nip at my heels, in part because I took some flyers in a few games and in part because I didn't go with my gut in a couple others. (I wish I had had the cajones to pick RIT last week.) And give Jac some credit. For a guy who never played, lives in Wisconsin and would have trouble distinguishing DJ Pauly from D.J. Hessler, the dude has some prescience.
COYNE: One of the perils of competing in a pick 'em contest against a hipster lax bro is I'm sometimes forced to burn the better part of five minutes going through the search engine results for such things as "DJ Pauly." And then being painfully disappointed.
That's okay, though. Joel's capacity to consume massive amounts of inane pop culture nuggets is balanced by surprisingly clumsy evaluations of Division III teams. Last year I was 10 games in the hole to Dave Zazzaro with very little chance of digging out at this point. This year, I'm still only down a game – 22-18 to 21-19 – with a chance to pull ahead this week.
I've gone out on a limb on a couple of these picks, and very well may get burned, but I should be able to make up ground as we get into conference tournament season. Onto the games...
No. 3 Salisbury at No. 1 Stevenson – 1 p.m., Saturday
COYNE: Here we go again. A week after clashing on Saturday, these two behemoths meet again, this time for the Capital Athletic Conference championship and played in Owings Mills. Is there anything to make us think there will be anything different than the 16-12 Mustang win from a week ago? Obviously Joel will be upset because his mentor and idol, Tommy Kehoe, won't be doing color commentary, but there are other reasons, as well.
First, Collin Tokosch will be on Jimmy Dailey from the jump this time. This might create more opportunities for Richie Ford, but that's a relatively easy choice considering what Dailey was doing at the start of the last game. Second, Salisbury should be healthier, including Sam Bradman, who was a defensive liability last week. Third, one would think that the Sea Gulls won't lose their minds and take all of the penalties they did. It all adds up to Salisbury flipping the script and winning, 12-11.
CENSER: Anytime a seasoned Centennial grad like Kehoe gets to do color, the CAC peanut gallery should be grateful.
Last week, I rode the Gulls, thinking their slick sticks and chops in transition would carry the way against the undisciplined Mustangs. And I was right to think that Stevenson would give up a whole bunch of unsettled situations (14 penalties). But I was wrong to think it would put Salisbury over the top.
I know Sea Gull nation will point to Bradman's ankle, Zordani getting back into the swing of things or Tokosch (who for the record, is still no Eric Martin or Jeff Bigas) not starting on Dailey, but I'm not convinced. Salz is going to have to show me a little more at the draw circle and in six-and-six before I think they can take down Cantabene and crew. 'Stangs 11-9.
No. 4 Tufts (10-1) at No. 10 Middlebury (8-2) – 2 p.m., Saturday
COYNE: After the loss to Endicott and the narrow, 6-5 victory over Connecticut College at home, it almost feels like the Jumbos are spiraling out of control. You need to take a step back and appreciate where Tufts is right now. Although the likes of Censer and the rest of the South are doing a jig about the "demise" of the champs, the Elephants could lose a game and still be the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC tourney and locks for the NCAA tourney.
I don't see that happening, however. Middlebury will give Tufts trouble, and the game will be tight, but I see the visitors winning this game. This week will likely be spent getting the offense back to its well-oil formed as opposed to the unit that has been rushing things of late. Jumbos, 11-9.
CENSER: The disconcerting thing about these past couple of games for Tufts isn't the things you'd expect. Freshman goalie Patton Watkins has played pretty darn well. Against Connecticut College, draw-man Nick Rhoads went better than 50 percent.
But obviously, an axle in the blue and brown transition-friendly machine is a little off. One constant in the loss to Endicott and near-miss against the Camels is that in each game the Jumbos were out-groundballed by double digits.
Luckily for Tufts, Middlebury isn't particularly adept in the draw circle or between the lines (James Guay ain't coming back), and I don't think the Panthers will mind running with them. While I think Midd will put up goals, I think Hessler, Kirwan and Molloy will put up more. 14-11 'Bos.
No. 19 Wesleyan (9-3) at No. 9 Amherst (11-1) – 1 p.m., Saturday
COYNE: This game sets up nicely for Wesleyan. Amherst is riding a hot streak, playing at home and already has visions of NCAA tournament bids dancing in the players' heads. And you know the Lord Jeffs are still breathing a sigh of relief after escaping Colby last weekend. Hence, Jon Thompson's squad is ripe for the picking.
Wesleyan is slowly climbing back into contention with three straight victories, and the Cardinals have even reemerged in the weekly poll. With a win over Amherst, followed by a season-ending win over Connecticut College, Wesleyan would be 11-3 and eyeballing a home seed in the NESCAC tourney. I so want to pick the Cardinals, but...I...just...can't...do it. The Bates loss is simply too difficult for me to get past. Jeffries, 9-6.
CENSER: Sure, Amherst has had some close calls these past few weeks, and one-goal games against Colby and Springfield certainly doesn't scream "NESCAC contendah." But in both those close shaves they ran into buzzsaws at the faceoff square and smart offenses that made the Lord Jeffs work for their goals.
Unfortunately for Wesleyan, they don't have Craig Bunker or Mark Eaton, so trying to grind it out becomes a bit more tenuous. I'll take Amherst, 12-7.
Whittier (3-5) at Ohio Wesleyan (7-3) – 7 p.m., Friday
COYNE: It's not the most tantalizing game on the docket, but it is a difficult choice at first blush.
In theory, the Poets are still alive in the Pool B hunt, although they need to sweep their final three games, including this match-up with the Battling Bishops, to stay eligible. OWU looks pretty good for one of the Pool Bs right now, despite some unimpressive recent results.
Ohio Wesleyan jumps off the page as the pick, especially with the somewhat surprising (in a good way) 8-4 loss to Salisbury back in early March. However, a six-overtime victory over Wooster (3-7) and a one-goal victory against Kenyon are concerning. To win this game, Whittier needs to keep it low-scoring, and the Bishops have shown a penchant for that. It's a reach, but I'll take the Poets, 6-5.
CENSER: Is Jac California dreaming? OWU has a pretty talented backline and Whittier can't score.
Sure, Poet goalkeeper Robert Bazlen will keep it close for awhile, but eventually the Battlin' Bishops -- who dropped 23 goals on St. Vincent -- will get it going on offense and remind the Poets that there are no beaches in Ohio. Ohio Wesleyan rolls in this one, 12-4.
Muhlenburg (5-8) at Ursinus (8-5) – 1 p.m., Saturday
CENSER: An interesting caveat that has come out of WAC's demise is that the fourth spot in the Centennial playoffs has become a late-season grab bag, and frankly one of the more complex things in Division III.
To figure out who's going to Carlisle, the conference could have to potentially resort to goal differential and various other forms of tie-breaking to try to separate multiple teams with matching records, various losses to one another, and what seems to be little interest in actually separating themselves from the pack.
Or Ursinus could just make it easy by beating the Mules and, if McDaniel gets taken down by a streaking GBurg, punching their ticket to the dance.
As for the game, both these teams are built pretty similarly and rely on good goalies and solid work at the faceoff. But I think with star Jeff Ocampo, the Bears have more of a scoring punch and a little more to play for. Not to mention that their ACL-ravaging astro turf puts the "field" in home-field advantage. 7-5, Da Bearz.
COYNE: Ursinus took Haverford to the limit, but is Haverford really that good? Ursinus is the pick here, but I'm going to go out on a limb and take the Mules to further muddy the Cetennial waters. The Burg, 4-3.