Coyne v. Censer: Barely Holding On
The last time Washington & Lee and Lynchburg (above) squared off, the Hornets were only able to produce three flying hugs. With the Generals inability to stifle opponents of late, along with Lynchburg's hot streak, both Coyne and Censer see a lot more celebrations for the Bugs this weekend.
© Kevin P. Tucker
Things were looking grim at one point last weekend. Censer was off to a 4-0 start, and I was at 2-2 waiting for the returns from the Salisbury-Stevenson game -- a contest in which I picked the upstart Sea Gulls and Captain Frontrunner took the then-No. 1 Mustangs. When Salisbury fell behind early, it looked like lights out.
I contemplated many options at that point: going with a 10-game lightning round, demanding to see Censer's long-form birth certificate, getting Mike Murphy to admit Joel's All-American nomination was done out of pity, etc.
But then a backup goalie got hot, Salisbury made the comeback for the 16-14 win and things weren't so bad. Yes, I still lost the week, and I'm now trailing by two games over all -- 26-19 to 24-21 -- but I'm still in the hunt. Since I usually pick the games first and let Joel pick and choose his upsets, we're going to reverse the trend, with him picking first in four out of the five games and me coming over the top.
CENSER: This past Tuesday night, I got an email from a friend telling me I had to watch this Tufts "documentary" about last year's national championship run. I had some idea about the 30-minute NESCAC infomercial before it hit the interwebs -- I was "live blogging" from that practice at St. Paul's before the championship game -- and have been a fan of Tufts vids for a while now (since back when HD cameras were avant-garde and "Explosions in the Sky" still had some legs). I'll admit that I found the 30 minutes of coverage interesting and obviously well-done. Heck, by the time the Jumbos had moved on to Cortland and Salisbury I even found myself (gasp!) rooting for the 'Bos.
One of my favorite parts was on the bus to Cortland when a Jac Coyne column -- the one where he picked the Dragons to win in the national semis -- was passed around as inspirational fuel before the game. The irony! The one time Jac bets against his beloved NESCAC (and it was probably just a way to avoid jinxing his favorite team), and they blow him up on a video that in the first couple days on YouTube already has 5,000 views.
Anyway, it was if nothing else a nice visual reminder that the NESCAC has little problem eating its own. And that the day-to-day grind and parity of the conference usually has a way of spitting out even its best teams with first-round conference playoff exits that leave them praying for Pool C bids. Personally, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to see which of the big dogs gets picked off early this postseason.
No. 10 Haverford (11-3) vs. No. 17 Gettysburg (10-5) – 4 p.m., Friday
CENSER: When Haverford's star cover defenseman Scott Chanelli went down against Denision, the first game I thought of was Gettysburg. Chanelli is a heck of an athlete and the right cover for the Bullets' Danno Lynch, a big athletic gunner who has no problem letting it fly.
So yes, I'm currently terrified of this Gettysburg team. We thought the Bullets were going to come together at some point this season, but I was hoping it would just happen next year. Since losing to Dickinson in the beginning of April (and putting freshman attackman Henry Tesar in the starting lineup), the Bullets have reeled off four straight wins and seem like the trendy pick to take the whole thing.
But for all the hype and late-season blossoming, the Bullets are still relatively young and inexperienced in the postseason. And if these Squirrels know anything, it's how to grind out wins and play with their backs against the wall. Hamill, Hjlem and Banno lead the Fords in a squeaker, 8-7.
COYNE: I wrote an obit for the Gettysburg team a couple of years ago midway through the season, and I believe I may have even referred to them as "relatively young and inexperienced," and the Bullets proceeded to shove it down my throat and advance all the way to the national championship game. So now that Joel is using that same type of language to dismiss Gettysburg, I feel extra confident taking Hank Janczyk's boys in this Centennial semifinal tilt.
The Bullets have only had two real stinkers this year -- the one-goal losses to both Hampden-Sydney and Muhlenberg. The rest of the time, G-burg has played reasonably well, including the 10-4 beatdown of Haverford that featured a fourth-quarter six-spot. The Black Squirrels may think they are grinders this year, but the Bullets invented the concept. The 'Burg, 9-7.
No. 20 Lynchburg (11-5) at Washington and Lee (9-7) – 7 p.m., Saturday
CENSER: Seems like two teams heading in different directions. Lynchburg has won six straight (I know, I know, big wins against Randolph Macon and Hampden-Sydney don't mean the Hornets have arrived) and hasn't lost since the Generals put them through the 4-3 grinder in March.
Down in Lexington, however, W&L followed a nine-goal loss to Roanoke with a more troubling one to Virginia Wesleyan.
With the problems brewing down in Roanoke, the ODAC seems potentially wide open. I know Lynchburg wants a chance to avenge the fourth-quarter meltdown from the last time it played the Maroons. Using strong performances from Jeff Schwartz at the faceoff square and Franc Cook in the cage, I think they'll get that opportunity. Hornets, 11-9.
COYNE: Joel's right; it's tough to reconcile the Roanoke and Virginia losses after what the Generals did prior to that. In the four games that preceded the Maroons dropping 19 on them, the Generals had let up 15 goals total. It's tough to say if opponents have figured something out or if W&L ran out of gas from playing defense that long. Regardless, I can't see the Hornets being stifled like last time. Lynchburg, 12-6.
RPI (9-5) at Union (9-3) – 7 p.m., Saturday
CENSER: Hard to put your finger on the pulse of this what's going with this RPI team. First game of the season, they take RIT to the wire, and next thing you know they're losing to Skidmore, Clarkson and Muhlenberg.
But I do think the Union matchup works well for the Engineers, as the Dutchmen don't have the goal-scoring prowess (or ability at the faceoff "X") to take advantage of any of RPI's defensive deficiencies. And RPI's senior trio of Conor Chocheles, Nick Billy and Devin Arnold will put enough by Union's solid keeper Sean Aaron. RPI, 9-7.
COYNE: Excellent. I was hoping that Censer would default to RPI in this game. This is an excellent Union team, paced by the aforementioned Aaron, that should be able to parlay its home field advantage -- the Dutchmen are 6-0 on Frank Bailey Field this spring -- into a victory.
Eight is the magic number for Union. They are 9-1 when they keep opponents to eight goals or fewer, and the one loss was an 8-7 setback in six overtimes. RPI has stumbled in the second half of the season, losing four of its last seven, and I think Union will continue the Engineers' woes. Dutchmen, 11-8.
Connecticut College (6-8) at No. 18 Wesleyan (9-4) – 4:30 p.m., Friday
COYNE: In the eight NESCAC games so far this season, the most goals the Cardinals have scored in regulation time is eight. In the past two games, Wesleyan is average three goals per contest. Granted, John Raba's team is only allowing 3.5 markers in the last 120 minutes, but it's tough seeing this team contending for the conference crown, which begins on Sunday.
The Cardinals will contend in this game. Despite the fact that Connecticut College allowed seven fewer goals to Bates than the Cardinals did, the Camels are not a prolific bunch, either. In fact, CC has only cracked double digits once against NESCAC foes (a relatively impressive 11 goals against a stingy Williams defense). This game could set the single-season record for stall warnings, which favors Wesleyan. Cardinals, 2-1.
CENSER: If Wesleyan is really interested in getting involved in these slow-down grinders, they're picking the wrong opponent. Connecticut College is better at the faceoff square, probably has a little more scoring punch and has a goalie in sophomore John Lenehan, who, since nailing down the job midseason, has been on an absolute heater. Camels, 6-5.
No. 14 Skidmore (10-3) at Clarkson (8-5) – 1 p.m., Saturday
CENSER: After Hamilton took down Skidmore last week, I tried to talk myself into the idea that conference rival Clarkson could too.
But the more I think about the game, the more I think Skidmore flexes conference supremacy against the Golden Knights. I just don't see Clarkson responding well to a heavy dose of Ryan Paradis at the faceoff square, or having to contain Holden and Connolly for a whole 60 minutes down low. The Thorougbreds run away with this one. 14-8, Skid.
COYNE: I'm down two games and I already have two of the teams I really wanted in Gettysburg and Union (as well as Wesleyan, which I'm starting to get a little nervous about). Do I try to create some separation by taking a flyer on Clarkson? I like this Golden Knights team, especially the defense.
Alas, I can't make the leap. Clarkson is horrific on faceoffs (45.2 percent as a team), and the Knights will be helpless if the Thoroughbreds turn this into a horse race (see what I did there?). Although they have a relatively balanced offense, it is far from prolific. This is close for a half, but Skidmore picks up the clutch road victory, 12-9.