By BOB YORK —
Let’s play a game of “what if…”
Like “what if” Deerfield Academy had made the New England Prep School Athletic Conference Boys Hockey Tournament this winter. Now, we know no invites were issued to the Big Green, but according to coach Brendan Creagh, a berth in postseason play was closer than one might think.
“If we had won one of our last two games, I’m quite confident we would have made the tournament,” said Creagh, of his team that finished the past campaign with an 11-11-2 record. “If we had won both of them, we’d definitely have made it.”
Well, let’s check out what happened, then what might have happened. The latter just might surprise you.
First, the tournament ground rules: Due to the abundant number of Division I schools playing hockey under the New England Prep School Athletic Conference’s domain, it expanded its Division I field a few years ago. It added a second, separate tournament, allowing it to boost its entry field from eight to 16 teams.
This winter, the Stuart/Corkery Bracket was home to the top eight seeded teams, in Division I, while the Martin/Earl Bracket fielded the Division I teams seeded nine through 16.
So, here’s what went down in the Martin/Earl Bracket after all the invites had been sent out. The quarterfinal games pitted top-seeded Cushing Academy and eighth-seed The Governor’s Academy, second-seeded Thayer against seventh seed St. Sebastian’s, third-ranked Avon Old Farms against sixth-seed Choate and fourth ranked Milton vs. fifth-seed Exeter.
Cushing, Thayer, Avon and Exeter survived their quarterfinal-round tests and moved on to the semifinals, where Cushing ousted Exeter and Avon bounced Thayer. In the finals, Cushing outlasted Avon, 1-0.
Now, here’s what could have happened.
What if Deerfield had won one or both of its last two games? That would have put the Big Green at either 12-10-2 or 13-9-2, but either way, it would appear to have put it ahead of The Governor’s Academy (11-12-5), which drew the eighth – and final – seed in the Martin/Earl Tournament.
So, what if Deerfield had made the tourney and been seeded eighth rather than The Governor’s Academy? Well, it looks as though it would have faced Cushing in the opener, a team it tied 2-2 during the regular season.
OK, now that we all admit that winning that opener wouldn’t have been such a stretch, we move on to the semifinals, where Exeter now awaits. Exeter is a team the Big Green trounced during the regular season, 5-0.
That takes us to the finals, where the only other team still standing is Avon, and although they say it’s difficult to beat a team three times in one season, Deerfield’s 3-2 and 2-1 victories over the Flying Beavers, should give it the nod to come home with its third New England championship.
As for the Stuart/Corkery Bracket, if you happen to be wondering what if Deerfield had made it into that echelon of play. Well, Salisbury won that bracket championship and the Big Green forced it into overtime before dropping a 2-1 decision during the regular season.
“Overall, I feel as though we improved over last season,” said Creagh. “I felt we played some good hockey this year, but sometimes it just wasn’t good enough to win.”
The Big Green proved once again to be the owners of a stingy defense, allowing less than three goals (2.95) per game in what has long been considered an environment where opposing forwards shoot first and ask questions later. And that goals against mark can be place squarely on the shoulders of Adam Ellison (’13) and Jake Thoubboron (’13). Ellison allowed 25 goals and posted 268 saves for a .915 save percentage. Thoubboron, meanwhile, allowed 39 goals on 379 shots for an .897 save percentage.
Out front on defense, Ellison and Thoubboron got plenty of help from an experienced blue-line crew of Jordan Prizant (’13), Byers Kadow (’13), Jared Kubas (’13) and Christian Wolter (’13). There was some youth back there too, as Cullen Geary (’14), Sunho Park (’14) and Louis-Phillippe Page (’15) all enjoyed solid seasons and will return.
Offensively, Trevor Yates (’14) paced the Big Green scoring attack this season with 31 points on 18 goals and 13 assists. Sam Lafferty (’14) and Alex Gonye (’13) were next in line with 24 points apiece, with Lafferty collecting nine goals and 15 assists, while Gonye posted six goals and assisted on 18 others. Jordan Jancze (’13), who was the recipient of this year’s Deerfield Hockey Cup, rounded out the scorers in double figures with 10 points on six goals and four assists, while Kim Von Trapp netted seven goals and one assist for eight points.
Jay D’Amour (’13) was named winner of this winter’s Seventh Player Award.