February Playoff Race

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As prep schools enter February, the focus shifts to playoffs–and snowstorm makeup games. Each week will take an in-depth look at each playoff implication game and where each team stands.

New England Prep hockey has three playoff formats; there is the Elite Eight, which is the top division and features the best eight teams in the league. Then there are the Small School Tournament and the Large School Tournament, which are based on enrollment.


Elite Eight Playoffs

The teams most likely to make the Elite Eight are teams with two losses or less and that will most likely win out their schedule. Probable teams are ones that should make the tournament based on current wins and remaining schedules. Teams that are in the race are the ones most likely to take the last few spots.

Two of the teams that are in the race are Westminster and Cushing, which seem to have the best chance based on quality wins and remaining schedule. Northfield Mount Herman, Gunnery and Winchendon have a difficult schedule left and therefore a more difficult road to the Elite Eight. Winchendon has Northfield Mount Hermon, Dexter, Exeter and Williston-Northampton left on its schedule while Northfield Mount Hermon has Willison-Northampton, Exeter, Winchendon and sneaky teams like Andover and Loomis-Chaffee. Gunnery likely has the best chance, but it still has to play Brunswick twice, Westminster and Avon.

Highly Likely: Salisbury, Rivers, Milton
Probable: Kimball Union, Exeter, Dexter
In the Race: Cushing, Northfield Mount Hermon, Westminster, Winchendon, Gunnery
Outside Looking In: Lawrence, Williston-Northhampton, St. Sebastian’s, Brunswick, Trinity-Pawling

NZ Projection:

1. Salisbury
2. Rivers
3. Dexter
4. Kimball Union
5. Milton
6. Cushing
7. Exeter
8. Westminster


Large School Playoffs

Northfield Mount Hermon appears to be in a class of themselves in this field with its goaltending and quality wins, but St. Sebastian’s, Williston-Northampton, Trinity-Pawling and Brunswick are just below. These are all teams who have showed Elite Eight capability but haven’t had the same level of consistency required for that level. The bottom three features a close race, as Thayer, Avon, Tabor, Kent and Nobles will be battling it out in the final month. Thayer is riding a four-game unbeaten streak and looks to be playing its best hockey, but its remaining schedule is daunting. They will face Milton twice, St. Sebastian’s, Tabor and Lawrence. Avon is a young team getting inconsistent play in net, but it has a winnable schedule remaining with its toughest challenges against Salisbury and Gunnery. The final spot in the Large School is the toughest to predict because each of the three have very difficult schedules remaining. Tabor has to face St. Sebastian’s, Thayer and Lawrence, while Kent has to face Trinity-Pawling and Salisbury on the road. Nobles will play Milton twice. We selected Kent for the last spot because it has only played 15 games thanks to rink flooding and, despite losses in its last four games, it has an easier schedule remaining.

Highly Likely: Northfield Mount Hermon
Probable: Williston-Northampton, St. Sebastian’s, Brunswick, Trinity-Pawling
In the Race: Thayer, Avon Old Farms, Tabor, Kent, Nobles & Greenough

NZ Projection:

1. Northfield Mount Hermon
2. St. Sebastian’s
3. Williston-Northampton
4. Trinity-Pawling
5. Brunswick
6. Thayer
7. Avon Old Farms
8. Kent


Small School Playoffs

The top teams of Gunner, Lawrence Academy and Winchendon, which are Eight Eight contenders, challenges the idea that Small School Playoff teams are the weakest. New Hampton may not have the depth of Lawrence Academy or Gunnery, but it has solid players and can secure home ice in the playoffs. The bottom four features a tight race. St. Mark’s, Millbrook, Kents Hill and Proctor are all teams with 10-plus wins with difficult but manageable schedules remaining. Pomfret and Canterbury are in the race but have more challenging schedules. Pomfret has to play playoff contenders Avon and Westminster on the road and Williston-Northampton and Millbrook at home. Canterbury has arguably the most difficult remaining schedule of any team in the league with Trinity-Pawling, Cushing, Gunnery, Williston-Northampton, Kent, Avon and Salisbury on the docket.

Highly Likely: Gunnery, Winchendon, Lawrence
Probable: New Hampton, Millbrook, St. Mark’s
In the Race: Kents Hill, Proctor, Canterbury, Pomfret

NZ Projection:

1. Gunnery
2. Lawrence
3. Winchendon
4. New Hampton
5. St. Mark’s
6. Millbrook
7. Kents Hill
8. Proctor

The .500 Bubble

RPI is the calculation that determines much of the playoff seeding, and win percentage is a big factor in the rankings. A major cut off is .500, as teams above that win percentage have a favorable ranking while teams below do not. For example, a win against an .480 team may not be very valuable, but if that team wins three games and goes up to .510, that win will carry more weight in the RPI.

We compiled a list of teams near the bubble to be watched as the season closes:

Over .500 (within two games): Brunswick (+2), Williston-Northampton (+2), St. Mark’s (+2), Roxbury Latin (+2), Pingree (+2), Thayer (+1), Avon Old Farms (+1), Millbrook (+1)

At .500: Nobles and Greenough, Tabor, Belmont Hill

Below .500 (within two games): Kent (-1), Berkshire (-1), Loomis (-2), Proctor (-2), Canterbury (-2), Pomfret (-2), Vermont (-2), Middlesex (-2)


Games to Watch this week:


Berkshire vs. Kent: .500 implications, Playoff Implications for Kent


Vermont Academy vs. Winchendon .500 implications, playoff implications for Winchdenon
Belmont Hill vs. Thayer: .500 implications for both teams
Lawrence Academy vs. St. Sebastian’s: Playoff implications
Kimball Union vs. New Hampton: Playoff implications for both teams
Brunswick vs. Gunnery: Playoff implications for both teams; loser may be out of Elite Eight consideration


Middlesex vs. St. Mark’s: .500 implications for both teams
Millbrook vs. Williston-Northampton: Playoff implications for both teams
Milton vs. Nobles & Greenough: Playoff implications for both teams
Kents Hill vs. Proctor: Small school playoff implications for both teams
Brunswick vs. Berkshire: .500 and playoff implications
Canterbury vs. Cushing: Playoff implications for both teams
Westminster vs. Pomfret: Playoff implications for both teams
Trinity-Pawling vs. Kent: Playoff implications for both teams


New Hampton vs. Kents Hill: Small school playoff implications for both teams
Winchendon vs. NMH: Playoff implications for both teams

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