This Week in Division III: Nov. 18, 2004

Polls — the Unwritten Rules

Is it a coincidence that two of the top three teams in the latest USCHO Division III Poll haven’t played a game? Not according to the “unwritten rules” covering such things. After studying these polls for several years, I’ve come to the following conclusions:

1. The most common reason to move up in the poll is because teams ahead of you lost. Middlebury and Norwich have moved up without playing a game, primarily because St. Norbert, the preseason No. 1, lost.

2. You also move up after really big wins. On the basis of a win over St. Norbert (and to a lesser extent, a win over Lake Forest) St. Thomas vaulted from tenth to third in one week, the largest jump I can remember. The Tommies have since skidded a bit on the basis of their loss to Wisconsin-Stout.

3. You move down in the poll after a loss (sometimes a tie is enough), or if a team below you scores a big win and moves ahead. Last week, St. John’s and Curry both dropped spots without playing a game, primarily because of St. Thomas’ jump.

So what you typically see for a highly rated team is a yo-yo effect — keep winning and you stay where you are, or move up because teams above you lose; drop a game and you fall a few spots until you can string together some wins and get help by teams losing that are ranked above you. Then you’ll be right back where you started.

There’s a question on the Division III front page asking if we should wait until all teams are in action to start issuing regular season polls. This season, there was over a month between the time that the first real games were played (Oct. 15) and the time when every team will begin (Nov. 19).

So far, the vote seems to be slightly in favor of starting the poll as soon as any teams are active, as opposed to waiting until all teams are underway. One can argue that this gives an advantage to the ranked teams that haven’t played yet, since they can’t move down very much without losing. On the other hand, it may be harder for a team not listed in the preseason poll to crack the Top 15 if they get a late start and take some time to get on the radar.

No clear cut answer here.

When Is an Exhibition Not an Exhibition?

Last Saturday’s contest between Norwich and Curry was supposed to be a regular season game, but due to rules that govern the NESCAC and hence the ECAC East (since the leagues have an interlocking schedule), Norwich can’t officially start playing games until Nov. 19 this season.

The game had to be classified as an exhibition, even though it counts against the NCAA-imposed 25 game limit for both teams.

“Norwich thought they could get an exemption,” said Curry coach Rob Davies. “But it didn’t work out.”

Curry wound up winning the game 3-2, and, even though everyone knows it was an exhibition, a curious thing happened. Based on the “loss”, the Cadets fell in the poll. Prior to the exhibition with Curry, Norwich was ranked second with one first place vote and a total of 204 points (teams get 15 points for a first place vote, 14 for a second place vote, etc.). In this week’s poll, the Cadets are ranked third, with no first place votes and a total of 183 points.

Meanwhile, Curry rose from the tenth spot (89 points) to the seventh position (134 points).

This also happened to a lesser extent to Manhattanville this season. The Valiants did not make the USCHO preseason poll, but based on a pair of exhibition wins against the always-strong US Under 18 Team, Manhattanville entered the poll the next week at Number 14. Since then, three more wins and a boatload of losses by teams ahead in the rankings have moved the Valiants into sixth.

Turning Point

Trinity should again challenge for the NESCAC title, thanks in part to goaltender Doug Kiselius, who is back between the pipes for his senior season. Kiselius was all-NESCAC last season, and All-American the year before. He’s the latest in a long line of quality netminders at Trinity, including Jeff Blair and Geoffrey Faulkner, who hold most of the goaltending records at the school. Kiselius is on target to break most of them.

Kiselius backed up Faulkner his freshman year, and assumed the starting goaltending role as a sophomore. According to coach John Dunham, Kiselius got off to a rough start.

“He started out rocky, until we got his style squared away,” recalled Dunham.

Trinity was a respectable 6-2-1 in the first nine games Kiselius started, but there were some bad outings, especially against Oswego when he was pulled after allowing five goals on 22 shots.

The turning point, according to Dunham, was Jan. 17, 2003 against St. Anselm. Kiselius was coming off a poor showing, allowing three goals on 13 shots in a 3-3 tie against Amherst the week before.

“He injured his ankle in warm-ups,” said Dunham. “We weren’t sure if he could play, but he wanted to continue. The interesting thing is that since Doug has always been a butterfly style goaltender, he really couldn’t do that with his ankle.

“Instead he was forced to stand up more, which is what he had been trying to get him to do. He played great (24 saves on 25 shots) and then the next night, he made 53 saves against New England College. I knew then we had a goalie.”

That 53 save performance came in a 1-0 shutout win for the Bantams, who went on to win the NESCAC championship. Kiselius finished the season with a 2.53 GAA and a .912 save percentage, good enough for a spot on the All-American team.

Quote of the Week

“It was the first time we’ve lost back to back games at home since 1990. I looked over at our backup goaltender, who looks about twelve, and asked him, ‘How old were you in 1990?’ He said, ‘Five'”. — Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery on his Behind the Bench show on WIRY.

And You Think You’ve Got It Rough

Division III hockey fans complain about the NCAA selection process, but it could be worse.

In hockey, there are six autobids and three at-large spots, and one is guaranteed to a Pool B team (Pool B is made up of teams not eligible for an automatic qualifier). Only three, you say? Boy, that’s tough for teams that don’t win their tournaments — at the most there’s just two “second chances” available for highly ranked teams that don’t win their conference championship (these are known as Pool C). Those spots last season went to Curry and Wisconsin-River Falls. St. John’s, the regular season MIAC champion, was left out, and so were strong teams like New England College and Wisconsin-Superior.

Let’s look at Division III soccer, which announced its NCAA tournament field last week and is currently in the second round of its national tournament. The field is much larger (44 teams vs. nine for hockey), but so is the overall number of programs (367 vs. 68 for hockey).

There are a whopping 36 conferences granted autobids, and an additional 46 teams in Pool B. That’s 36 spots taken by conference champions, and another five allocated to Pool B.

Now do the math. That leaves three Pool C bids left. For 367 teams! And remember, this season, Pool B teams are eligible for those slots too. As a matter of fact, one of those spots did indeed go to a pool B team this season in soccer.

That means just two teams who lost in their conference tournaments got a second chance. That’s the same number as hockey, even though there are well over five times as many soccer teams.

And next season, hockey adds another at-large team to the tournament.

Feel better?