Alex Brasky | @BataviasBest
Monday, February 12, 2018 | BataviasBest.org
The Section V Hockey Tournament kicks off this week, as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Genesee Ice Devils will each begin their journey towards a Class B Title. The Irish enter the tournament as the #5 seed, while the Ice Devils have drawn the #11 seed.
The Ice Devils’ trek to a championship begins on Wednesday, when Genesee will head to Lakeshore Rink where they will take on #6 seed Aquinas in an opening round matchup. The Lil’ Irish beat the Devils twice during the regular season, but each contest was within striking distance for Genesee, whose goal differential between the two games was just -3. This time around, GEN will look to make the plays needed to win a close game, and pull the upset on their way to the quarterfinals.
The shining light in what has been a difficult season for Genesee has been their sophomore goaltender Alex Hunt, who has posted a .900 save percentage, despite a 4+ goals against average – which has largely been a product of the fact his team has been outmatched throughout the year.
Later on this week, despite drawing a top-five seed and first round bye, the Irish must also pull an upset in their opening round matchup as they take on #4 seed Canandaigua in the quarterfinals on Thursday night at Canandaigua Rink. The Braves previously defeated ND during the regular season, in overtime, by the final score of 6-5.
Although it seems as if the odds are stacked against the Irish, if you dig deeper, things aren’t as bleak as they appear for ND.
Canandaigua has lost four games in a row, and throughout their skid the Braves have struggled on the defensive end – allowing 21 goals during that span. On the other side of the coin, Notre Dame has won five of their last seven games, and during that span have produced a goal differential of +16.
“I feel like we are really coming together,” said Notre Dame head coach Marc Staley yesterday afternoon. “There are seven teams that could win Class B this year, (and whoever does) has to beat three good teams in a row. There is no way around it.”
Aside from #5 Notre Dame, and #4 Canandaigua, who are each top-contenders for the title, #1 Brockport, #2 Webster Thomas, and #3 Churchville-Chili round out Class B’s top-five. Behind #6 Aquinas are #7 Irondequoit, #8 Geneseo, #9 Geneva, #10 Spencerport, and finally #11 Genesee. Here is a look at the bracket (screen grab taken from the Section V Hockey website):
Forecasting the Irish
Of the two locals it’s clear that Notre Dame is the only team in true contention for the Class B Title, but as coach Staley remarked, their trip to the championship game is not a smooth one. Aside from facing Canandaigua in the quarterfinals, if ND is to beat the Braves they then will likely have to square-off with defending Class B Champ Brockport in the semis – who Notre Dame edged by a score of 3-2 in overtime earlier in the year.
In addition to their close games vs CAN, and BROCK, the Irish also faced the two top teams on the opposite side of the Class B bracket – Churchville-Chili (5-3 ND win), and Webster Thomas (1-0 ND loss) – during the regular season, and both of those games were tight ones as well.
As you can see, with Class B chalk-full of competitive teams this season, winning the 2017-2018 title will be no easy feat. If the Irish are to pull it off, they must get top-tier play from their top-scorers, as well as quality play between the pipes.
Leading Notre Dame in scoring this season have been seniors Cam Ells and Ethan Hutchins, as well as freshman Max Hutchins – all of which have contributed over 25 total points at this point in the year. Ells has been the leading goal scorer for the team, with 18 lamp lighters during the regular season, while the Hutchins brothers have been the ultimate assist men – chipping in 19 and 17 apples respectively.
Inside the net, senior Ethan Conrad has stopped over 90% of the shots fired at him, and posted a 2.37 goals against average through 19 regular season games. Both marks are considerably better than that of Canandaigua starting goaltender Noah Schwartz – whom the Irish face-off with on Thursday.
As far as offense is concerned Notre Dame is on par with most of the other top-five teams in Class B, as Brockport’s 100 regular season goals leads the group, while the other four (Webster, Churchville, Canandaigua, Notre Dame) all scored right around 85 goals throughout the regular year.
If you were to point to anything that can be a difference maker for ND in their opening contest, and in the bracket overall, it would be their ability on the defensive end.
Defensively for the Irish, Grant Hens, Devin Grimshaw, Ben Gramlich, and Alex Totten have done a nice job clearing the way for their goaltender throughout the year, and will be called upon to put forth yet another strong effort on Thursday, and perhaps beyond. Behind them, Conrad, a five-year varsity goaltender who has also won a Section V Title, seems to have the experience needed to push his team over the edge in what is expected to be a tight, competitive playoff bracket.
Be sure to stay tuned this week, as we look for both local teams to survive and advance to the next round of Section V Hockey Playoffs. You can follow each team’s opening game through the Section V Hockey website, while the Notre Dame game will be updated LIVE @BataviasBestHS on Twitter. Look for postgame coverage on our homepage bataviasbest.org.