February 10, 2016
Tufts' Conor Helfrich won 23 of 31 faceoffs in the NCAA championship game victory over Lynchburg. The Jumbos are attempting to become the first men's DIII team to win three straight titles since Salisbury (2003-05). (Kevin Tucker)
Tufts' Conor Helfrich won 23 of 31 faceoffs in the NCAA championship game victory over Lynchburg. The Jumbos are attempting to become the first men's DIII team to win three straight titles since Salisbury (2003-05). (Kevin Tucker)

Tufts Aiming For Third Straight Crown

by LM Staff | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | #LMRanks

Many of the top stars from the NCAA Division III ranks return this season, so it's no surprise that Tufts is expected to reign supreme against this year.

No. 4 Salisbury knocked off Hampden-Sydney 12-7 on Saturday in the most notable game to date in men's Division III this year, but here's a quick look at the Nike/LM Top 20 heading into the season.

1. Tufts

There hasn’t been a three-peat in a decade, but with John Uppgren (129 points) and championship game hero Conor Helfrich (65.0 FO%) returning, the Jumbos are favorites to triple up.

2. Lynchburg

It was a season to remember for the Hornets, but there’s plenty to be excited about this year, especially with Austin Stewart (NCAA-record 109 goals in ’15) and Aaron Murphy (97 points) back in the fold.

3. RIT

After the graduation of a prolific senior class, RIT is unlikely to post undefeated regular seasons like the last two campaigns, but star LSM Matt Hossack and the Tigers will still be a handful in May.

4. Salisbury

The Sea Gulls enter the season with the least amount of question marks they’ve had in several years, which is bad news for the South region. Finding a quality goalie is the last piece of the puzzle.

5. Amherst

Just about everyone returns for a team that handed Tufts one of its losses last year, led by Quinn Moroney, who will break the NCAA career record for assists (276) sometime in 2016.

6. Gettysburg

The Bullets returned to glory in 2015, getting to within a game of playing for a championship. Now the hard part starts. Middie Jameson Smith (55 points) is one of the few weapons in Hank Janczyk’s holster.

7. Middlebury

The Panthers emerged from their NCAA tournament slumber and should be even better this year, paced by Jon Broome (61 points) and a stiff defensive unit.

8. Ohio Wesleyan

The Battling Bishops had one of the best seasons in school history with a gritty senior class. They’ll miss that group, but Marcus Dietz (67 points) and Luke Leyden (27) are formidable.

Marcus Dietz led Ohio Wesleyan with 67 points last season. The Battling Bishops won their first 18 games before falling to another undefeated team, Gettysburg, in the NCAA quarterfinals. (John Strohsacker).

9. Bates

After years toiling in anonymity in the NESCAC, Bates put together its best season ever and returns nearly intact, including premium middie Charlie Fay (40 points).

10. Stevenson

The Mustangs have the offense to put up some numbers and win the MAC-Commonwealth, but the defense is littered with question marks. Stevenson has a brutal non-conference schedule.

11. Cortland

Zach Hopps (78 points) is a dangerous attackman while Pat Baldwin (67.5 FO%) can change games, giving the Dragons a good foundation. The defense still needs to catch up, and quickly.

12. Roanoke

The Maroons will be a frightening offensive juggernaut with all of its big guns, led by Tyler McWillians (59 points) and Will Pilat (57). Solving conference rival Lynchburg will be priority No. 1.

13. Ursinius

Using a grinding, soul-sucking defense, backed by goalie Brian Neff (6.41 GAA, 63.7 sv%), the Bears came within a goal of the quarterfinals. The defense should be just as good, which should frighten the Centennial.

14. Union

The Dutchmen uncharacteristically upped the tempo with outstanding results. That was based more on personnel, so expect Union to resort to its typical meatgrinder this spring.

15. Denison

This edition of the Big Red looks suspiciously like the one that rolled to an undefeated season in 2014. Look out for Blair Farinholt (51 points).

16. Nazareth

Luke Wooters (101 points) and Troy Haefele (78) are a one-two attack combo that will have to reckoned with. If the defense and faceoff unit can excel, this is a dangerous outfit.

17. Endicott

The Gulls said goodbye to long-time coach Sean Quirk and a talented senior class, but the cupboard isn’t bare for new skipper Eric Hagarty. Endicott may score fewer goals, but it will be in the postseason hunt.

18. Cabrini

The once high-flying Cavaliers will be a little more reserved as they lean on ace goalie Tyler Morrell (6.78 GAA, 57.7 SV%).

19. Ithaca

Scott Sidnam (7.44 GAA, 55.6 SV%) is back for his final season in the cage. Jack Shumway (71 points) leads a team trying to catch Nazareth in the E8.

20. Springfield

The Pride’s brutal schedule always has them ready for the key games late in the season, Springfield will be young, but with plenty of talent.

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