Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: No Berkshire teams at this year's Hoophall tournament

Posted
Random thoughts while making french toast, which is what you do when anticipating snow.

The Berkshire Eagle sports staff was all around Berkshire County this weekend covering events, which is something that shouldn't surprise you. That's what we do every day or night.

Usually, however, at least one of us had been in Springfield this weekend to watch Berkshire County teams perform in the HoopHall Tournament at Springfield College.

Your local boys teams that played on Thursday included Sabis, Chicopee, Chicopee Comp, Wachusett Regional, Putnam, St. John's of Shrewsbury, Central and Sci-Tech, with Central playing again Monday night. There were two Western Massachusetts girls games and those involved Granby, South Hadley, Minnechaug and West Springfield.

Notice something missing?

For some inexplicable reason, Berkshire County was left out of this year's HoopHall festivities.

Now, it might be understandable if Berkshire teams had laid eggs on the Blake Arena court. In the previous three tournaments, that was far from the case. In fact, five teams have played in Springfield over the past three years, and Berkshire teams are 3-2.

It's a crying shame that the reigning Western Massachusetts Division II champion Taconic Braves are not in Springfield for this tournament. Taconic, the No. 1 team in the Berkshire Eagle boys' basketball rankings and one of the top teams in Western Mass. this year, took to the Springfield College court back in 2017 and rolled over Sabis 78-58. That's the same Sabis team that eked out a 74-71 win over Chicopee in this year's tournament.

Four of the top five teams in the MassLive.com rankings played in the HoopHall boys' tourney. The only one who didn't? That's right, Bill Heaphy's Taconic boys.

Why the Hoosac Valley girls weren't invited is another mystery. Ron Wojcik's Hurricanes played two "must see TV" games down there, beating Longmeadow last year and edging South Hadley 64-62 back in 2016.

Friday's Hoosac-Wahconah game would have been a dandy on the court at the Birthplace of Basketball. Instead, HoopHall organizers got South Hadley beating Granby. South Hadley lost to Hoosac by 29 this year, while Granby scored 19 points in a loss to Wahconah.

Instead, organizers put out there a Minnechaug team that lost to the Hurricanes by 11 and beat Pittsfield by only three.

Here's hoping this was nothing more than a one-year oversight on the part of the tournament's organizers. It would be a darn shame if the folks at the Basketball Hall of Fame forget there's a lot of Massachusetts to the west of its building on I-91.

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So if I told you that the epicenter of college hockey in Massachusetts was in the western part of the state, you wouldn't believe me, would you?

Well, it's true.

Between the UMass men and the two Williams College teams, there are three of the top-ranked teams in the country in their respective divisions.

Coach Greg Carvel's Minutemen regained the No. 1 ranking at the start of the week and then routed Northeastern 6-1 on Friday night in Amherst.

It was so bad that Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said his team got "bleep kicked." And continued, as was reported by the UMass Daily Collegian's hockey writer Mollie Walker; "They out-competed us, out-battled us, wanted it more, right from the opening faceoff and it continued through three periods. It was embarrassing, it was our worst loss in probably five years and they just kept on hammering us, and we didn't respond," he said. "It was a lack of — our top guys didn't show up and I'll take responsibility for not having our team ready because it was evident they were just men amongst little boys out here tonight. I thought we looked like a pee-wee team at times against a college team."

By the way, that might be as good a quote as you'll get from any coach anywhere.

So the Minutemen have made a statement that they could be playing deep into March.

The Williams men are ranked 14th in the D3hoops.com national Top 15 and the women are 10th in the USCHO.com Top 10. After sweeping Bowdoin and Colby this weekend, coach Bill Kangas' Ephs men should be moving up.

If both Williams teams continue to win, they almost have to win their respective NESCAC championships. There are 84 men's hockey teams and 55 women's teams in Division III. The NCAA Tournament has a 12-team men's field, with eight automatic qualifiers. One of those qualifiers is the NESCAC tournament champion. The women have a 10-team field and NESCAC gets one of six auto bids from 55 teams.

So the best hockey in Massachusetts is in Western Mass. And doesn't that sound good?

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter or 413-496-6253.


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