Men’s Hockey Suffers Crushing OT Playoff Loss to Bowdoin
By Brenton Arnaboldi '14, Managing Sports Editor
The men’s hockey team saw its season come to a heartbreaking end last weekend, losing a 4-3 overtime battle against Bowdoin in the first round of the NESCAC playoffs Saturday afternoon at Orr Rink. The Jeffs (12-9-4, 10-6-3 NESCAC) held three one-goal leads (1-0, 2-1, and 3-2) over the course of the game, but the feisty Polar Bears clawed back each time to tie the score.

After alternating the first six goals in regulation, the teams skated for 18 minutes of sudden-death overtime. With two minutes remaining in the extra sesssion, Bowdoin’s Colin Downey scored a breakaway goal to send the final dagger into the Jeffs’ season.

Overtime playoff games have not been kind to the men’s hockey team over the past few years. Last February, the Jeffs saw their season crash abruptly in a 2-1 overtime defeat to Trinity in the first round of the tournament, also at Orr Rink. The Jeffs were determined to advance past the quarterfinals this season, but history repeated itself as the Jeffs endured another gut-wrenching defeat.

The Jeffs entered the game as the No. 4 seed in the tournament; Bowdoin and Amherst earned the same number of points during the regular season, but the Jeffs beat the Polar Bears 3-2 in early February to secure the head-to-head tiebreaker. Home-ice advantage, however, would prove futile in the playoffs.

Amherst opened the scoring six minutes into the first period, as defenseman Jeremy Deutsch ’12 fired a low wrist shot from the point, with the puck finding its way through traffic into the bottom right corner of the net. The Jeffs smothered Bowdoin during the first period " holding the Polar Bears to just five shots " and entered intermission with a 1-0 lead. The pace intensified in the second period, as both teams skated more aggressively for scoring opportunities. After barraging Amherst goalie Cole Anderson ’11 with a flurry of shots, Bowdoin evened the score at 1-1 with a power-play goal 5:33 into the middle frame.

The Jeffs struck back with an even-strength goal five minutes later. Bowdoin goalie Steve Messina was unable to corral a quick shot from Amherst sophomore Dylan Trumble, and Brian Safstrom ’14 was there to jam the rebound into the net. Safstrom recorded just six points (two goals, four assists) during the regular season, but the first-year forward scored one goal and one assist in a clutch performance this Saturday. Bowdoin, however, capitalized on its next power play opportunity, tying the score at 2-2. With seven minutes left in the second period, Bowdoin’s Daniel Weiniger found the puck in a scramble in front of the Amherst goal before sending a no-look pass to an open teammate, who lifted the shot above the sprawling Jeffs’ goaltender.

Determined to shift the momentum, the Jeffs scored a power-play goal with 3:38 remaining in the second period, and took a 3-2 lead into the intermission. Mark Colp ’11 redirected a slap shot from Jamie Hawkrigg ’13, and the puck trickled between Messina’s leg pads.

The Jeffs could not capitalize on two power plays early in the third period, squandering a golden opportunity to extend their tenuous lead. After killing the penalties, the desperate Polar Bears continued to push forward for the equalizer, and finally broke through with 7:54 left in the final period. Bowdoin sniper Jeff Fanning scored his league-leading 19th goal of the season, firing a wrist shot over Anderson’s shoulder and into the top netting to knot the contest at 3-3.

The score would remain 3-3 through the end of regulation, and the teams proceeded to play 18 minutes of nerve-racking hockey in sudden-death overtime. With their seasons hanging precariously in the balance, the Jeffs and Polar Bears fought tenaciously for every loose puck. Each turnover or defensive breakdown was magnified during the extra session, when the difference between winning and losing can come down to a single miscue.

Unfortunately for the home side, the Jeffs’ defense allowed Bowdoin’s Downey to break free in the waning minutes, and the opposing forward wasted no time in ripping a high wrist shot past Anderson for the game-winning goal. Anderson performed valiantly in net, finishing with 36 saves, while Bowdoin’s Messina turned away 31 shots.

After returning many of the core players from the ’09-10 season, the Jeffs entered this year’s campaign with NESCAC title aspirations. Amherst played solid hockey in December and early January, going 6-2-2 in its first ten games. The Jeffs sputtered in late January, however, as morale-crushing injuries and inconsistent play plagued the roster during a 1-4-2 skid. Amherst recovered in time for the stretch run, as the Jeffs won five of their final seven regular season games to earn home-ice advantage in the NESCAC quarterfinals. But similar to last year, the Jeffs will have to cope with the bitter taste of overtime defeat this offseason.

Issue 17, Submitted 2011-03-02 05:35:58