Shooting for Number One
By Brian Smith '12, Staff Writer
Over the weekend, the Amherst men’s hockey team took on the University of New England and the University of Southern Maine in conference play. Friday night featured the seventh-ranked Lord Jeffs and the New England Nor’easters at Orr Rink. The game started with a fast-paced, high-powered attack from the Nor’easters. Freshman goalie Nathan Corey was given plenty of support from the defense. The freshman also managed to make several great stops throughout the game, and was also able to survive a crashed net late in the first period. Sophomore Kevin English scored his first collegiate goal late in the first period, giving the Jeffs a 1-0 going into intermission.

Entering the second period, the Jeffs showed more intensity than in the first period, pressing hard in the opening minutes. An early penalty on Amherst was killed with no problem, which has been a frequent story for the Jeffs this year. Amherst is ranked first in the nation in penalty kill percentage (92.8), and that figure would only improve during the course of the game. In one particular moment in the second period, Jack Baer ’10 and Mike Baran ’12 sandwiched a Nor’easter in the same fashion as the “Bash Bros” from the Mighty Ducks movies. This style of play certainly paid dividends for the Jeffs, as they ended the period without allowing any goals, while scoring one for themselves. Sophomore Eddie Effinger scored for the Jeffs with less than a minute to play, giving Amherst a 2-0 lead at the end of the second period.

The Jeffs started the third period stong, with junior Joe Brock putting in a goal before two minutes had even passed. Later in the period, Baran put in a goal to give Amherst a 4-0 lead, which they would maintain until the end of the game. Corey’s shutout was his third in as many games, putting him in second place in Div. III hockey in the shutout category. With the win, Amherst improved their unbeaten streak to 12 games.

Amherst looked to continue their streak the next day against Southern Maine. The game started with both teams playing equally well. There was, however, an astonishing amount of penalties in the first and second periods. With seven penalties in the first period and five in the second, both teams were constantly playing shorthanded. Both teams would go nearly the entire first and second periods without a goal. With two seconds left to play in the second, freshman forward Jamie Hawkrigg blasted a shot from the blue line that wound up in the back of the net.

Entering the third period with a 1-0 lead, the Jeffs were able to put on one of their best performances during their unbeaten streak. In the period, Amherst scored three goals, with each goal coming with two assists, totaling to nine points. Junior goalie Cole Anderson would ensure that Amherst would remain unbeaten for the 13th straight game, with the final score being 4-0. “We are playing with a lot of confidence, and it has been showing in our play,” said English, who contributed an assist in the third period. “Our third period against Southern Maine was one our best periods during the unbeaten streak. We need to keep improving our play so we can keep this unbeaten streak going.”

The box scores from the past two games are indicators that the team is playing well together. This was echoed by freshman Nick Brunette. “I feel that the streak we are on right now is doing a lot for our confidence,” said Brunette. “During the current streak I feel our team has come together and players are finding their roles within the team.” Brock also mentioned how the team has come together over the streak. “A 13-game unbeaten streak is pretty long and we have experienced our ups and downs,” he said. “But, I think our team has improved drastically over that time. We have been consistently improving.”

Perhaps the most astonishing part of the current unbeaten streak is the way the team has handled themselves in different situations. Whether it’s coming from behind or maintaining a lead, the Jeffs have been finding ways to deal with whatever is thrown at them. “It seems to me that one of the most important things currently is the way we have found ways to win and have learned, as a team, to win games in different ways,” said Corey. “These include overcoming a slow start and coming from behind in the third period (at Hamilton) to hanging on and playing solid defense to maintain a late lead.” The team will look to show their improved, resilient style to Bowdoin and Colby next weekend as the team takes a takes a trip to Maine. Amherst will play Friday night at 7 p.m. against Bowdoin and Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. against 15th-ranked Colby.

Issue 13, Submitted 2010-02-03 02:39:05