Men’s Hockey Drops Heartbreaker in OT Loss to Trinity
By Brian Smith '12, Staff Writer
The men’s hockey team finished the regular season two weeks ago with a win against Babson College and a come-from-behind tie against University of Massachusetts-Boston. Fresh off this victory, in which they created scoring chances and found different ways to win, the Jeffs went up against a talented and confident Trinity team on Saturday Feb. 27.

Because the Bantams lost their last regular season game, they gave up hosting rights for the NESCAC quarterfinals. As a result, Amherst was awarded the No. 4 seed of the NESCAC Championship, while Trinity was given the No. 5 seed. Amherst’s 9-2-2 record at Orr Rink, in addition to a full house filled with the rowdy Lord Jeff Nation, provided an intimidating factor that helped propel the Jeffs in the opening period of Saturday night’s marquee matchup.

From the get-go, Amherst and Trinity were going full steam at each other. The first period gave way to five penalties, and with players hurling themselves at each other, the melee taking place on the ice contributed to growing anticipation in the stands. Any hit on a Bantam would lead to a raucous roar from Lord Jeff Nation, and the roof was nearly blown off midway through the period when Brandon Hew ’13 drilled a helpless Bantam, leaving him wobbly-kneed and in a state of shock.

It wasn’t much longer until the decibel level reached new heights, as senior captain Teddy Vickers lit the lamp and gave the Jeffs a 1-0 lead with under two minutes left to play in the period. Jamie Hawkrigg ’13 and Luke Arnold ’11 contributed with assists on the play. As the period ended, all the momentum shifted in favor of the Jeffs.

The second period featured almost the exact same style of play, but this time the Bantams had things going their way. Junior netminder Cole Anderson made several brilliant saves, maintaining the 1-0 Amherst lead. The level of intensity grew as the second period went on, with the Jeffs racking up six of the eight penalties called in the period. The intensified physical play led to several key events that would change the game.

One took place midway through the second period and dramatically altered the game. In what was a bizarre occurrence, an official, perhaps in tune with the intensity taking place on the ice, called off what would have been a goal for the Jeffs. A shot fired by an Amherst player ricocheted off the glove of Trinity’s goalie, who tried to grasp the flailing puck out of the air. His attempt failed, and the puck fell out of his glove almost immediately. The loose puck was smashed home by Amherst, but was waved off by the official, who mistakenly thought that the Trinity goalie had held on to the puck. This kept the Jeffs from scoring their second goal of the game, which proved to be devastating for Amherst.

After this incident, Trinity went on to score the power play equalizer with under two minutes left to play in the period. The air was knocked out of the building, and all momentum that the Jeffs had before now belonged to Trinity. Neither team scored in the third period, and there were no penalties called, as the game shifted from the ends of the rink to center ice. Regulation ended, and a 20-minute, sudden-death overtime period was set up to decide who would advance to the NESCAC semifinals.

During regulation, Amherst fell prone to a problem that has devastated them for most of the season: their inability to score at full strength.

“We’ve been plagued recently by the inability to score when we’ve been at even strength,” said head coach Jack Arena. “That was the case [on Saturday], and it puts a lot of pressure on your special teams.”

This pressure led to a sense of urgency during the overtime period, as both teams went back and forth, shooting the puck whenever the opportunity arose. Both teams were able to put a few shots on goal, but unfortunately for Amherst, it was the Bantams who were able to put the finishing touch on the game, winning 3-2, and eliminating the Jeffs from the NESCAC Championship.

The game was supposed to be a nail-biter, and it simply came down to who would capitalize first — a reality apparent to both teams. The loss was excruciating to watch from the stands, but was perhaps even more disheartening for the players. Although there may still be an outside chance of making the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid, it is likely that Amherst’s season has come to an end. While it may be difficult to swallow,

“As for the game, it certainly was disappointing, but we competed hard and in a game where the teams are so close, it comes down to the very slightest of margins,” said Arena. “They made the big play before we did.”

Issue 17, Submitted 2010-03-03 04:43:20