Twice is Nice
By Brian Smith '12, Staff Writer
After a thrilling NESCAC Championship overtime victory earlier this month, the women’s hockey team was given an all-access pass to defend their national title at the NCAA Tournament. With the No.1 national ranking, the Lord Jeffs were given a first round bye in the tournament, which gave the team an invalubale extra week to prepare. At the Don Roberts Ice Rink at Gustavus Adolphus College on March 19, the Lord Jeffs encountered the balmy mid-30’s Minnesotan air, as well as some of the best women’s hockey programs in the country.

On Friday night, Amherst took on sixth-ranked Gustavus Adolphus in the semifinals. The game had all the ingredients for great hockey: fast-paced offenses, strong defense and excellent goaltending. In fact, the top two netminders in the nation were in goal on Friday, as Gustavus goalie Danielle Justice (0.96 goals allowed average) and Lord Jeff Caroline Hu (1.00 goals allowed average) started the game in goal.

At 12:50 into the first period, Gustavus racked up the first penalty of the game, and about a minute later, it led to the first goal of the game. The goal, credited to Amherst defenseman Stephanie Clegg ’12, came via a rebound after a shot from fellow defender Kirsten Dier ’10. With a 1-0 lead, Amherst closed out the first period leaving the Gusties in the dust.

The second period featured a rejuvenated Gustavus team, but they were still outplayed by Amherst. With the Gusties putting more shots on goal, it provided more opportunities to witness Hu make spectacular saves, with 10 for the period. With another power play to work with, Dier was able to find the back of the net to give Amherst a commanding 2-0 advantage midway through the period. First team All-American Randi Zukas ’11 and senior captain Kate Dennett contributed with assists on the play.

Going into the third period with a 2-0 lead, Amherst expected the Gusties’ to leave it all on the ice for the final 20 minutes, and they got the Gusties’ best shot. Gustavus continued to apply plenty of pressure, pouring an additional 13 shots on goal. Again, Hu managed to save every shot fired her way. And while Gustavus put their focus on their offensive attack, the Lord Jeffs took advantage of their defensive lapses.

Seven minutes into the third period, Megan Curry ’11 found herself one-on-one with the goalie, and did not fail to capitalize. Curry’s goal gave Amherst a 3-0 lead, as well as complete control of the game. Dennett scored another goal on an empty net with less than a minute left in regulation, sealing the win for the Jeffs and a spot in the National Championship game.

On Saturday, Amherst took to the ice against the 10th-ranked Cadets in the National Championship game. The Jeffs had last seen the Cadets in their last regular season game on Feb. 20, when they defeated them 3-1 at home.

The first period was not unlike the Gustavus game from the previous night, as the Cadets were able to push through the Amherst zone and apply a steady amount of pressure. The Lord Jeff defense, with Hu in goal, was able to stymie every attempt brought on by Norwich. Hu was again spectacular in goal, making several saves that kept the Jeffs from falling behind. Amherst scored the first goal of the game 11:43 in the first period, as Geneva Lloyd ’13 drilled a wrist shot off a beautiful drop pass from Ellen Swiontkowski ’12. With the 1-0 lead, Amherst closed out the period with considerable momentum, and was well on their way to a second consecutive national title.

Amherst would score quickly in the second period to further extend their lead. Just after three minutes of play, Alyssa Chwick ’10 scored her first goal of the season, giving the Jeffs a two-goal cushion. Julia Koch ’11 and Swiontkowski delivered the assists on the play. The Jeffs would score again four minutes later, as Braidie Campbell ’11 lit the lamp, with Dier and Koch contributing with the helpers. The 3-0 lead graced the scoreboard at the end of the period, and by this point, it was inevitable that the No.1 team in the country would remain at the top.

With a five-on-three power play advantage opening up in the third period, the Jeffs had no problem adding on to their lead. Thirty-four seconds into the frame, Clegg scored the power play goal, getting the assists from Courtney Hanlon ’11 and Randi Zukas ’11 and giving the team an insurmountable 4-0 lead. Less than three minutes later, Emily Vitale ’12 increased that lead to 5-0, firing a shot into the back of the net after another assist from Swiontkowski.

After Amherst’s fifth goal of the night, Norwich started to pick up their attack, scoring two quick goals in succession and cutting the lead to three. This proved to be too little too late, however, as Amherst would increase its lead again. Vitale would score her second goal at 14:09 in the third, with Molly Malloy ’10 scoring the last goal of the game with about a minute left in regulation. Lloyd and Swiontkowski were given the assists on Vitale’s goal, while Zukas and Dennett picked up the helpers on Malloy’s goal.

As time began to wind down, the excitement started to set in, as players on the bench began jumping up and down joyously as the Lord Jeffs on the ice played hard until the end. With the final buzzer sounding from the scoreboard, the Lord Jeffs claimed their second straight Div. III National Championship, stormed the ice (as well as mobbing Hu), and added another impressive win in what was a dominating season.

Winning the National Championship was always the main target for the Lord Jeffs this year, and they followed through with authority. On the season, Amherst outscored their opponents 317-82. With two of the nation’s best goalies in Hu and Sinead Murphy ’12, in addition to outstanding defensive play, the Jeffs has made it extremely difficult for their opponents to score all year long. The most goals that any team scored on Amherst was three, and only once this season did that result in a loss.

Head coach Jim Plumer was extremely pleased with how his team has played this year in their second consecutive championship run.

“We saved our best for last this year,” Plumer said. “We didn’t have too many lows during the season. One of our goals for the season was to play consistently well, and we accomplished that. We played the way we wanted to play.”

Versatility has been one of the team’s mainstays all season long, and it was on full display on the biggest stage of all. “We have a lot of talent and great leadership in all the classes,” said Plumer. “Different players stepped up when they needed to. We never got too rattled.”

Next year looks to be like another great season for Amherst, as the likely senior class includes Zukas, Hu, Hanlon, Julia Koch, Megan Curry, Cianna Wyshnytzky, Braidie Campbell and Brittney Evans. While the rest of the team will be just as critical, these two-time champs will look to finish off their Amherst careers with a three-peat, and with the dominance displayed this season, it is looking like a very real possibility.

“We have a lot of pieces of the puzzle coming back next year,” Plumer explained. “Although you can’t replace the players in our senior class, the culture gets passed down along the way. We’re still going to be very strong next year.”

Issue 19, Submitted 2010-03-24 20:09:21