Men’s Hockey Rebounds from Losing Weekend, Ties No. 3 Norwich
By Brenton Arnablodi '14, Managing Sports Editor
The men’s ice hockey team skated to impressive performances on home ice this past weekend, holding third-ranked Norwich to a 2-2 draw on Friday before thrashing St. Michael’s 6-1 on Saturday. After earning three points this weekend, the Jeffs remain unbeaten in conference play (3-0-1).

Norwich, the defending NCAA Tournament champion from last year, entered the game brimming with confidence. After all, the Cadets trounced Amherst 5-0 last season. The Jeffs, on the other hand, were coming off a miserable stretch of hockey, suffering two defeats (0-5 at home to 11th-ranked Manhattanville and 1-3 against unranked Utica) the previous weekend. A matchup with perennial powerhouse Norwich threatened to exacerbate the Jeffs’ struggles.

Despite the early-season slump, the Jeffs felt that they could use their skating speed and aggressive forechecking style to pressure Norwich’s suspect defense and generate offensive opportunities.

“We knew that Norwich was going to be a strong team, but felt that we were the quicker team,” forward Joe Brock ’11 said. “We knew that we needed to get the puck deep in their zone and make their defensemen skate.”

“We knew Norwich’s defense was slow, and so we worked a lot on getting behind their defense and winning battles in the corners with our skating ability,” co-captain Eddie Effinger ’12 said.

After just two minutes of play, however, Amherst appeared to be stumbling to another disappointing loss, as Norwich scored the game’s opening goal at the 1:59 mark of the first period. After a Lord Jeff turnover behind the net, Norwich’s Travis Janke corralled the loose puck, skated across the slot area, and fired a wraparound shot past the outstretched arm of Amherst goalie Cole Anderson ’11.

The Jeffs, however, shifted the momentum just minutes after the first goal, when Norwich committed two penalties in a span of 36 seconds. Amherst capitalized on the ensuing 5-on-3 power play, as Amherst forward Luke Arnold ’11 slapped home a rebound from close range to knot the game at 1-1.

“Teams have been taking penalties trying to keep up with us, and we see our special teams opportunities as the possible game changing influence every weekend,” Effinger said. The Jeffs have averaged 5.3 power play chances per game this season, whereas opponents have averaged 4.5 man-advantage opportunities against Amherst.

Norwich responded with a flurry of offensive pressure, and scored a power play goal to regain the lead with 3:46 remaining the first period. The Jeffs earned another 5-on-3 power play in the final minutes of the period, but could not convert on the two-man advantage.

Amherst and Norwich combined for 30 shots in a dynamic first period, but the game became more of a defensive struggle as time progressed. Norwich maintained its 2-1 lead after a scoreless second period, and the Jeffs were teetering on the brink of a three-game losing streak.

Skating with an extra jolt of desperation, Amherst scored the crucial equalizer just over five minutes into the third period. Jeffs’ defenseman Brandon Hew ’13 floated a wrist shot from the blue line that found its way through traffic, slipping past the screened Norwich goalkeeper.

The Cadets generated several excellent scoring opportunities later in the third period, but the Jeffs hung on with stellar goaltending and gutsy defending. Midway through the third period, Jeffs’ defenseman Jeremy Deutsch ’12 cleared a loose puck from the crease before a Cadet skater could punch it into the goal.

With the score tied at 2-2 after three periods, the two teams battled through a five minute overtime session. With 3:11 remaining in overtime, Anderson made a spectacular glove save that brought the home crowd to its feet.

Amherst began to attack more ambitiously in the waning minutes of overtime, and had a few breakaway attempts thwarted by last-ditch defensive plays from Norwich. The Jeffs also had a glorious point-blank scoring chance seconds before the final buzzer, but forward Mike Moher ’13 pushed his shot just inches wide of the post.

The Jeffs were able to skate stride for stride with the vaunted Cadets, and even out-shot Norwich by a 33-31 margin. Anderson recorded 29 saves, and frustrated the Norwich offense with several terrific stops.

“It was good to rebound from last weekend with a tie against a tough team like Norwich,” Brock said. “If we had played a bit more cleanly, we could easily have come out with a win.”

Inspired by the strong effort against Norwich, the Jeffs crushed St. Michael’s 6-1 the following afternoon. The Jeffs actually fell behind 1-0 late in the first period, but a last-minute goal from Andrew Kurlanski ’14 gave Amherst a huge psychological boost entering the intermission.

Even after tying the game at 1-1, the Jeffs were unhappy about their slow start against St. Michael’s. The Jeffs have been plagued by lethargic, sloppy first period play this season, getting outscored 5-7 in the opening frame after six games this year. By contrast, the Jeffs have pummeled their opponents by a 12-6 margin in the second and third periods.

“Our biggest concern looking forward is our poor starts and mental lapses. We haven’t started games with the intensity we need - we’ve waited for the other teams to score or establish momentum until we start playing up to our capability,” Effinger said.

“We knew that we had no business being down 1-0 to St. Michael’s because we were the better team,” Brock said. “We had to start playing better and that is what we were able to do.”

Amherst’s Matt Rhone ’11 scored the go-ahead goal just 56 seconds into the second period, giving the Jeffs a 2-1 advantage. Mark Colp ’12 scored the team’s next two goals — a power-play tally at the 17:28 mark of the second period, and a second goal 36 seconds into the third period — to stretch the Amherst lead to 4-1.

Nick Brunette ’13 and Effinger scored late insurance goals to cap the 6-1 victory. The Jeffs dominated the game for long stretches, outshooting St. Michael’s by a 34-20 margin. Anderson also continued his strong play, stopping 19 of 20 shots for the win.

Issue 11, Submitted 2010-12-08 15:51:14