Men’s Hockey Frozen in Cold Stretch, Suffers Losses
By Brenton Arnaboldi '14, Managing Sports Editor
Crippled by injuries to top players, the Men’s Hockey team (7-5-4, 5-3-3 NESCAC) has struggled in the month of January, going 3-3-3 in the past three weeks. Amherst earned a stirring 4-2 victory over archrival Williams on Jan. 7, but the Jeffs have won just once in six games since that important result.

In the latest of a stretch of subpar results, the Jeffs suffered two gut-wrenching defeats at home this past weekend. The first loss, a 3-2 defeat at the hands of lowly Skidmore (5-10-2), was particularly bad given the visitors’ poor record. The next day, the Jeffs played great hockey against a very strong Castleton (15-2) team, but blew a 2-1 lead in the waning minutes of regulation before losing 3-2 in overtime.

“As far as this weekend goes, the team is obviously disappointed,” co-captain Trip Wray ’11 said.

Sloppy, icareless turnovers doomed the Jeffs in Friday’s contest against Skidmore. The Thoroughbreds initiated the scoring at the 17:13 mark of the first period, capitalizing on an Amherst giveaway in the defensive zone.

After a scoreless second period, Skidmore took advantage of another Amherst turnover to extend the lead to 2-0. Skidmore’s Alex Mykolenko intercepted a pass near the Amherst blue-line and fed Julian Malakorn back door for a one-timer goal. The Thoroughbreds scored a third goal on a power play with 13:55 left to play in the third period.

The Jeffs refused to surrender, however, and nearly mounted an epic comeback. Amherst’s Joe Brock added a power-play goal with 10:52 remaining to close the gap to 3-1. The Jeffs cut the deficit to 3-2 with 3:40 left in regulation, as junior Mike Baran’s floater from the blue line slipped through the pads of the unscreened Skidmore goaltender.

A late minor penalty against the Jeffs exacerbated the home side’s chances of scoring an equalizer. Amherst successfully killed off the man-disadvantage, but had only 40 seconds to score after the penalty expired. The Jeffs were able to pull Anderson for a sixth skater, and the desperate home side generated a flurry of scoring opportunities. The comeback effort fell just short, however, and the Jeffs skated off in frustration.

“We played hard against Skidmore, but we had a couple of bad turnovers that resulted in costly goals against,” Wray said.

The Jeffs carried over their strong third period play from Friday, and nearly pulled off a season-defining victory over Castleton State the following afternoon. The game started off at an uneventful pace as both teams played pretty defensively in the early going. Scoring opportunities were scarce as the teams combined for just 11 shots (6-5 Amherst edge) in the first period.

The tempo of the game accelerated early in the middle frame. Two minutes into the period, penalties for each team resulted in an action-packed four-on-four stretch. Anderson made a two spectacular saves on a 2-on-1 Castleton break to keep the game scoreless.

Five minutes later, Baran fed a long pass to Mike Moher ’13 to set up a 2-on-1 Amherst odd man rush. Moher forced the Castleton defender to commit before dishing a quick pass to Matt Rhone ’11, who snapped a shot over the goalie’s shoulder to give Amherst a 1-0 lead.

Castleton evened the game at 1-1 with less than one minute remaining in the second period, as a shot from the point trickled past Anderson. The Jeffs, however, answered back by scoring 1:40 into the 3rd period. Wray capitalized on a Castleton turnover - stealing the puck deep in the offensive zone — and sent a pass to a streaking Erik Hanson ’14, who wasted no time unleashing a wrist shot into the top netting.

The Jeffs had the better of the play during the first two periods, outshooting Castleton 19-16 through forty minutes. The tide was about to switch direction, however, as Castleton held a 17-4 edge in shots during the third period and overtime.

Anderson pulled off a series of incredible stops in the third period, fighting off the Castleton onslaught during the tense final minutes. Castleton finally notched an equalizer with 2:53 remaining, however, scoring on a close-range slap shot that Anderson had no chance to save.

By the five-minute overtime period, the Jeffs were barely hanging on, as Anderson stoned a Castleton breakaway attempt to keep the upset bid alive. But the home side would only experience anguish at the end of the day, as Castleton’s Nick Lazorko scored on a backhander with 1:29 to play in the extra session.

“We actually dictated the play against Castleton,” Wray said. “However, two bad bounces late in the third and then overtime cost us what looked like a solid victory.”

Over the last few weeks, the Jeffs have sorely missed the presence of co-Captain and key scorer Eddie Effinger ’12, physical/steady blue-liner Jeremy Deutsch ’12, and forward Johnny van Siclen ’13. Effinger ranks second on the team in points, tallying 12 (six goals, six assists) in 12 games this season.

The three players have missed the past two weeks of action, and their absence has precipitated the team’s woeful 1-2-2 stretch since January 11th. Fortunately for the Jeffs, Effinger, Deutsch, and van Siclen will be active for next weekend’s games. “Having them back in the lineup this week will definitely help,” Wray said. 

The Jeffs will try to snap out of their current funk with road games at the University of New England and Southern Maine this upcoming weekend. Amherst’s opponents this weekend have records of 2-13 and 4-9-3, respectively, so the Jeffs have a great opportunity to get back on the winning track. And despite the recent slump, the Jeffs still sit in third place in the NESCAC standings, benefitting from the conference’s competitive balance this season.

“Although our record is not where we want it to be, we are still 3rd in the NESCAC,” Wray said. “I’m confident that we will continue to climb in the standings as the season comes down to the final stretch.”

Issue 12, Submitted 2011-01-26 22:58:22