No. 5 Women’s Hockey Outshoots Colby
By Matt Fernald '13, Sports Section Editor
Deadlocked with Middlebury for first place in the NESCAC, the women’s ice hockey team could not afford to drop any points this past weekend.

The Jeffs rose to the occasion, however, sweeping a two-game series at home against Colby to improve their record to 12-4-2 (10-1-1 NESCAC) while keeping pace with Middlebury at the top of the league standings.

In the first game Friday night, Amherst gave up three penalties in the first period, forcing them into a high-pressure defensive situation, but the Jeffs were up to the task and then some. Not only did the Jeffs kill all three of those power plays, but they still managed to out-shoot the Mules 9-3 in the first period. It wasn’t until 2:35 before the end of the period that the Jeffs finally broke the deadlock: Senior Courtney Hanlon passed the puck long to the Colby end, where junior Emily Vitale finished the play to take a 1-0 lead.

The second period saw more of the same, as junior Ellen Swiontkowski took advantage during a power play, feeding a pass to sophomore Geneve Lloyd, who duly obliged by firing a shot from the top of the zone past goaltender Brianne Wheeler. The Mules responded quickly, however, to cut the lead to 2-1. A Colby player sent a slap shot at senior captain and goalie Caroline Hu, who handled it, but could not block the follow-up.

Galvanized into action, Amherst responded with a veritable gaggle of shots, putting all sorts of pressure on their opponents. During another Amherst power play late in the second, senior Bradie Campbell took a pass from Vitale who lifted it past Wheeler to give the Jeffs a 3-1 lead going into the final period.

Colby mounted a final stand against the odds as time waned. Managing another goal midway through to get within one, they pulled their goalie with just under a minute left, but the Jeffs’ defense was impenetrable once more, holding on for the 3-2 victory.

Both teams returned to the ice the following night, and the Jeffs looked to make a statement from the outset as the defense earned its seventh consecutive first-period shutout. The opening stanza featured some great saves from rookie goaltender Kerri Stuart, who was playing in just her second collegiate game. While the class of ’14 was getting things done on the defensive end, another first-year, Courtney Baranek, scored her first-ever collegiate goal to give the Jeffs a 1-0 lead, which held firm into the second.

After the first intermission, the Jeffs again were fast out of the blocks, pressuring the hapless Mules and drawing an early penalty as a result. On the ensuing power play, Swiontkowski handcuffed Wheeler with a slap shot from the top of the zone. Junior Stephanie Clegg was ready, pouncing on the rebound and lifting it into the top of the net for a 2-0 lead. Two minutes later, Amherst further built upon their lead as Swiontkowski (perhaps inadvertently) positioned her body between senior Randi Zukas’ slap shot and the net, but ended up redirecting the hurtling puck between the goalie legs to put the Jeffs ahead 3-0.

Toward the end of the third, the Mules again rallied as they lifted a rebound past Stuart for their first goal of the night. In the waning moments, Colby again pulled their goalie (for an extra attacker) to increase the offensive pressure on the Jeffs, but once again it was to no avail as Amherst skated away with a 3-1 victory.

The women will next travel to Bowdoin for a two-game series against the Polar Bears. Bowdoin currently stands in third place in the NESCAC with a league record of 6-3-1, so the Jeffs will have to bring their “A” game to sweep the doubleheader and earn the maximum four points.

Issue 13, Submitted 2011-02-03 08:48:32