Men’s Hockey Snaps Three-Game Losing Streak
By Brenton Arnaboldi '14, Managing Sports Editor
Spurred by solid goaltending and clutch power-play goals, the men’s hockey team snapped out of its three-game losing streak with a 3-0 victory over Southern Maine this weekend.

The Jeffs (6-4-3 NESCAC, 8-6-4 overall) have floundered in rn recent weeks, going 2-4-2 since beating Williams on Jan. 7. Last weekend, the Jeffs lost two home games against Skidmore and Castleton.

The Jeffs’ season hit a new low, however, in a 5-2 loss at the University of New England this past Friday. With a 2-13 overall record, UNE entered the game as the worst team in the expanded NESCAC/ECAC Men’s Hockey league. But the Jeffs would suffer a nasty shock against a seemingly inferior opponent.

Amherst dominated play for long stretches against UNE - outshooting the hosts by a 39-29 margin - but UNE goalie Mike Roper frustrated the Jeffs from start to finish. The Nor’easters’ initiated the scoring with a power-play goal at 14:01 of the opening period, but the Jeffs responded immediately - 26 seconds later - as co-captain Trip Wray ’11 scored his first goal of the night.

UNE regained the lead 2:34 into the middle stanza. Once again, the Jeffs quickly erased the one-goal deficit, as Wray scored his second goal midway through the period to knot the game at 2-2.

The Jeffs’ defense collapsed in the third period, however, as UNE enjoyed a three-goal outburst to clinch a stunning upset victory. The Nor’easters’ scored the game-winner with nine minutes remaining, and doubled their lead to 4-2 just 1:34 later. UNE added an empty-net goal to seal the 5-2 result.

“Our performance against UNE was disappointing,” Wray said.

After Friday’s dreadful loss, the Jeffs were determined to reverse their fortunes in a Saturday afternoon tilt against Southern Maine (4-11-3), another opponent with a weak record. Both teams played conservatively in a scoreless first period, as Amherst and USM combined for just 11 shots during the initial frame.

The Jeffs began to take control of the game early in the second period, and out-shot USM by a 12-6 margin during the twenty-minute stanza. The Huskies committed a slew of penalties early in the period, giving Amherst three power plays in a span of eight minutes. Amherst capitalized on the second man-advantage opportunity, as Matt Rhone ’11 scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season to give Amherst a 1-0 lead at the 5:56 mark. Later in the period, the Jeffs killed off two Southern Maine power plays to protect the one-goal lead.

The heated contest remained close until the last few minutes of the third period, as the Jeffs padded their lead with two insurance goals near the end. Wray scored with 6:32 remaining to give the Jeffs a 2-0 lead, and first-year Andrew Kurlandski sealed the 3-0 victory with a power-play tally with 3:08 left on the clock.

Amherst’s special teams units excelled against Southern Maine, as the Jeffs converted on two of five man-advantage opportunities while killing off all five of the Huskies’ power plays. Senior goalie Cole Anderson made 19 saves to earn his second shutout of the season, while USM net-minder Braely Torris stopped 26 of 29 shots. The Jeffs played smothering, physical defense to prevent the Huskies from getting prime scoring opportunities.

“Saturday really brought us together and made us remember how much fun winning is,” Wray said. “After a tough loss to UNE, I was proud of the way the team responded against Southern Maine.”

The Jeffs hope the team’s experience with adversity during the recent losing stretch will improve the squad’s resilience and toughness in the long run. “Sounds crazy, but I think we are a stronger team after our three-game losing streak,” Wray said.

The Jeffs have two crucial league games at home this weekend, against first-place Bowdoin (9-4-0 NESCAC record) on Friday and sixth place Colby (6-6-1) on Saturday. Despite the recent rough patch, the Jeffs still have a legitimate chance at securing a top seed in the NESCAC tournament. Amherst stands in fifth place in the conference standings, but lurks only three points behind Bowdoin for the league lead. An Amherst victory Friday would cut that margin to one point.

“I think our win on Saturday is just what we needed to raise our confidence going into the final stretch of the regular season,” Wray said. “If we have a strong weekend, we could put ourselves in a position to win the regular season title.”

Issue 13, Submitted 2011-02-03 08:57:14