Men’s Hockey Blasts Through Opponents
By Brenton Arnaboldi '14, Managing Sports Editor
The men’s hockey team picked up two crucial road wins this weekend to remain in the hunt for the NESCAC regular season title, defeating New England College 6-3 on Friday before pulverizing Saint Anselm 4-0 on Saturday.

The Jeffs (11-7-4 overall, 9-5-3 NESCAC) are currently in fourth place in the conference but sit just one point behind league leaders Hamilton, Middlebury and Williams, who are all tied for the top spot. Amherst has two games remaining on its regular season schedule (at Babson and at UMass Boston) before the NESCAC playoffs start on Feb. 26.

The Jeffs overcame a 3-1 deficit against New England College (7-13-2), scoring five unanswered goals en route to a 6-3 victory. “We came alive against New England College,” Wray said. “To come back and win that game was huge for our team.”

“We were resilient and able to fight back which is a good sign heading into the playoffs,” NESCAC Player of the Week and leading scorer Matt Rhone ’11 said.

Amherst jumped out to a 1-0 lead late in the first period, as co-Captain Eddie Effinger ’12 scored off a feed from Mark Colp ’12 at the 17:24 mark. The one-goal lead would quickly evaporate, however, as New England College responded a minute later to knot the game at 1-1. New England enjoyed a small scoring burst early in the second period, notching two goals in the first seven minutes to grab a 3-1 lead. Staring at a two-goal deficit in hostile territory, Amherst appeared to be skating on thin ice. But the Jeffs remained confident in their ability to bounce back against a relatively weak opponent.

“We had been dominating many aspects of the game, and New England got a few bounces,” Rhone said. “We knew if we just kept playing our game we would be alright.”

The Jeffs embarked on their comeback midway through the second period, as Dylan Trumble ’13 scored off an assist from Nick Brunette ’13 at the 11:20 mark. Amherst tied things up at 3-3 four minutes later, when Andrew Kurlandski ’14 scored after a feed from Ryan Edwards ’14, and the momentum had firmly shifted to the Jeffs.

“Once we tied it up, I think everyone on our team knew we were going to win,” Wray said. “We were just outworking and outplaying New England all over the ice.”

The surging Jeffs continued their torrid play into the third period. Four minutes after the intermission, Rhone intercepted a pass on the penalty kill before flipping a shot past the goalie for his second shorthanded goal of the season.

The Jeffs continued to exert offensive pressure, skating circles around the discouraged hosts. With around six minutes remaining, Ryan Edwards ’14 and Brunette scored forty seconds apart to give Amherst a 6-3 lead, which would stand to the buzzer. The Jeffs completely smothered the attack in the third period, limiting the opposition to just four shots in the final frame.

“Everyone played with a little more urgency because we knew we had to win that game,” Wray said. “As a team, we have had our ups and downs this year, and through it all, we have learned to battle through adversity.”

Inspired by Friday’s resounding comeback, the Jeffs crushed a decent Saint Anselm (10-8-2) team the next day, winning 4-0.

Rhone, the Jeffs’ leading scorer this season, played a hand in all four goals, shredding the Anselm defense with one goal and three assists. Effinger also delivered an impressive individual performance, adding a goal and two assists.

Amherst skated out to a quick start, grabbing a 1-0 lead less than four minutes into the contest. Kurlandski, a first-year, scored the goal (his second of the weekend) with assists from Rhone and Effinger. After outshooting Saint Anselm 14-6 in the first period, the Jeffs scored two goals early in the middle frame to take a commanding 3-0 lead. Defenseman Jeremy Deutsch ’12 scored just 25 seconds into the period, and Effinger found the net six minutes later to put the game out of reach. Rhone added a power play goal five minutes into the third period to complete the scoring.

The Jeffs dominated Saint Anselm from start to finish, pinning their opponents to the boards with tenacious forechecking. Amherst held a convincing 40-15 edge in shots, overwhelming Saint Anselm with waves of offensive pressure. “It certainly was one of our most dominating performances this season,” Wray said. “It was a very good effort all around. We didn’t make many mistakes and played very solid team defense. It was good to put 60 minutes together on the road,” Rhone said.

Goalies Cole Anderson ’11 and Johnny Russell ’14 had a relatively easy day, making 15 saves for the combined shutout. In an odd statistical quirk, Saturday’s result marked the eleventh straight meeting between Amherst and Saint Anselm in which the visiting team won.

Amherst will close out its regular season with tough road games against Babson (9-11-3) and UMass Boston (14-9-0) this weekend. The Jeffs are on a roll right now — having won four of their past five games — and will look to sustain their momentum into the playoffs.

Amherst needs two victories this weekend to have a legitimate shot at first place in the NESCAC, along with a lot of outside help. More realistically, the Jeffs can clinch home-ice advantage in the first round of the conference playoffs with a win either Friday or Saturday.

“We are going into this weekend with the same mindset that we have had the past couple weeks. Each game is a must-win,” Wray said.

Issue 15, Submitted 2011-02-16 19:01:42