On Saturday, men’s hockey (12-9-5, 8-8-2 in the NESCAC) traveled to Amherst to face off against the Jeffs in the NESCAC semifinal game.
The Jeffs stole the lead early, and Amherst eventually walked away with a 2-1 win en route to claiming the NESCAC title over Middlebury on Sunday.
Less than five minutes into the game, Amherst rushed the net, resulting in a goal. Jeff Jamie Hawkrigg came down the right flank and found Andrew Fenwick posted up at the front of the net. Netminder Ryan Purdy ’12 made a spectacular first save, but Fenwick put the rebound past the Eph for a 1-0 Jeff lead. In the first period Amherst took three penalties, giving the men sufficient scoring opportunities; however, the Ephs were not able to tie the game despite topping the Jeffs 10 to nine in shots on goal.
The Ephs garnered two more power-play opportunities in the second period but were unsuccessful against the second-ranked penalty kill squad in the NESCAC. Mike Brofft ’13 received a penalty for tripping nine minutes into the period, yielding a power play for the Jeffs. Amherst defenseman Nick Brunette made a cross-ice pass to teammate Jeremy Deutsch, who fired a one-time slapshot that soared past Purdy to put the Jeffs up 2-0. Forwards Nick Anderson ’14 and John Wickmann ’13 almost put the Ephs on the scoreboard with less than two minutes left in the period: Anderson passed the puck to Wickman, who dangled the defenseman before encountering a one-on-one with Jeff goaltender Jonathan LaRose. Wickman fired a decent shot, but LaRose denied the Eph. LaRose was recently named NESCAC Player of the Year.
Amherst came out strong at the beginning of the third period, determined to maintain its two-goal lead; however, Purdy held strong and denied every Jeff shot. Though the Ephs created a number of scoring opportunities, the men could not slip any shots past LaRose.
The tide turned when Amherst received a penalty six minutes into the period, giving the men a power-play opportunity. Just 30 seconds into the power play, Brofft found co-captain Justin Troiani ’12 on the left half-boards. Troiani ripped a slapshot past LaRose, making the score 2-1. Just one tally down, the Ephs struggled to tie the game. Forward Paul Steinig ’14 saw a promising scoring opportunity with a little over two minutes left in the period when he managed to cut to the front of the net with the puck and backhand it toward the goal. Despite Steinig’s efforts, LaRose blocked the shot, sustaining his team’s 2-1 advantage. Desperate for a goal, Williams pulled Purdy from the net for the final minute of the period, adding another skater on attack. Although the Ephs peppered LaRose with shots, he turned each and every offensive charge away, preserving the Jeffs’ 2-1 lead until the final buzzer.
“[On Saturday] we stayed with the game plan. I thought we played very well,” Head Coach Bill Kangas said of the team’s performance in the semifinal. “The guys have always found a way to work their way back into the game. The key is that they always stay current mentally, which is very difficult to do. They always stay in the moment. That’s how we get back when we’re down two with a period left.”
Kangas also commented on his team’s resilience. “I think the strength of this team is that we stay connected. How much we work for each other,” he said. “We had to deal with a lot of adversity this year, especially in terms of injuries. However, the way the guys responded to their teammates carried us through. Everyone realized they had to step up. I’m really proud of the guys for stepping up for their teammates.”
This loss marked the end of the men’s season and the final game for five graduating seniors: Patrick Morrissey ’12, Stephen Maier, ’12, Justin Troiani ’12, Ryan Scott ’12 and Ryan Purdy ’12.