After a grueling preseason of intense lifting workouts and breakneck skating drills, the men’s ice hockey team is looking to improve on last year’s 12-9-4 record and challenge for the NESCAC title this winter. The Jeffs start their campaign with a home tilt against Hamilton on Friday night.
Blessed with an experienced crop of forwards, the Jeffs return five of their top six scorers from last year. Co-captain Eddie Effinger ’12 (19 points in 21 games last season) and Mark Colp ’12 (17 points) should help pace the Amherst scoring attack.
Forwards Nick Brunette ’13, Mike Moher ’13 and Andrew Kurlandski ’14 will look to provide secondary scoring depth to an Amherst squad that netted 3.26 goals per game last year — (just the seventh-highest mark out of 11 NESCAC teams).
The Jeffs’ blueline will be anchored by co-captain Mike Baran ’12, who served as an instrumental cog in the Jeffs’ second-ranked penalty kill unit (85.1 percent) last season.
Senior Jeremy Deutsch, Jamie Hawkrigg ’13, Brandon Hew ’13 and Elliot Bostrom ’14 also return from last year’s physical defensive unit. The Jeffs excelled in goal prevention last season, conceding 2.53 goals per league game (third in NESCAC).
Amherst’s biggest question mark, however, arises for the goaltender position. With the loss of all-American goaltender Cole Anderson, the Jeffs will probably rely on veterans Nathan Corey ’13 and Jonathan La Rose ’12 to fill the void between the pipes.
In two seasons as a reserve goaltender, Corey posted a 5-1-2 record and a .929 save percentage. La Rose, on the other hand, is looking to regain his old form after a two-year absence from the team.
La Rose dazzled in his first seasons with the Jeffs, earning all-NESCAC honors in 2008 and 2009 while compiling a 20-3-1 record and a sterling .944 save percentage.
Plagued by inconsistent play and key injuries last season, the 2010 Jeffs posted an overall record of 12-9-4. The .560 winning percentage was the program’s lowest mark since 2005-06. Amherst skated out to a strong start (6-2-2 in first ten games), but endured a bad midseason swoon (1-4-2) that threatened to derail their season. The Jeffs regrouped down the stretch, however, winning six of their final eight games.
Despite the uneven product on the ice, the Jeffs secured a respectable fourth-place result in the regular season standings, good enough for home-ice advantage in the first round of the NESCAC playoffs. The Jeffs saw their season end abruptly, however, in a gut-wrenching 4-3 overtime defeat to Bowdoin in the quarterfinals.
After winning the program’s first NESCAC title in 2008-09, Amherst has suffered first-round overtime losses in the past two seasons.
The Jeffs begin their season with a difficult home game against Hamilton on Friday night. The visiting Continentals (14-7-4) surprised the NESCAC last year by finishing the regular season as the conference’s top-seeded team. Led by puck-moving defenseman Joe Houk — the 2010-11 NESCAC Player of the Year — the Continentals will pose a tough challenge for the Jeffs.
After Hamilton, the Jeffs will face Westfield State in a non-conference game on Tuesday night.