Men’s Puck Gains Momentum Before NESCACs
Issue   |   Wed, 02/22/2012 - 02:22
Photo courtesy of Chloe McKenzie '14
The Jeffs picked up two away wins this weekend, upending Williams and Middlebury to finish 20-3-1.

Bolstered by the stellar play of senior goaltender Jonathan La Rose, the men’s hockey team closed out the regular season with road victories over Williams (3-1) and Middlebury (2-1) last weekend. The Jeffs (20-3-1, 17-1-0 NESCAC), ranked No. 3 in the national polls, are riding an eight-game winning streak into their NESCAC Quarterfinal contest against Hamilton on Saturday night.

While the Jeffs picked up two wins over tough opponents this weekend, head coach Jack Arena said he was unhappy with the team’s effort on the ice.

“I don’t think anyone was satisfied with how we played. Our success this year has come when we’ve played an intense, competitive, focused, team game,” he said. “We need to work to be good and whenever we begin to forget that our game suffers.”

While the regular skaters struggled, La Rose dazzled between the pipes this weekend, stopping 41 of 42 shots against Williams on Saturday before delivering a 29-save performance against Middlebury. The Jeffs’ netminder has gone 7-0-0 in his past seven starts, stopping 198 of 203 shots (.975 save percentage) and posting a 0.71 GAA (goals against average) in that stretch.

“Jonathan La Rose is one of the top goalies in the country and he has been instrumental in every game he’s played,” Arena said earlier this season. “A good goalie can mask a lot of mistakes.”

The Jeffs began the weekend with a 3-1 victory over Williams (8-8-2 NESCAC), handing the slumping Ephs a fifth consecutive loss. Amherst surged out to a quick start, as reigning NESCAC Player of the Week Mike Moher ’13 scored just 28 seconds after the opening faceoff. Moher, the team’s leading scorer with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists), flicked a wrist shot from the left side of the net after receiving a nifty pass from co-captain Eddie Effinger ’12.

Amherst ended the first period with a 2-0 lead, as Brian Safstrom ’14 netted an unassisted goal with 1:26 remaining before intermission. The Jeffs held a 17-10 advantage in shots through 20 minutes of play.

After a scoreless second period, Williams ramped up the offensive pressure in the final stanza. Sophomore Andrew Kurlandski’s five-minute penalty gave the Ephs a long power-play 7:19 into the period, but the Jeffs’ penalty-killing unit stymied Williams by consistently clearing loose rebounds out of the zone.

The Jeffs iced the result with senior Mark Colp’s power-play goal with less than five minutes remaining in the contest. La Rose nearly earned his fourth shutout in six games, but fell just short as the Ephs scored a consolation goal with 1:26 before the final buzzer.

Against Middlebury (11-6-1 NESCAC) the next day, the Jeffs played lethargically in the first two periods, as the Panthers outshot Amherst by a 28-8 margin through 40 minutes. La Rose bailed the skaters out, however, making a series of great saves to limit the deficit to 1-0. The Jeffs responded with a stronger showing in the final period, scoring two goals to scrape out a 2-1 comeback victory.

Middlebury generated a flurry of scoring chances midway through the first period, but La Rose kept the opposition off the scoreboard. The Panthers tilted the ice in the second period — collecting a 17-4 shots advantage — and scored the game’s first goal 3:05 into the frame.

After chasing Middlebury in the first two periods, the Jeffs lifted their intensity level in the third period, skating more aggressively on the forecheck and pinning the Panthers in their own zone. Holding a 9-0 edge in shots through the first 19 minutes of the period, the Jeffs scored on their tenth shot when Mike Rowbotham ’15 evaded a defender behind the net before banking a shot off the Panthers’ goaltender from behind the goal line.

Middlebury attempted to restore its lead with a power-play opportunity with 7:16 remaining, but the Jeffs stunned the Panthers with a short-handed goal. Kurlandski surged down the right side of the ice, then cut towards the net before snapping a shot into the upper left corner.

The Panthers had numerous scoring opportunities in the final two minutes, culminating in a goal mouth scramble in the final seconds, but La Rose covered the loose puck to preserve the victory.

“I didn’t say anything in particular before the third period at Middlebury, but I think the team realized that the effort and energy they’d put forth to that point wasn’t good enough to win,” Arena said. “They were able to raise their level in the third, but that’s a dangerous way to play.”

Amherst will face Hamilton in the NESCAC Quarterfinals this weekend on Saturday night. The Jeffs defeated the Continentals 2-0 in their home opener on Nov. 18 and thrashed Hamilton on the road by a 6-1 score on Jan. 20.

Nevertheless, Arena said that his team could not afford to overlook the Continentals, who actually skated to the top of the NESCAC regular season standings in 2010-11. “Hamilton has two of the best forwards in NESCAC and a goalie who can win a game by himself,” he said.

Since winning the NESCAC Championship in 2009, the Jeffs have suffered consecutive first-round exits. With a hot goaltender, balanced scoring offense and a tenacious work ethic, the Jeffs are hoping for a better outcome in 2012.

“I feel that if we compete hard and are focused, we’ll be fine in the tournament,” Arena said. “Teams play with desperation in the playoffs. They don’t want their seasons to end and we need to embrace that heightened intensity.”

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Comments
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