Men’s Ice Hockey Drops to 7-4-1 in NESCAC
Issue   |   Tue, 01/29/2013 - 22:39
Niahlah Hope '15
After downing Little III rival Wesleyan, 3-1, the men’s hockey team fell to Trinity, 7-4, in an important league contest.

Perhaps still suffering from an NCAA Frozen Four hangover last winter, the men’s hockey team continued its maddeningly inconsistent season by splitting a home doubleheader this past weekend. The Jeffs posted a solid 3-1 win over Wesleyan on Friday night before collapsing in a 7-4 loss to Trinity on Saturday.

The weekend’s results moved the Jeffs’ record to 11-5-2 (7-4-1 NESCAC), dropping Amherst to fifth place in the NESCAC standings, behind Bowdoin, Williams, Middlebury and Trinity.

In the shadow of last year’s magical 24-4-1 campaign — featuring a NESCAC championship and Amherst’s first ever NCAA Frozen Four appearance — the Jeffs have faced more adversity in 2013, struggling to maintain their focus and intensity during the long grind of a college hockey season.

“Our talent level is fine this year, but the consistency of our focus has been a problem,” head coach Jack Arena said. “We continue to work on that because when we’re good, we’re very good.”

“One of the big areas we need to improve in is our consistency, both on a game-to-game basis and a shift-to-shift basis,” Brandon Hew ’13 said. “And it’s consistency in all areas of the game: effort, compete level, execution and mental focus.”
To some degree, last weekend’s games encapsulated the Jeffs’ erratic play this season, as Amherst followed an inspiring, hard-fought win over Wesleyan with a lethargic showing against Trinity.

“There are games where we really get it going, and then there are games like Trinity where we are brutal,” Hew said. “The inconsistency has been a theme this year; we’re running out of time to figure it out.”

The Jeffs skated to a strong start last weekend, defeating Wesleyan 3-1 in a gritty, workmanlike effort. Following a scoreless first period, Amherst erupted for three goals in the middle stanza to grab a 3-0 lead after two periods.

“I thought our performance against Wesleyan (5-5-1 NESCAC) was very good,” Arena said. “We played with a lot of energy and although we weren’t perfect, when we skate and competed hard we’re a good team.”

After a competitive opening stanza, the Jeffs tilted the ice in the second period, using a tenacious forecheck to dominate Wesleyan in their own end. Johnny Van Siclen ’13 scored a power-play goal 5:53 into the period to give Amherst a 1-0 lead, charging to the net before receiving a nifty backhand pass from Mike Moher ’13. Van Siclen doubled his goal tally five minutes later, taking a feed from Conor Brown ’16 on the right side before evading a defender and sliding the puck inside the left post.
The Jeffs capped the period with a power-play goal with 26 seconds left on the clock,. After the Jeffs worked the puck around the perimeter, Topher Flanagan ’16 deflected a wrist shot from defenseman Aaron Deutsch ’15 to extend the lead to 3-0 right before intermission.

Van Siclen — the team’s scoring leader with 11 goals and 18 points — contributed to all three Amherst goals, recording a secondary assist on the final score.

“We really didn’t find a rhythm until the second period — I think what allowed us to do so was a collective effort to stick to the fundamentals that we stress and focus on as a team,” Hew said. “Defensively we kept them on the perimeter and our ability to move the puck up quickly to our forwards allowed us to transition quickly, establish our forecheck and create a lot of offensive pressure.”

Goaltender Nathan Corey ’13 fell just short in his shutout bid, as Wesleyan scored with an extra attacker (having pulled the goalie) with just 1:34 remaining. Bolstered by a strong defensive team effort, Corey finished with 20 saves.
“Overall, I thought we played a hard, simplified game that allowed us to dictate pace of the game,” Hew said.
Rather than build from the momentum of the impressive victory, the Jeffs staggered to a lackluster 7-4 loss to Trinity (7-2-3 NESCAC) on Saturday.

Trailing 5-2 with less than three minutes left in regulation, the Jeffs nearly staged a miracle comeback, notching two goals in 43 seconds to pull the score to 5-4. The Bantams, however, iced the result with two empty-net goals in the final 1:15.
“We were terrible on Saturday. We didn’t play with any energy or urgency until the last five minutes of the game,” Hew said. “We didn’t do any of the little things that make us successful.”

Amherst’s defense — usually the core strength of the team — faltered badly against Trinity, as the Jeffs conceded more than four goals in a game for the first time this season.

Even after Saturday’s onslaught, the Jeffs still lead the NESCAC in scoring defense (1.78 goals allowed per game). On offense, Brian Safstrom ’14 netted two goals while Van Siclen and Andrew Kurlandski ’14 chipped in a goal apiece, but the Jeffs’ last-ditch scoring outburst was too little, too late for the home side.

“I was disappointed in our game against Trinity,” Arena said. “I didn’t think we worked as hard or had the sense of urgency and compete level we needed to win.”

The road does not get any easier for the Jeffs this upcoming weekend, as the team will travel to Maine to battle NESCAC-leading Bowdoin (16-1-1, 10-1-1 NESCAC).

The Polar Bears, the No. 2 team in the nation, defeated Amherst 3-2 at Orr Rink in early January.

“Bowdoin is the most talented team we play in the NESCAC,” Arena said. “They play an aggressive, attacking style that is always a challenge to defend.”

“They have a lot of high-end players and are putting together a pretty impressive season,” Hew said. “But no matter who we play, if we play our game, if we stick to doing all of the little things right and doing them right all the time, we will win. If we get our legs going, push the pace of the game and compete all over the ice, we will win regardless of who we line up against.”

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