Men’s Hockey Advances to NESCAC Championship, Falls to Trinity
Issue   |   Wed, 03/09/2016 - 00:02
Rob Mattson
Chris Roll ’17 won two faceoffs leading to goals to help lift the purple and white to a NESCAC semifinal victory over Middlebury on Saturday afternoon.

The Amherst men’s ice hockey team took on two NESCAC rivals in the semifinal and final round of the NESCAC tournament this weekend. After a win over Middlebury in the semifinals of the NESCAC tournament the purple and white fell to Trinity in the finals, concluding their 2015-16 season.

At the 8:46 mark in the still scoreless first period, John Festa ’19 scored his first collegiate goal to give Amherst the lead. The Panthers had their first power play of the game but were unable to answer as the period ended 1-0.

Middlebury received another chance for a goal with a power play to start off the period, but again were unable to respond against a solid purple and white defensive effort. Amherst took advantage of two power plays to overhwhelm Middlebury, when Thomas Lindstom ’18 found the net after a pass from Topher Flanagan ’16.

After a fairly quiet first and second period, things began to heat up in the third. Four minutes into the period, Patrick Arena ’16 scored his fourth goal of the season by batting senior Brendan Burke’s shot down out of the air and past the Middlebury goalie.

The Panthers came back with a goal seven minutes later, but the failed to hold their momentum, as Festa scored his second goal of the game and his career at the 3:15 mark. Intercepting a breakout pass at mid-ice, Festa took the puck down the ice, unassisted to put Amherst up by three. Attempting to make a comeback, Middlebury gained a goal in the last minute of the game after an individual effort by the Panthers, but could not make up for lost time and Amherst claimed the 4-2 victory.
Connor Girard ’18 recorded 26 saves for Amherst to help them rise to victory over Middlebury. Overall the men went one for two on power plays and put a total of 24 shots on goal to send them to the NESCAC championship match the next day against Trinity.

Sunday saw the faceoff between the sixth-seeded purple and white and the second seeded Trinity Bantams. Amherst had split their regular season matchup with Trinity, winning 4-2 early in the season and then falling 4-1 to the Bantams at Trinity in late January.

In last Saturday’s matchup, Trinity prevailed, 5-1, over the purple and white on a strong performance from Bantams forward Michael Hawkrigg, who scored two goals to go along with an assist.

The Bantams started off strong with 21 shots on goal in the first period while Amherst struggled to against a tough Trinity defense, shooting only three shots on goal in the first stanza of play. After a sustained period of pressure, Hawkrigg put the hosts ahead 7:32 into the initial stanza. The Bantams then doubled their lead three minutes later when Elie Vered put a shot over Girard’s right shoulder and into the net.

With five minutes left in the first period, Amherst was on the power play with a chance to cut into Trinity’s lead, but the Bantams turned the tables with a shorthanded goal to enter the first intermission leading 3-0.

In an otherwise quiet second period, the purple and white nearly got on the board through a Chris Roll ’17 one-on-one with Bantam goalie Alex Morin, but the Trinity netminder stopped Roll’s attempt.

The third period was a testy affair that featured 33 minutes of penalty minutes between the two teams. Trinity used two of their three opportunities with a man up to take a commanding 5-0 lead.

Amherst’s Phil Johansson ’19 netted in the last minute of the game, but it was merely a consolation while the Bantams claimed a 5-1 win. Burke and Johansson led Amherst with 4 shots apiece, and Girard collected 22 saves in their effort against Trinity.

After a strong postseason run, the team has reached the end of its season with an overall record of 11-12-4 and a 7-8-3 record in NESCAC competition. The purple and white is now 17-14 all-time in NESCAC postseason action, with this as their third runner-up finish to go along with three additional conference championships.