With solid team defense, stellar goaltending and a healthy dose of grit, the men’s hockey team earned two hard-fought victories this weekend, defeating Wesleyan 3-2 before edging out Trinity 2-1 on Sunday.
The team’s 5-1-0 record (3-0-0 NESCAC) marks the program’s best six-game start to a season since 2006.
Despite the winning results, head coach Jack Arena ’83 said he was not completely satisfied with the team’s performance, referring to frequent lapses in execution and mental focus. “I thought we were okay in our two games this weekend,” he said. “We weren’t as sharp as I would have hoped, and we need to pay more attention to the smaller details that ultimately make a significant impact on winning.”
The Jeffs began the weekend with a 3-2 victory over rival Wesleyan in front of a raucous home crowd on Saturday night. Amherst skated to a fast start against the Cardinals, as Michael Cashman ’15 scored 3:15 into the contest to give the Jeffs a 1-0 advantage.
The Jeffs doubled their lead to 2-0 with three minutes remaining in the first period. Defenseman Aaron Deutsch ’15 sent a sharp pass toward the slot from the left side, allowing Nick Brunette ’13 to redirect the puck into the net.
Amherst dominated the second period, outshooting Wesleyan 16-5, but the score remained 2-0 heading into the final period. The Cardinals began to exert more offensive pressure in the third period, creating a couple of scoring chances before netting a goal with 12:31 remaining.
But the Jeffs quickly restored a two-goal cushion, scoring just 16 seconds after the center-ice faceoff to take a 3-1 lead. Co-captain Eddie Effinger ’12 charged toward the front of the crease before deflecting first-year Mike Rowbotham’s pass into the net.
The Cardinals made the game interesting with a power-play goal with 1:51 remaining, but the Jeffs held on for the 3-2 victory.
On Sunday afternoon, the Jeffs won their second game of the weekend in a tight 2-1 victory over Trinity. Rowbotham paced the Jeffs’ offense with two goals, while goaltender Jonathan La Rose ’12 delivered a terrific performance between the pipes, recording 33 saves on 34 shots to improve his individual record to 4-0-0.
The Jeffs stunned the Bantams by scoring just 1:05 after the opening faceoff. Effinger slid a pass from the left circle to find Rowbotham, who flicked a quick wrist shot from the slot to give Amherst a 1-0 lead.
Rowbotham scored his second goal of the contest at the 4:52 mark of the second period, giving the Jeffs a 2-0 advantage. With Amherst on the power play, Deutsch slid a pass from the point to Rowbotham. The first-year forward, stationed by the right circle, moved in and rifled a shot above the shoulder of the Trinity goaltender.
Bolstered by strong goaltending, the Jeffs hung on for the gritty 2-1 victory. La Rose nearly skated off with a shutout, but the Bantams scored a late goal with 1:06 remaining to spoil the bid. Trinity held a 34-28 edge in shots.
The schedule does not get any easier for the Jeffs, who host league rivals Williams (4-0-2) and Middlebury (4-1-1) this weekend at Orr Rink. The results of these games could help determine the early frontrunner in the race for best record in the NESCAC.
“This weekend will be our two toughest games so far,” Arena said. “We’ll have to be at our best, so hopefully as coaches we can prepare the team properly so that the players are ready with two energetic, focused efforts.”