Men's Hockey Tops Hamilton Twice
Issue   |   Tue, 11/27/2012 - 22:22
Rob Mattson, Public Affairs Office
Sophomore Aaron Deutsch leads the Jeffs with five assists in five games.

Last season the Amherst men’s hockey team rattled off an astounding 16 wins in 17 games en route to a NESCAC Championship and the program’s first-ever berth to the NCAA Division III Frozen Four in Lake Placid, N.Y. Led by National Player of the Year Jonathan La Rose ’12 in goal, the team had arguably the most successful season ever. One year later, the Jeffs return to Orr Rink with high expectations of similar success and, inevitably, question marks about just how to replace the class of 2012.

In a sport where goaltending plays perhaps a more crucial role than in any other — take a look at the most recent winners of the Conn Smythe trophy for the most valuable player during the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and you’ll find Jonathan Quick of the Kings (a UMass grad, no less) and the Bruins’ Tim Thomas as the two most recent holders — replacing the country’s best goalie has undoubtedly been the biggest off-season question the Jeffs have faced.

But, five games in and posting a 3-1-1, 2-0-0 record, the Jeffs seem to have found two more than capable answers to their goalie question in senior Nate Corey and first-year Dave Cunningham. Currently, Cunningham and Corey sit first and second in the NESCAC in goals against average (GAA) with 0.96 and 1.34, respectively, and in save percentage, .958 and .947, respectively. If ever there were a doubt about the future of goaltending in the post-La Rose era of Lord Jeffs hockey, fear not: right now the Jeffs have the two best goalies in the conference. And although Cunningham and Corey appear to be splitting time so far (Corey’s tallied 178 minutes to Cunningham’s 125), surely the two are gunning out it for the starting job, making their time between the pipes even more determined.

Of course, goalie is one position in a team sport and a team-effort it has been for the Jeffs. In their opener, the Jeffs earned a 1-0 hard-fought away victory over Hamilton on Nov. 16.

With 7:35 left in the first period, sophomores Aaron Deutsch and Mike Cashman linked up on a power-play to find senior Mike Moher at the center of the right circle, where the forward fired home a wrist-shot for the game’s only goal. On the other end of the ice, the Continentals narrowly outshot the Jeffs 26-25, but couldn’t put one past Corey. Defensively, although Amherst conceded seven penalties, the team’s penalty-killing unit worked hard with Corey to prevent Hamilton from finding the back of the net.

The following day, Nov. 17, the team NESCAC rivals met for the second leg of the home-and-home series, this time at Orr Rink for the Jeffs home opener. In what again proved to be a closely contested game, Amherst again prevailed victorious by a 1-0 margin.

After two scoreless periods between the Jeffs and the Continentals, first-year Conor Brown found the back of the net off of a rebound from Deutsch’s blast from the circle. Deutsch picked up his second assist in as many games, while junior Brain Safstrom also tallied an assist on the goal.

With Amherst now leading, Hamilton mounted a furious comeback effort to no avail, again unable to solve the Jeffs defense and Corey’s goaltending. Midway through the third, the Continentals went on the power play, only to be denied by two key saves from Corey. With less than two minutes to play, Hamilton pulled Joseph Quattrocchi from their net but couldn’t find the equalizer.

Corey finished with 22 saves to Quattrocchi’s 21, while both teams went 0-5 on the power play. For the Jeffs, it was two NESCAC shutouts in two days.

Amherst returned to the ice on Tuesday, Nov. 20 to face off with No. 15 Westfield State. Led by senior Johnny Van Siclen’s two first period goals, the sixth-ranked Jeffs cruised to a 6-0 victory over the Owls. Brown found the back of the net for his second goal in as many games, before assisting Mike Rowbotham ’15 for his first of the year. Deutsch picked up two more assists, while Dave Cunningham’s debut between the pipes resulted in 14 saves and a third-straight shutout win for Amherst.

In the team’s next game, held Friday Nov. 23, the Jeffs hosted Gustavus Adolphus College of Minnesota. Moher gave the Jeffs an early lead, assisted by Cashman and Van Siclen. Five minutes into the second, the Gustie’s — yes, Gustie’s — equalized on a goal from Adam Smyth. The equalizer marked the first goal scored on the Jeffs this season.

The teams entered the third period locked at one. At the 13:37 mark, Tyler Lapic ’15 ripped one over Cunningham’s left shoulder to give the visitors a 2-1 lead, also marking the first time all season the Jeffs have trailed.

With the Jeffs on the verge of their first loss of the season, they made one last-ditch effort forward with just less than two minutes left. With 1:33 remaining, Robotham found the puck in the slot and fired into the top-shelf, putting the Jeffs even in a wild contest. Moher picked up an assist to go with his first period goal, while Deutsch also tallied an assist on the goal, giving him five in four games.

In overtime, Cunningham was the hero for the Jeffs, making two important saves to keep the game tied. Offensively, the Jeffs couldn’t get anything going in the extra period, and the game would ultimately finish in a 2-2 tie.

Cunningham finished with 30 saves on the evening, a career high.

The next night, Amherst concluded its jam-packed opening week at No. 10 Utica, falling to the Pioneers 4-3 for their first loss of the season.

Utica exploded for three goals on Corey in less than six minutes to take a 3-0 lead in the second period. The Pioneers’ third goal came, controversially, after the Amherst net had come off its pegs. As Corey and the Amherst defense waited for the play to be blown dead, the Pioneers netted their third goal and the refs let it stand.

Andrew Kurlandski ’14 brought the Jeffs back within two, midway through the second, but Utica answered again, pushing their lead to 4-1. Rowbotham found the net with 2:15 left in a wild second period, cutting Utica’s lead to 4-2 heading into the third.

In the third, Van Siclen brought the Jeffs within one with only 4:02 to play, the Jeffs couldn’t find the equalizer even after pulling Corey. With the loss, Amherst fell to 3-1-1.

After only one week of play it’s already been a wild season for the Jeffs. They continue their seven-game road trip on Friday, Nov. 30 at Wesleyan for a crucial NESCAC bout versus Wesleyan.