Men’s Ice Hockey Edges Wesleyan, Drops Last-Minute Heartbreaker to Trinity
Issue   |   Tue, 12/04/2012 - 22:49

The men’s hockey team battled through a pair of tight games last weekend, eking past Wesleyan 3-2 on Friday before falling to Trinity 1-0 on Saturday. After surging into the NCAA Frozen Four last winter, the Jeffs (4-2-1, 3-1-0 NESCAC) are still trying to piece together consistent, 60-minute performances on the ice in the early season. Despite securing a 3-2 road win at Wesleyan (3-3-1, 1-2-1 NESCAC) in a crucial rivalry matchup, many players were disappointed in the team’s overall performance, describing it as lethargic and uninspired.

“We didn’t play anywhere near what we expect out of ourselves against Wesleyan,” co-captain Mike Moher ’13 said. “It was an inconsistent effort and we were fortunate to have won.”

Venturing into a hostile rink, the Jeffs quieted the crowd by taking a 1-0 lead at the 6:53 mark of the first period. Collecting the puck behind the net, Moher slid a pass into the slot to defenseman Aaron Deutsch ’15, who wristed a shot into the lower left corner for his first goal of the season.

The Cardinals responded with a power-play goal 9:23 into the second period, as Wesleyan’s Tommy Hartnett buried a rebound from close range. Prior to the goal, the Jeffs’ stingy penalty-killing unit had not conceded a single power-play tally this season.

Amherst struck back less than two minutes later, regaining a 2-1 lead on a power-play goal. Moher — the Jeffs’ leading scorer with three goals and four assists — demonstrated remarkable hand-eye coordination by batting the puck out of midair during a scrum in front of the crease.

Late in the second period, Amherst defenseman Kevin Ryder ’16 received a game misconduct penalty for a dangerous hit from behind, giving Wesleyan a short 5-on-3 advantage and a five-minute power play. The Jeffs’ penalty kill, however, rose to the occasion to stifle the threat.

Gathering momentum after enjoying long stretches of puck possession on the power play, the feisty Cardinals tied the game at 2-2 at the 4:38 mark of the third period, when Nick Craven flipped a backhand from just outside the goal crease. After the goal, Wesleyan continued to dominate play in the final period, outshooting Amherst 13-7 in the stanza.

Weathering the Cardinals’ onslaught, the Jeffs stunned their hosts with a short-handed goal from Andrew Kurlandski ’14 with 6:20 left in regulation. Skating with the puck down the left flank, Kurlandski cut inside and fired a slap shot past the outstretched glove of Cardinals’ goaltender Glenn Stowell to score the eventual game-winner in a 3-2 victory. Nonetheless, the mood in the locker room was somewhat subdued after the shaky, unimpressive performance.

“We played terribly against Wesleyan. We got outplayed most of the night; they just competed harder than we did,” co-captain Brandon Hew ’13 said. “They play a very open style and rely a lot on transition opportunities, and they executed very well within their system and completely dictated the pace of the game.”

“We never want that (have the game be dictated to us) to happen, and our inability to find the work ethic and intensity level necessary to play our style of hockey was frustrating and unacceptable,” Hew said.

Goaltender Nathan Corey ’13 kept the Jeffs in the game with another strong performance between the pipes, stopping 28 of 30 shots.

“We didn’t compete hard enough, and if it wasn’t for our penalty kill units and Corey we could’ve let that game slip away,” Moher said. “However, although we didn’t have our best we still found a way to win on the road, which is never easy in the NESCAC.”

Corey — who has filled the goaltending void left by 2011-12 NCAA Div. III Player of the Year Jonathan La Rose (’12) — has played brilliantly in his first season as the team’s No. 1 goaltender, posting an impressive .951 save percentage in five games.
“You look at the five games he’s played in this year, and in each of the games he has been our best player,” Hew said.

“He’s been solid, probably our best player so far this season,” Moher said. “If anything, we need to help him out and put up more offense to lighten his load.”

After scraping past Wesleyan, the Jeffs suffered a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss to Trinity (4-1-1, 2-1-1 NESCAC) on Saturday. The game remained scoreless through 59 minutes, but the Bantams netted a power-play goal with 27 seconds left in regulation to sink the Jeffs. In a classic goaltending duel, Corey finished with 36 saves, while Trinity’s Benjamin Coulthard stymied the Jeffs in a 44-save shutout. Amherst attacked relentlessly throughout the contest — with double-digit shot totals in each period — but couldn’t solve Coulthard on a frustrating night.

With the clock winding down in the final minute of regulation, the Bantams finally broke the 0-0 deadlock on their fifth power play of the game. Skating from left to right, forward Chris Menard weaved into the slot before rifling a wrist shot past Corey.
While devastated by the loss, some players were encouraged by the team’s renewed forechecking tenacity and offensive rhythm against Trinity, having amassed 44 shots over a 60-minute span.

“We played better against Trinity. We created a good number of quality scoring chances, and we were able to sustain a lot of offensive zone pressure throughout the game (something we haven’t really been successful up to this point); as a result, we had them on the ropes at several points during the game,” Hew said.

“Unfortunately, we were never able to capitalize on our scoring chances, and one defensive zone mistake that lead to their goal cost us the game,” Hew said. “It was definitely a step in the right direction in terms of our overall play, but we still have a long way to go to get to the level we need to be at.”

“On Saturday we played a much better game — we started to establish better pressure on their D-men and generate chances,” Moher said. “We lost because we didn’t finish on our opportunities; it wasn’t a lack of effort or chances.”

Heading into the final weekend of games before interterm, the Jeffs will hit the road to take on Williams (4-2-0) and Middlebury (3-1-2), two perennial NESCAC hockey powers. Although the rival programs have had relatively similar records over the past five years, the Jeffs have dominated Williams in recent head-to-head matchups, going 7-0 against the Ephs since 2007. Regardless, the team expects an intense, fast-paced and nail-biting contest.

“Williams will be a good test for us,” Hew said. “They have some pretty skilled players, and with their big ice sheet, we will need to work even harder to take away time and space from them and limit their offensive chances.
“This weekend is a big four points for us. No one wants to go into break with a loss, so we will need our best week of practice and an even better effort this weekend,” Hew said.