Women's Hockey Loses Heartbreaker to Colby
Issue   |   Tue, 03/04/2014 - 21:37

After a very successful regular season, the Amherst women’s hockey team lost their NESCAC quarterfinal match in a heartbreaker against Colby College this past Saturday. Despite outshooting the Mules, the Jeffs fell 3-2 after conceding a goal with 1:18 remaining in the final period. With Amherst seeded second in the NESCAC and Colby seeded seventh, the Jeffs’ loss was not the only upset in the quarterfinal matches this weekend, as top seed and fourth in the nation Middlebury fell to the eighth seed of the tournament, Conn. College.

After sweeping Colby during their regular season series with 4-1 and 2-1 wins, the Jeffs lost to the Mules for the first time in five seasons. Despite a decisive 45-10 advantage in shots, the Jeffs could not come out victorious, as Colby netminder Brianne Wheeler’s astounding 43 saves solidified the win for the Mules. Wheeler led the league in save percentage this season, and Coach Jeff Matthews said that the Colby senior “stole the game.”

Amherst’s defense dominated the Mules in the first period, not giving up a single shot on net.

“Preventing a team from getting a single shot on net while maintaining an aggressive style of play is extremely hard to do in the game of ice hockey. Especially with Colby being a good team,” Matthews said.

In the second period, however. Colby was able to break through twice to gain a 2-0 lead. Amherst would stay behind for the majority of the remainder of the game, but Erin Martin ’16 was able to find the back of the net for her 10th goal of the season off a pass from senior co-captain Courtney Baranek.

Despite amassing a 22-4 shot advantage in the second period, including a goal that was waved off and a shot that hit the post during a power play, the Jeffs entered the third period trailing 2-1. After a psychologically challenging second period, Amherst was still full of aggression, creating even more opportunities in the third period.

These attempts culminated in a breakthrough for the Amherst to even the score at 2-2. The team’s leading scorer, Tori Salmon ’15, buried a slap shot into the upper ninety corner of the goal. It was Salmon’s 16th score of the year thanks to an assist from senior co-captain Hayley Opperman. Coming back from a 2-0 deficit, the Jeffs appeared to have the momentum as the end of the game neared. However, with 18:42 on the clock, Jess Barkely of Colby snuck a rebound past a diving Kerri Stuart ’14.

The heart-wrenching score put the Jeffs down a goal with just over a minute remaining. Despite the shock, the Jeffs mounted some dangerous attempts on net after pulling Stuart to gain an advantage. However, Conn. gained the puck in the corner and managed to kill the clock to preserve the win.

“As I told our players after the game, they certainly deserved to be on the winning side of Saturday’s contest and that we were proud of their effort, but unfortunately in the game of ice hockey sometimes, this can happen,” Matthews said after the game.

Unfortunately, it appears unlikely that the Jeffs will get an NCAA bid, especially with Middlebury also getting upset in the NESCAC tourney. Only eight teams make the NCAA tournament, and Amherst would be the third selection from the NESCAC at best. It’s a disappointing ending for a team that achieved so much throughout the year.

“Overall, we improved upon last season, finishing in second place in the NESCAC, and were ranked in the top 10 for pretty much the entire season, fluctuating anywhere from fifth to 10th, said an optimistic Matthews. “We are excited to continue our hard work to take another step next season.”