Lord Jeffs Looking to Remain Atop NESCAC Standings

AMHERST, MA – Each of Amherst College’s basketball and ice hockey teams is nationally ranked and holding on to at least a share of first place in the NESCAC, but the Lord Jeffs have several teams nipping at their heels. With conference play resuming Friday night, here is a preview of this weekend’s action with links to live webcasts and statistics, as well as several streaks and milestones to keep an eye on.

DierWOMEN'S ICE HOCKEY
Live Coverage: The top-ranked Amherst College women’s ice hockey team (11-1-4, 7-0-3) will travel to take on Colby College (2-11-5, 0-7-3) Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. Score updates will be posted on the NESCAC Scoreboard at the end of each period.

Weekend Preview: Amherst outscored Colby by an 11-2 margin in two meetings last year to increase its unbeaten streak against the Mules to seven games (6-0-1). While the Jeffs are standing alone atop the NESCAC standings, Colby is fighting to remain in the playoff picture with a slim lead over Wesleyan University for the eighth and final spot. No team in Division III has been penalized less than Colby has (7.8 min./gm.), which will bode well for the Mules when they host the fourth most efficient power play unit in the nation (24.4 percent). Colby will need to find a solution for Courtney Hanlon ’11, who has recorded seven goals and three assists during Amherst’s seven-game unbeaten streak.

Streaks/Milestones: Amherst has been ranked No. 1 in the USCHO.com Division III Poll for four consecutive weeks, marking the longest the Jeffs have ever held the top spot. Amherst’s unbeaten streak in regular season NESCAC play has ballooned to an astonishing 52 games (43-0-9), as the Jeffs are striving for a third consecutive season without a conference loss. Tri-captain Kate Dennett ’10 is closing in on 100 career points, with her 39 goals and 53 assists putting her on pace to reach the milestone.

Around the NESCAC: Although Amherst has not lost a conference game since 2006, the Jeffs are far from securing the top seed in the upcoming NESCAC Championship. Fourth-ranked Trinity (7-1-2 NESCAC) and seventh-ranked Middlebury (7-2-1) will clash this Friday with hopes of keeping pace with Amherst, while Bowdoin (6-3-1) is still in the running with two pivotal games against the Jeffs coming up in early February. Trinity is riding the longest active unbeaten streak in Division III (11-0), during which the Bantams defeated Middlebury in overtime, 2-1.

StevensonMEN'S ICE HOCKEY
Live Coverage: The seventh-ranked Amherst College men’s ice hockey team (12-2-2, 7-2-2) will host the University of New England Nor’easters (1-15-0, 0-11-0) Friday at 7 p.m. and the University of Southern Maine Huskies (8-7-2, 5-4-2) Saturday at 3 p.m. A live webcast with audio play-by-play will be provided for each game.

Weekend Preview: Friday will mark the first-ever meeting with the Nor’easters for Amherst head coach Jack Arena ’83. New England will be looking to snap a seven-game losing streak by picking up its first win over a NESCAC school, but the Nor’easters—who average 1.31 goals per game—will need to find a solution to the Lord Jeffs’ stingy defense. Amherst has posted a 9-3-2 record against Southern Maine in the past 15 meetings and is 1-1-1 in the past three. The Huskies have struggled against the NESCAC this season (1-3-2) but cannot be overlooked with Zach Joy ’11 leading Division III in goals per game (1.06).

Streaks/Milestones: Amherst’s seniors need only one victory to become the winningest class in program history. Andrew Stevenson ’10, Keith Nelson ’10, Jack Baer ’10, Ted Vickers ’10 and Sean Patterson ’10 have posted a 62-25-7 record, matching the 62 wins earned by the classes of 2009 (62-35-6) and 2001 (62-27-7). The Lord Jeffs boast Division III’s best power play (31.8 percent) and penalty kill (92.8 percent) units, also ranking second in fewest penalty minutes served per game (11.1) and third in scoring defense (1.69 gpg).

Around the NESCAC: The Lord Jeffs have used an 11-game unbeaten streak (9-0-2) to catapult to a tie with Bowdoin College for first place in the NESCAC standings. Not only are the Polar Bears (8-3-0 NESCAC) keeping pace with the Jeffs, but No. 9 Williams (7-3-0), No. 12 Middlebury (4-2-4), No. 15 Colby (6-2-3) and Trinity (6-3-2) are all still very much in the running for the conference’s top seed.

StedmanWOMEN'S BASKETBALL
Live Coverage: The second-ranked Amherst College women’s basketball team (17-0, 3-0) will travel to take on 18th-ranked Bowdoin College (14-3, 1-2) Friday at 6 p.m. and Colby College (14-2, 2-1) Saturday at 2 p.m. A live webcast and statistics will be provided for Friday’s meeting with the Polar Bears. Saturday's game against Colby will feature live statistics.

Weekend Preview: After edging out a 65-64 win over Colby last year thanks to a pair of clutch free throws from Shannon Finucane ’12 with six seconds remaining, Amherst cruised to a 77-36 victory in the conference quarterfinals to increase their winning streak against the Mules to seven games. The Jeffs continue to struggle with Bowdoin, however, as they are 4-17 all-time against the Polar Bears and 0-9 on their home court. The past three meetings between Amherst and Bowdoin have been decided by three points or fewer, with the Bears winning each of the past two.

Streaks/Milestones: Boasting the nation’s top-ranked scoring defense (44.4 ppg) as one of only four undefeated teams remaining in Division III, Amherst is looking to build on its 17-game winning streak. The longest winning streak in program history is 18 games, which was set last year and snapped by Bowdoin (63-61) in LeFrak Gymnasium. While Finucane’s 177 career assists leave her only one shy of 10th place on the school’s all-time leader board, one more block for Lem Atanga McCormick ’12 would give her 75 for her career for sole possession of fourth place on Amherst’s all-time list. Co-captain Sarah Leyman ’11, meanwhile, is closing in on 500 career rebounds (487) with a chance to crack the program’s top 10 list this season.

Around the NESCAC: Only 4-0 Williams and 3-0 Amherst remain unbeaten in NESCAC play this season. No. 12 Tufts and No. 18 Bowdoin are still threats to earn the conference’s top seed as regional powerhouses, with Trinity (14-3, 2-1) and Colby (14-2, 2-1) also turning heads at the national level with breakthrough seasons. With a bull’s-eye on its back, Amherst will need to stay focused during this difficult seven-game road trip, which features opponents with a combined 85-35 record (.708).

HolmesMEN'S BASKETBALL
Live Coverage: The 18th-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team (13-3, 3-0) will travel to take on Bowdoin College (9-7, 1-2) Friday at 8 p.m. and Colby College (13-2, 3-0) Saturday at 4 p.m. A live webcast and statistics will be provided for Friday’s showdown with the Polar Bears. Saturday's game against Colby will feature live statistics.

Weekend Preview: This weekend’s games in Maine will feature three of the NESCAC’s best seniors, as Amherst’s Steve Wheeler ’10 (17.4 ppg), Colby’s Adam Choice ’10 (17.7 ppg) and Bowdoin’s Mark Phillips ’10 (14.9 ppg) are among the league’s top scoring threats. Improving upon their five-game winning streak will be no easy task for the Lord Jeffs, who last year suffered an 81-76 loss at Colby and were last defeated by the Polar Bears in the 2008 NESCAC semifinals (65-64). The Jeffs will need to stay hot at the line, as they have hit 71 percent of their free throws in the past five games after shooting only 63 percent in the first 11 games.

Streaks/Milestones: Wheeler will look to continue his ascension in the Amherst record books as one of the most efficient outside shooters in program history. In addition to his 171 career three-pointers leaving him with a chance to catch the school’s all-time record of 198 (Jamal Wilson ’97), Wheeler ranks 30th on the all-time scoring list with 827 points. The senior tri-captain has been phenomenal during Amherst’s current winning streak, shooting 58 percent from long range and 90 percent from the line. In three conference games this season, Wheeler is averaging 20.3 points with a 68.8 shooting percentage from behind the arc.

Around the NESCAC: Four teams have yet to lose a NESCAC game this season, but a maximum of two have a chance to come out of this weekend unbeaten in conference play. In addition to Saturday pairing Amherst (3-0 NESCAC) and Colby (3-0) together, No. 4 Williams (4-0) and No. 8 Middlebury (4-0) will square off in Vermont at 4 p.m. While Amherst has earned the conference’s top seed five times, and Middlebury and Williams have each earned it once, Colby is looking to finish the regular season atop the standings for the first time ever.

*To view photos from this year's home athletic contests, visit Amherst's flickr page.