Amherst Tops Williams 4-1 for Ephs' First Loss

Senior captain Keith Nelson had a goal and an assist in the win at Williams.

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The 14th-ranked Amherst College men’s hockey team traveled west to face NESCAC and Little Three archrival Williams College. Amherst jumped out to a 3-0 lead at Lansing Chapman Rink, and held on for a 4-1 win over the 10th-ranked Ephs. The Lord Jeffs improved to 8-2-0 on the year, and will travel to face 8th-ranked Middlebury tomorrow. This evening’s result was Williams’ first loss of the year as the Ephs drop to 6-1-1.

This evening’s games featured the NESCAC’s top two scoring defenses with the Ephs leading the way with a 1.29 goals-against average, and Amherst sitting squarely in second place with a 1.67 GAA. The Lord Jeffs also boast the top power play (31%) and penalty kill (93%) units in the NESCAC, while Williams senior forward Alex Smigelski entered the night leading the conference in goal scoring (1.00 goals-per-game).

Amherst redirected a shot from the left point past Williams goaltender Ryan Purdy just 45 seconds into the opening period, but the goal was waived off by the officials for high-sticking. Over the next 12 minutes, Amherst looked to be the faster of the two teams, as the Ephs seemingly had some rust remaining after not playing in over three weeks.

With just over four minutes to play in the first, Eph forward Matt Masucci circled behind the Amherst net and found line mate Connor Olvany on the doorstep, but Olvany pushed his shot just inches wide of the post. Amherst netminder Cole Anderson (Sylvan Lake, Alberta) looked beat on the play, but Olvany could not put his bid on frame.

Amherst defender Mike Baran (Duxbury, MA)was sent to the penalty box for elbowing with 1:27 to play in the first stanza, giving the Ephs the first power play of the night. Williams’ best chance came on a long range shot from Smigelski, but Anderson saw it the whole way and made a glove save look easy. The shot was the final close call of the period, with Williams ending the scoreless first holding a 16-9 edge in shots.

After the first period whistle sounded, Williams’ Ryan Young was called for roughing on a late hit. After starting the first 33 seconds playing 4-on-4, Amherst had its first power play opportunity. The Lord Jeffs had a few shots on Purdy’s net during the stretch, but the score remained 0-0. During a long stretch of continuous five-on-five action in the middle of the second, Amherst senior forward Jack Baer (Edina, MN) nearly scored on a fluttering backhand shot to the left upper corner.

Cole Anderson was impressive in the win at Williams.

With 2:20 to play in the second period, Amherst broke through for the game’s first goal. Senior captain Keith Nelson (Manalapan, NJ) skated behind Purdy’s net and centered a pass to rookie Nick Brunette (Chaska, MN). The first-year forward introduced himself to this storied rivalry with a picture-perfect one-time shot over Purdy’s right shoulder and into the net.

Just 90 seconds later, Nelson skated down the right wing all alone and beat Purdy with an off-speed wrist shot to the near side. With two and a half minutes to play in the period, the game sat tied 0-0, but with a pair of quick goals, Amherst took a 2-0 lead to the second intermission.

With 15:20 to play in the third period, Williams defender Stephen Maier was sent to the penalty box for holding. Amherst was unable to set up its power play unit and the Ephs killed off the penalty easily. Moments after the action returned to even strength, Eph defender Mike Brofft unleashed a hard slap shot from straight away, but Anderson made a beautiful glove save.

After the two teams traded overlapping penalties in the middle of the third, Amherst took a 3-0 lead on a goal by Joe Brock (Cumming, GA). Junior Matt Rhone (Dedham, MA) took a long pass at the Williams blue line, but after it looked as though he had misplayed the puck, threaded a perfect pass to a streaking Brock on the doorstep for a redirection past Purdy.

The action grew increasingly physical in the final five minutes, and with 4:30 to play each team had two players in the penalty box as the action went to four-on-four. The Ephs pulled Purdy to go for an extra skater and look for their first goal of the game. Having the extra skater paid off for the Ephs after a face off to Anderson’s right with 2:30 to play. The draw was won by Mascucci back to Ryan Scott, who let a bomb fly from the point that beat Anderson over his stick-side shoulder.

Williams continued to pull Purdy and play six-on-five down the stretch, but Anderson and the Amherst defense held strong. With just 29 seconds to play, junior Trip Wray (Walpole, MA) added an empty netter to give Amherst breathing room and end the threat for a 4-1 win.

Anderson finished the night with 43 saves, while Purdy turned away 23 shots in net for Williams. The road for Anderson and the Jeffs will get no easier when they face the Middlebury Panthers tomorrow afternoon.