Amherst Tops Trinity 3-0 in NESCAC Semifinals; Jeffs Set Program Record for Wins in a Season

Jonathan La Rose made 39 saves for the shutout win.
AMHERST, MA – The top-seeded Amherst College men’s ice hockey team played host to No. 4 seed Trinity College this evening in the second NESCAC Championship Tournament semifinal game at Orr Rink in Amherst, Mass. The Lord Jeffs pulled out a 3-0 win in front of a packed house to advance to the NESCAC Championship for the first time since 2001, where they will face Middlebury at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Amherst improved to 20-4-1, which sets a new program record for victories in a season. The 1998-99 team won 19 games before advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first and only time in program history.

Amherst earned the top seed in the conference tournament with a 16-2-1 NESCAC record during the regular season, before skating past No. 8 Tufts 4-1 in the quarterfinals last weekend. Trinity topped No. 5 Conn College 3-1 last weekend in the quarterfinals to set up tonight’s meeting.

Neither team was able to put together a significant scoring chance early in the first period, and with 11:48 to play in the frame, Amherst went on the power play. Amherst’s top-ranked power play unit did not disappoint, as the Lord Jeffs jumped out to a 1-0 lead with 10:08 to play. The game’s opening score came as first-year Eddie Effinger ((Belleville, IL) hit a one-timer that resulted in a rebound goal for senior Joel Covelli (Carlisle, Ont). Sophomore Luke Arnold (Lincoln, MA) also picked up an assist on the goal.

With 5:35 to play in the first, Trinity’s Adam Houli (Howell, NJ) drew an interference call against Amherst. Off the opening face-off of the extra-man stint, Trinity nearly beat Amherst netminder Jonathan La Rose (Boyle, Alberta). The puck bounced around in the crease behind La Rose, before senior captain Jeff Landers (Hanover, MA) pushed it out of danger.

With 1:03 to play in the period, Amherst looked to score a second goal, as first-year Mark Colp (Wareham, MA) put the puck past Trinity goaltender Wesley Vesprini (Lexington, MA). The score was waived off, as the officials said it went off Colp’s skate.

At the end of the first period, Vesprini came up with a big save as Arnold broke in alone coming down the right wing. The Trinity backstop turned away Arnold’s bid just as the horn blew to end the stanza. At the first intermission, each team had put seven shots on goal, with Covelli’s goal standing as the difference.

Less than four minutes into the second period, Arnold let a slap shot fly from the left face-off circle that Vesprini saved. The puck popped up and came down in the crease where Effinger dove to poke it in. A pair of Bantam defenders smothered the Lord Jeff rookie before he could score.

With 11:40 to play in the second, Riley Hicks (Calgary, Alberta) had Trinity’s best scoring chance on a break down the right side. La Rose made a great save with his left leg pad to keep Amherst up 1-0.  Over the next five minutes, each team killed off a power play from their opponent.

At the second intermission, Trinity held a 17-14 edge in shots on goal, with a majority of the Bantams attempts in the period coming from behind the face-off circles.

Just 3:13 into the third period, Amherst took a 2-0 lead when a long flip from Landers was brought down by a Trinity defender using his hand in the middle of the zone. Covelli stole the puck as soon as it hit the ice, and moved it to his backhand before beating Vesprini for the score.

Early in the third period, La Rose made a handful of great saves to keep Trinity off the board. The Amherst offense responded to La Rose’s strong play with 13:04 to play as sophomore Trip Wray (Walpole, MA) took a loose puck at the blue line and ripped a snap shot upper corner to open up a 3-0 lead.

Down the stretch, La Rose and the Amherst defense held strong to post a shutout 3-0 win, giving the Amherst netminder his third shutout of the season. La Rose finished the night with 44 saves, while Vesprini turned away 26 Amherst attempts.