Amherst Set to Host Babson in NCAA Tournament
Amherst will host an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in program history.
Fans unable to attend Wednesday’s game can follow a live webcast with audio and video feeds available. Tickets will be $5 for adults and $3 for students and children, and will be sold at Orr Rink with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.
Amherst will vie for a national championship for only the second time in program history, as the 1998-99 squad qualified for the NCAA Tournament with a 19-3 record. That Lord Jeff squad traveled to take on RIT in the opening round but suffered a 7-2 loss to end its season.
The Jeffs continue to receive national attention as one of the hottest teams in Division III, having won 13 consecutive games and 17 of their past 18. After defeating Tufts in the NESCAC Championship quarterfinals, Amherst shut out Trinity in the semifinals to set up a highly anticipated rematch with Middlebury in the finals. Amherst scored the first two goals of the game and never relinquished its lead, as the Jeffs’ 5-2 victory marked their first-ever conference title.
The victory over Trinity set a new program record for wins in a season (20), besting the previous mark of 19 that was set during the 1998-99 campaign. Amherst was peppered with postseason honors last week when the NESCAC announced its All-Conference Team, with senior captain Jeff Landers highlighting the team by being named Player of the Year. Head coach Jack Arena ’83 was tabbed Coach of the Year in his 26th season at the helm of his alma mater for leading the Lord Jeffs to their best season in program history.
Landers joined forward Keith Nelson and goaltender Cole Anderson on the All-NESCAC First Team, while fellow netminder Jonathan La Rose earned a spot on the Second Team. The sophomore goaltending tandem still holds the top two goals-against averages and save percentages in Division III, while Landers averages 1.5 points per game to lead all defensemen. Landers highlights an exceptional senior class that has posted a 61-34-6 (.634) record in its four years, making the Class of 2009 the fourth winningest group in Arena’s tenure.
Babson’s road to the NCAA Tournament was a unique one. After earning the No. 7 seed in the ECAC East Championship with a 10-13-1 overall record, Babson upset second-seeded Castleton State by a 4-1 margin, which turned out to be one of three upsets in the tournament’s quarterfinal round. After earning a 3-2 win over sixth-seeded Skidmore in the semifinals, the Beavers claimed the conference title with a 4-3 overtime win over eighth-seeded UMass Boston, marking the first-ever 7-8 matchup in the ECAC East finals.
The Beavers posted a 4-6 record against NESCAC teams this season, with one of their losses coming at home to Amherst. After each side scored one goal in the opening period, the Jeffs held a 3-2 lead after two frames and tacked on another three scores in the third to earn a 6-3 victory. Nelson and Landers each had a goal and two assists in the win, while Anderson made 29 saves as Amherst held a slim 35-32 edge in shots on net.
This is the 14th NCAA Tournament appearance for Babson, with the last coming in 2007 when the Beavers suffered a 5-3 loss to Manhattanville in the quarterfinal round. Leading the way for Babson is senior co-captain Brad Baldelli, who joins Amherst’s Landers as a finalist for the prestigious Joe Concannon Award. Baldelli has recorded 10 goals and 14 assists this season, with his 14th tally not only serving as the game-winner in the conference finals, but also marking the 100th point of his career.
Also leading Babson this year have been junior forward Jason Schneider and senior Defenseman Alex DePietro. While Schneider has scored 11 goals to go along with 22 helpers for a team-high 33 points, DePietro’s eight goals and nine assists leave him in a tie for 10th place in points per game (1.00) among Division III defensemen.
Although they have already met once this season, Amherst and Babson will step on the ice with much different looks this time around. While the Beavers picked up wins when they mattered most to claim the program’s fourth conference title, the Lord Jeffs have taken their game to new heights as one of the most decorated teams in Division III. Amherst is 11-0-1 at Orr Rink this season and will look to protect its home ice once again when the Beavers come to town.