Jeffs Upend Middlebury, 4-1
Contact: Ben Badua
AMHERST, Mass. – Buoyed by three third period goals, the 12th-ranked Amherst men’s hockey team skated to a 4-1 victory over NESCAC rival Middlebury College at Orr Rink.
Capturing their sixth victory over the Panthers in seven meetings, the Jeffs improved to 6-1-0 (5-0-0 NESCAC) on the year, while Middlebury fell to 3-2-2 (3-1-1 NESCAC).
Jumping out to an early lead, Amherst netted the game’s first goal just 4:19 after the opening face-off. Skating up ice on an odd-man rush, Conor Brown ’16 put a hard shot on target that forced a pad save from Middlebury goaltender Nick BonDurant ’14. With the senior unable to control the rebound, Topher Flanagan ’16 hammered home his first of the season into the right side of the net.
With just over five minutes remaining in the first, Amherst went on the power play. Breaking out of their defensive zone the Panthers caught the Jeffs out of position, setting up a short-handed breakaway chance for Mike Najjar ’17. Charging toward the left circle, Amherst goalie Dave Cunningham ’16 dove forward and poked the puck away before the first-year could stick it toward goal.
Outshooting the home team 7-4 over the first 20 minutes, Middlebury opened the second period on a man-advantage. Receiving a pass at the left point, Connor Frick ’16 ripped a hard shot past Cunningham, but the try rattled off the right post, keeping the visitors off the board. With Middlebury on another power play midway through the frame, Brown raced forward shorthanded. Beating a Panther defender to the puck in the left corner, the forward skated in front of the crease before lifting a backhander into BonDurant’s chest.
With Ryan Edwards ’14 narrowly missing out on a chance to double the lead with a failed wraparound, Amherst generated another quality scoring opportunity with just over five minutes left in the second. Going toward the front of the net, Brown got a stick on a centering pass, but the attempt went off BonDurant and trickled just inches wide of the left post. On a 5-on-3 power play for over a minute and a half, the Jeffs put several more chances on target from point blank range, but the Middlebury netminder turned each try away to keep the Panthers within one.
Keeping the puck in Amherst’s zone early in the third, the Panthers peppered the Jeff net with shots, forcing Cunningham to make six saves over the first five minutes of action. With a Middlebury player going down at the right point, the Purple & White broke out on a 2-on-1. Carrying up the left side, Brendan Burke ’16 put a rising shot on net. Flashing his glove, BonDurant got a piece of the attempt, but could not hold on as the puck bounced over the goal line to suddenly put Amherst up 2-0.
Still down by a pair of scores with just under seven minutes remaining in regulation, George Ordway ’15 put a low tracer on target from the left circle, but Cunningham kicked away the shot to momentarily preserve the shutout. With four minutes on the clock, Amherst stretched the lead as Burke tucked a rebound off a Brian Safstrom ’14 wrister inside the right post.
On the power play in the waning moments of the period, Middlebury's Louis Beslisle ’14 collected a loose puck to the right of goal following a Robbie Donahoe ’14 shot. Quickly looking to net, the blue liner beat Cunningham to the short side to break-up the sophomore’s shutout bid. The Jeffs closed out the scoring on Brown’s empty net tally at 18:34.
The Panthers finished with a 24-20 shot advantage, but converted just one of their nine power play opportunities. Cunningham collected 23 saves to improve to 5-1-0, while BonDurant had 16 stops.
Amherst will host archrival Williams on Saturday, Dec. 7.