Amherst's Season Ends with 3-2 Loss to Elmira in NCAA Quarterfinals

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Amherst and Elmira each took a 3-2 victory in the season series.  

AMHERST, MA – Amherst College hosted a quarterfinal game in the NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championship for the first time in program history, as the third-ranked Lord Jeffs welcomed the fourth-ranked Soaring Eagles of Elmira College to Orr Rink for a Saturday afternoon game. Elmira avenged its 3-2 loss to Amherst earlier in the season by advancing to the national semifinals with a 3-2 nail-biting win over the Lord Jeffs.

Amherst earned an automatic bid to the national tournament by outscoring opponents 14-3 in the NESCAC Championship Tournament en route to the program’s second consecutive conference title. The Eagles also earned an automatic bid, upsetting top-ranked Plattsburgh State on the Cardinals’ home ice in the finals of the ECAC West Championship Tournament.

The Jeffs and Eagles were playing for the second time this season, as Amherst earned a 3-2 win at Elmira in the midst of a 17-game unbeaten streak. The Eagles carried a five-game winning streak into Saturday and snapped the longest unbeaten streak in the nation by defeating the Jeffs on their home ice. Elmira improves to 22-5-1 and will once again travel to Plattsburgh State to take on the Cardinals in next weekend’s semifinals.

Elmira was given an early power play opportunity, but the Jeffs and their NESCAC-best penalty killing unit were able to keep the Eagles off the scoreboard. With nine minutes remaining in the opening period, Elmira junior forward Jamie Huntley (La Jolla, CA) raced to a loose puck that bounced toward Amherst’s blue line. Huntley skated in from the left side and freed herself for a hard wrist shot, but the puck deflected off the shoulder of sophomore goaltender Krystyn Elek (Summerville, SC) and flew out of play.

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Sophomore Krystyn Elek made 17 saves in the Jeffs' loss.  

Amherst went on the power play with 1:24 remaining in the opening frame, but it was Elmira that got the final shot. Junior forward Erika Goodwin (Manotick, ON) broke free from the Eagles’ end and carried the puck the length of the ice to fire a point-blank shot at Elek, but the Jeffs’ netminder was able to make the big stop with just six-tenths of a second showing on the clock.

The Eagles controlled the tempo in the first period, but the teams headed into the first intermission notched up at 0-0 with Elek and junior Allison Cubberley (Bracebridge, ON) each having recorded nine saves. Elmira played a more consistent opening 20 minutes, whereas Amherst was able to create opportunities mainly on quick counter-attacks.

The Jeffs came out of intermission with 36 seconds remaining on their power play but were unable to capitalize. As soon as the extra-man opportunity ended, Amherst junior Tarasai Karega (Detroit, MI) ripped a high shot from the point only to have it gloved by a well-positioned Cubberley.

Amherst’s first great scoring chance of the second period came five minutes in when first-year Braidie Campbell (Surrey, BC) and senior co-captain Megan Quinn (Wakefield, MA) worked a 2-on-2 nearly to perfection, but Quinn’s shot was corralled by Cubberley. The Eagles picked up the game’s first goal shortly after when senior Farren Hart (Perth, ON) received the puck with her back to the Amherst net. Hart calmly spun and fired a shot high and to the near post to put Elmira on the board with a power-play goal.

The visitors’ lead was increased to two goals just three minutes later when junior Kayla Coady (Charlottetown, PEI) broke free from the pack and skated in from the right side untouched. Taking note from the first goal, Coady elected to go high and tight with Elek and it once again paid off, as the puck deflected off the Amherst goalie’s shoulder and into the back of the net to give the Eagles a 2-0 advantage.

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Elmira's three-goal second period proved to be too much for the Lord Jeffs to overcome. 

The Jeffs had 40 seconds of a 5-on-3 to work with and had another two minutes of a power play tacked on, but they could not find their first goal despite several close calls and good looks at the net. With 5:03 showing on the clock and a play whistled dead, the Eagles were able to take a breather knowing that they had just escaped a difficult situation unharmed.

The momentum from the Eagles’ big stop on defense carried over to their offense, as Coady tallied her second goal of the afternoon less than one minute later after Amherst was whistled for yet another penalty. Elmira jumped out to a commanding 3-0 lead with just four and a half minutes remaining in the second period.

Another 5-on-3 opportunity opened up for the Jeffs, who called a timeout with 1:13 on the clock to set up a play in order to take advantage of their two-player advantage. The Eagles’ defense could only hold on for so long this time, as first-year Randi Zukas (Glen Head, NY) and junior Lindsey Harrington (Westford, MA) set up first-year Courtney Hanlon (Fullerton, CA) for the Jeffs’ first goal of the game. Hanlon’s team-leading 15th tally cut her team’s deficit to just two goals and provided some much-needed momentum as the teams headed into the second intermission after what proved to be quite an eventful second period.

Elmira’s seventh penalty of the game came after five minutes of third-period action and gave the Jeffs a chance to cut their deficit in half, but the Eagles killed the penalty for the sixth time of the afternoon to preserve their 3-1 lead.

Amherst emptied its net with 2:30 to play in regulation and it paid off when Hanlon set up fellow rookie Julia Koch (Rochester Hills, MI) for the Jeffs’ second goal. Elek again headed to the bench immediately following the ensuing face-off and the Jeffs were able to get a solid shot on goal in the waning moments, but time was not on their side as the final horn sounded with Elmira holding on for the 3-2 victory.

Elek finished with 17 saves for the Jeffs, while Cubberley stopped 24 shots for the Eagles. The Jeffs end their season at 20-4-4, matching the program record for wins in a season. The loss marks the final game for seniors Elizabeth Ditmore (Carmel, CA), Natanya Khazzam (Montreal, QC), Katharine Kelly (Shorewood, WI) and Quinn, who all helped turn the Amherst women’s hockey program into one of the finest in the nation.