Jeffs to Host Colby in NESCAC Quarterfinals

Contact: Mike O'Brien

Team4_Hamilton.jpgAMHERST, Mass. – The Amherst College women’s ice hockey team earned the No. 2 seed in the 2014 NESCAC Championships and will host seventh-seeded Colby College in quarterfinal action Saturday, March 1 at 1 p.m. in Orr Rink.

Matchup: No. 7 Colby (9-13-2, 5-10-1 NESCAC) vs. No. 2 Amherst (13-6-5, 9-3-4 NESCAC)

Tickets: $3 Adults, $1 Students

Live Coverage: Live Stats/Webcast

Amherst holds a clear advantage in the series in recent years, winning 10 straight against its NESCAC counterpart. Earlier this season, the Jeffs hosted Colby in a two-game weekend series at Orr Rink on Jan. 10-11. Ranked 10th in the country at the time, Amherst swept the Mules by scores of 4-1 and 2-1, respectively, and have not lost to Colby since the 2009-10 season.

After a scoreless first period, Amherst registered two goals in the second and increased their lead to three during the first meeting this year. Colby cut the deficit to two late in the third period but it was too late as the Jeffs tacked on an empty-netter to clinch the win. The next day, Amherst scored two goals eight minutes apart in the opening frame. The Mules defense held strong, keeping the Jeffs scoreless the remainder of the game, but the deficit was too much to overcome. Despite a goal roughly midway through the third period, Colby couldn’t find the back of the net for a second time as Amherst held on for the 2-1 victory.

Saturday’s matchup marks the third postseason meeting between Amherst and Colby in the NESCAC Championship. The previous two matchups were also played in quarterfinal action at Orr Rink, with the Jeffs claiming decisive victories. In 2010, Amherst entered as the No. 1 seed and hosted No. 8 Colby in which they scored eight second period goals en route to a 10-1 win. The Jeffs set three NESCAC Championship team records that day, which all remain today; most goals scored in a period (8), most goals scored in a game (10) and most goals scored by both teams (11). The following season, Amherst and Colby met again, this time as the No. 2 and No. 7 seeds, respectively. Similar to the prior season, it was all Jeffs, scoring twice in the opening three minutes and never looking back as they cruised to a 5-0 shutout win.

On Dec. 2, 2013, the Jeffs moved into the national rankings for the first time this season, claiming the No. 9 spot in the Division III poll. The remainder of the year, Amherst went back and forth between the No. 9 and No. 10 rankings, but recently fell out of the poll for the first time since being ranked. However, Amherst still ranks No. 8 in the poll and has been ranked in all but one poll (Nov. 11), even earning the No. 5 ranking for five straight weeks (Dec. 16 through Jan. 27).

The Jeffs opened the season winning three straight and went unbeaten through their first five games. On Nov. 30, Amherst came seconds away from upsetting the No. 1 team in the country, Plattsburgh. With nine seconds remaining, the Cardinals tied the game at 1-1 to send it to overtime. Neither team could score in the overtime period as Amherst handed Plattsburgh its only tie of the season. The Cardinals are 23-1-1 overall. The following day, Amherst came up short to then-No. 4 Elmira, 3-2, who is currently ranked No. 2 in the country. They responded with a 3-0 shutout win over then-No. 10 Manhattanville but were dropped the following game by another late goal to No. 3 Norwich, 4-3. Down the stretch, Amherst went unbeaten in six straight games from Feb. 1 to Feb. 21 before falling short to Bowdoin in the regular-season finale, 1-0.

Amherst is fueled by its stellar backline. The Jeffs boast the league’s top scoring defense, allowing just 1.62 goals per game. Headlining a young group, which has not allowed more than two goals in their last seven games, is senior co-captain Hayley Opperman. Opperman has been a force offensively as well, dishing out eight assists throughout the season. The senior has received plenty of help from a pair of newcomers, Caitlyn Ryan’17 and Lynndy Smith ’17. The duo has made significant contributors throughout the season, accounting for 25 total points. Ryan leads the team in assists as a first-year with 13 and Smith has three goals, most among defenders.

stuartNORWICH.jpgKerri Stuart ’14 and Yuna Evans ’17 protect the net, allowing a league-low 39 goals. Stuart ranks third in the NESCAC in goals-against average (1.90) and fourth in save percentage (.618). Logging 1040:42 minutes between the posts (fourth most in the league), she holds a 9-5-3 win-loss record. Evans has enjoyed an impressive first-year, recording four shutouts in eight games. The Connecticut native has allowed just six goals in 418:11 minutes for a 0.86 GAA. She has stopped 134 shots her way for a .957 save percentage and is 4-1-2 in net.

The Jeffs have one of the top offensives in the league as well, boasting a 22.9 power play percentage and scoring 2.75 goals per game to rank second and fourth in the league, respectively. Amherst is led by junior forward Tori Salmon who has excelled throughout the 2013-14 season. Salmon ranks fourth in the conference in points per game (1.00) and leads the team in scoring (15 goals). She also has nine assists on the season for a total of 24 points. Earlier in the year, Salmon scored a hat-trick against then-No. 2 Middlebury, which included the game-tying goal in the closing minutes of the third period as Amherst skated to a 5-5 tie.

Most of Salmon’s goals were assisted by Erin Martin ’16. The sophomore forward ranks second on the squad in points (19), 11th in the league, with nine goals and 10 assists. As a team, eight players have double-digit points; Salmon (24), Martin (19), Eileen Harris ’16 (15), Ryan (14), Emily Flom ’15 (13), Courtney Baranek ’14 (13), Smith (11) and Madeline Tank ’15 (10).

SCOUTING COLBY (9-13-2, 5-10-1 NESCAC)
The Mules have struggled offensively this season and face a tough matchup against the league’s top scoring defense. Colby averages just 1.96 goals per game, lowest in the NESCAC, while Amherst allows only 1.62. Defensively, Colby is led by its senior net-minder, Brianne Wheeler. The Mules allow 2.33 goals per game as a team, but Wheeler has been strong between the posts. With 1394:32 minutes logged in net, most in the NESAC, the senior has stopped 718 shots for a save percentage of .935 (third highest in the league). She also ranks fifth in the conference with a 2.15 GAA.

Offensively, the team is led by sophomore forward Megan Fortier. Fortier leads all scorers with 10 goals and a team-high 15 points. Katie McLaughlin ’17 has enjoyed a strong first-year and leads the team in assists with nine. She has 12 points on the season. Joining Fortier and McLaughlin in double-digit points are Lauren Guarente ’15 and Elisa Rascia ’16 with 10 each. The Mules possess a very young lineup this season with just seven upperclassmen (four seniors and three juniors).

Colby has played well at home this year but haven’t fared as well on the road, going 6-4-2 in home games but 3-9-0 away. The Mules faced the difficult task of hosting Middlebury in the opening weekend, dropping both games by scores of 2-1 and 4-0. However, they rebounded nicely with three consecutive wins, tying their longest winning streak of the season. Going 2-4-2 in their next eight games, Colby went on the road for five straight in which they lost all five. On their return home against University of New England on Feb. 8, the Mules won decisively, 5-1, and finished the regular season winning four of their last six games including a 2-1 win in NESCAC play over Hamilton in the regular-season finale.

2014 NESCAC Women’s Ice Hockey Championship

Quarterfinals – Saturday, March 1 (at Higher Seeds)
No. 8 Conn. College at No. 1 Middlebury – 1 p.m.
No. 7 Colby at No. 2 Amherst – 1 p.m.
No. 6 Trinity at No. 3 Williams – 1 p.m.
No. 5 Wesleyan at No. 4 Bowdoin – 3 p.m.

Semifinals – Saturday, March 8 (at Highest Remaining Seed)
Highest Remaining Seed vs. Lowest Remaining Seed – TBD
Remaining Quarterfinal Winners – TBD

Championship – Sunday, March 9
Semifinal Winners – TBD