Amherst holds off Williams, 2-1
AMHERST, Mass. - The top-seeded Amherst men's hockey team extended its win streak to 10 games with a 2-1 victory over fifth-seeded Williams College in a NESCAC Championship Semifinal at Orr Rink.
Improving to 22-3-1 overall, Amherst has now won the last seven meetings against its archrivals, while moving to 2-1 against Williams (12-9-5, 8-8-2 NESCAC) in conference championship play.
With the win, the Jeffs also advance to the NESCAC final for the first time in three years, where they face Middlebury College, making its 12th appearance in the title game. A rematch of the 2008-09 championship (which Amherst won 5-2), this will mark the fourth postseason meeting between the programs, with the Panthers holding a 2-1 edge.
Wasting no time getting on the board, an aggressive Amherst attack notched the game's first goal just 4:25 into the opening period when Jamie Hawkrigg '12 (Waterdown, Ontario) found Andrew Fenwick '15 (Quispamsis, N.B.) on the doorstep of the Williams cage. After the Ephs' Ryan Purdy '12 made the initial stop, a persistent Fenwick put away the rebound just inside the right post to stake the home team to an early 1-0 edge.
With Williams asserting itself offensively for the remainder of the first, Amherst looked to regain the momentum early in the middle frame, with Mike Moher '13 (Toronto, Ontario), spinning between the circles before putting a quick shot on net less than two minutes into the stanza.
On the power play with under 10 in the period, senior Jeremy Deutsch '13(Huntington, N.Y.) one-timed a Nick Brunette '13 (Chaska, Minn.) feed to the top of the left circle for his second goal of the season at 10:03, doubling the Amherst lead.
Hoping to get something going in the waning moments of the middle frame, Williams sophomore Nick Anderson raced up the left side on a 2-on-1 before finding a trailing John Wickman '13 in front, but La Rose denied the forward's try from point blank range to preserve Jeffs' 2-0 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
Looking to cut into the deficit, Anderson got off a clean look from inside the right circle with under 15 to go, but La Rose was once again up to the challenge, getting piece of the glove on the wrister to deflect it wide. Less than three minutes later, senior Justin Troiani finally solved the Amherst netminder, blasting a hard slap shot from just inside the blue line to pull the visitors within one.
Trying to respond, Amherst junior Dylan Trumble (Calgary, Albreta) came in alone on net after intercepting a pass in the Williams zone, but an alert Purdy tipped the puck away with a nice poke check before the forward could get a shot on net.
With just over two minutes left, Eph sophomore Paul Steinig found open space in front, lifting a backhand toward the right post, but La Rose quickly slid over to make the save. Needing an equalizer with time winding down, the Ephs pulled Purdy in the last minute of action, but La Rose and the Amherst defense held steady, making a couple of big stops down the stretch to seal the victory.
La Rose made 27 saves, improving to 17-1-1 on the year, while Purdy made 28 stops in the loss. The first goaltender in NESCAC history to take home Player of the Year honors, La Rose has been lights out the second half of the season, posting an 11-0-0 record since a Jan. 6 loss to Bowdoin, having stopped 285 of the last 292 shots he has faced (.976).
Amherst finished 1-for-4 on the power play, while holding Williams to a 1-for-6 clip on the man-up advantage. Allowing just eight goals during their recent 10-game win streak, the Jeff defense has been nearly impenetrable on the penalty kill, having surrendered just three goals in their opponents' last 39 power play opportunities (92.3).