AMHERST, Mass. – The second-seeded Amherst College men's hockey team netted two goals in the second period, and senior goalie Danny Vitale made 15 saves in the third frame to help the Jeffs advance to the NESCAC Championship title game with a 3-2 victory over eighth-seeded Tufts University on Saturday afternoon at Orr Rink.
With the win, Amherst (20-4-2) advances to its second consecutive NESCAC title game, and fifth overall, and will take on fourth-seeded Williams College (16-8-2) at 2 p.m. at Orr Rink. Tufts concludes its season at 9-15-2 overall.
Amherst advanced to last year's title game also as the second seed, but fell to fifth-seeded Bowdoin College, 3-2. The Jeffs have a pair of NESCAC titles (2009 and 2012), while Williams (fourth appearance) is in search of its first championship. The Ephs lost in the finals in 2013, 2011 and 2000.
In a first period that saw Amherst out-shoot Tufts, 12-6, the Jeffs drew first blood through senior co-captain Mike Rowbotham who netted a goal in the left corner of the net following a nicely worked dish from Aaron Deutsch '15 just 5:53 into the contest. Tufts rallied with offensive zone pressure of its own midway through the stanza and after a stretch of four saves by Vitale, the Jumbos netted the equalizer when Tyler Voigt put a loose puck in the back of the net at the 14:28 mark to level the game at 1-1.
Rowbotham, Kevin Ryder '16, Topher Flanagan '16 and Thomas Lindstrom '18 each drove two shots on goal in the first 20 minutes, while Voigt and Scott Majkowski notched a pair of shots on goal apiece for Tufts.
The Purple & White took the lead early in the second period when Deutsch fired a shot from the right point that was redirected into the cage by Andrew Fenwick '15 at the 4:32 mark to give Amherst a 2-1 lead. Patrick Arena '16 had the initial assist on the play. The Jeffs continued to pressure the Tufts goal as Ryder, Chris Roll '17, Theo Hannah '16 and Mike Cashman '15 each had shots that were turned aside by Jumbos' goalie Mason Pulde in the first 10 minutes of the stanza. Conor Brown '16 then found the back of the net after a pass in front of the net from David White '18 to set the score at 3-1 at the 10:48 mark. Late in the period, Rowbotham won a faceoff in the offensive zone and the puck found Lindstrom in front of the net but Pulde was able to cover it up to keep the score at 3-1. Moments later, Rowbotham had another opportunity to score, but his shot struck the left post as Amherst took a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
After 40 minutes of play, the Jeffs held a 21-13 edge in shots on goal, including four from Ryder, and three each from Brown and Lindstrom. Voigt and Majkowski registered four and three each for the Jumbos through the first two periods.
Tufts bolted out of the gate to start the third period and peppered the Amherst goal as Vitale made 10 saves through the first eight minutes of the session. Conal Lynch finally lit the lamp at the 10:19 mark after a pass in front from Blake Edwards to pull the Jumbos to within one at 3-2. The Jeffs answered with pressure of its own as Brendan Burke '16 and White were able to collect three shots on goal each, but Pulde was there to keep the Tufts' deficit at one goal. With 50 seconds to play, the Jumbos pulled Pulde in favor of an extra skater, but the Purple & White was able to fend off any pressure and skate away to the 3-2 victory.
Vitale (13-3-2) finished with 27 saves in the winning effort, while Pulde (7-11-2) also had 27 stops.
Brown, Lindstrom and Ryder finished with four shots on goal each to lead Amherst, while Majkowski Voigt and Andrew White, who came on late for the Jumbos, notched four shots on goal apiece.