Jeffs End in 2-2 Stalemate with #2 Middlebury

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College women's hockey team entered tonight's conference match-up with Middlebury College knowing that it cold compete with the best, having lost to the Panthers 1-0 on the road earlier in the season. The Lord Jeffs held the Panthers scoreless for the first two periods, but surrendered two goals in the final frame en route to a 2-2 tie. Middlebury moves to 17-1-2 (11-0-2 NESCAC) on the season, while Amherst moves to 13-5-3 (8-3-3 NESCAC).

Amherst struck first just three minutes and 32 seconds into the opening period, as a loose puck bounced to a wide-open Kirsten Forsberg (Kenilworth, IL), who composed herself, glanced up at the net and placed a beautiful soft shot high and to Middlebury goaltender Angie Todd's right side, giving the Jeffs an early 1-0 lead over the second best team in the nation.

The home team nearly scored five seconds later when first-year Michelle McGann (New Berlin, WI) stormed in alone off the face-off, but her hard wrist shot was knocked away by Todd. The Jeffs managed to take their 1-0 lead into the first intermission despite being out-shot by the Panthers 12-5, forcing first-year Krystyn Elek (Summerville, SC) to come up with 12 big saves.

Amherst began the second period in similar fashion to the first, as the Jeffs put another tally on the scoreboard less than four minutes into the frame. After a crowd formed in front of the Middlebury net and neither team was able to gain control of the puck, McGann found herself laying on the ice and seemingly out of the play. The puck bounced right to her stick, though, as she managed to get off an unbalanced shot that found its way to the back of the net, giving Amherst a 2-0 lead.

The Jeffs controlled most of the second period and gave themselves several scoring chances, but were unable to pad their lead. Middlebury took command in the final five minutes, ending the frame with a five-on-three advantage, but Amherst was saved by the buzzer and headed into the second intermission with a 2-0 lead.

The Jeffs began the third period with only three players to match Middlebury's five, as the Panthers had 46 seconds of five-on-three hockey to work with. The visitors spread their offense and set up a shot from Abby Kurtz-Phelan, who put her team on the board just 28 seconds into the period. Another Amherst penalty kept the advantage at five-on-three, and the Panthers once again capitalized with another goal after spreading out their offense. Shannon Tarrant tied the game at 2-2 just 22 seconds later, with Kurtz-Phelan picking up the assist. Middlebury still had 1:50 remaining on a power play, but was unable to take advantage.  

With the score notched at 2-2 and both teams at full strength, the Jeffs and Panthers were back to square one with 17:30 remaining in regulation. Amherst had its fans on the edges of their seats when, with 6:30 showing on the clock, the puck bounced in front of Todd on two separate occasions and it looked as though someone was going to poke it in, but Middlebury escaped unharmed and hopped right back on the attack.

The Middlebury fans were ready to celebrate when, with five minutes remaining in regulation, one of the Panthers had the puck on her stick with half of the goal wide open and Elek still on the ground after making a save. The shot appeared to be a sure thing, but Elek's right leg seemed to have come out of nowhere, as the first-year instinctively swung her leg in the air and knocked away the shot to preserve the tie.

Sophomore Tarasai Karega (Detroit, MI) posed the final threat of regulation, ripping a hard shot low to Todd's right with 30 seconds on the clock, but it sailed just wide. The game was sent into overtime, where Middlebury wasted no time getting in a great scoring situation. Amherst was called for a penalty just 25 seconds into the extra frame, setting up a Middlebury penalty shot. Kurtz-Phelan skated in from the right and tried to sneak the puck past Elek's left side, but the first-year came up huge once again, completely denying the near post and keeping Amherst alive.

Neither team capitalized again, as the Jeffs and Panthers finished one of the most exciting games of the season in a 2-2 stalemate. Middlebury out-shot Amherst 41-27, as Elek finished the night with 39 saves and Todd finished with 25. Amherst failed to convert on any of its four power play opportunities.

The Lord Jeffs return to Orr Rink Saturday for a NESCAC match-up with Little Three rival Williams College at 4 p.m. Amherst's five seniors will be honored before the game.