WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The second-ranked Amherst College women's ice hockey team clinched the top seed in the upcoming NESCAC Championship with a 6-3 win at archrival Williams College Friday evening. The Lord Jeffs improve to 16-2-4 (11-1-3 NESCAC) with their fourth consecutive victory, while the Ephs fall to 10-9-2 (7-5-2 NESCAC).
The Jeffs have secured the right to host the semifinals and finals of the NESCAC Championship should they advance past the quarterfinal round, which is set to take place Saturday, Feb. 27, at a time yet to be determined.
The skaters certainly did not disappoint those in attendance, as Friday night's high-energy shot-fest featured nine goals on 67 combined attempts, 42 of which were credited to Amherst. Six of the nine lamp-lighters occurred during man-advantages, with the two sides amassing a total of 17 penalties.
The lamp-lighting began at 7:50 in the opening period when Amherst first-year Geneva Lloyd (Calgary, Alberta) casually tossed a shot towards senior netminder Sara Plunkett from the top of the circle. The normally sure-handed veteran was screened by a crowd of bodies on the play and allowed the puck to slide through her pads and into the net for a power-play goal. The Ephs held off the Jeffs for the remainder of a period that was predominantly controlled by Amherst.
The second period opened with a 5-on-3 carry-over advantage for Amherst, and the Jeffs utilized this two-skater handicap to their full benefit. The first blow was delivered by junior Randi Zukas (Glen Head, NY), who was able to rifle a rising slapshot past a cluster of defenders and over the shoulder of Plunkett for her fifth goal this year.
Moments later, senior forward Michelle McGann (New Berlin, WI) spotted sophomore Emily Vitale (Cheshire, CT) at the far side of the net and angled a hard pass in her direction. Vitale tilted her blade and deflected the offer just past the left leg of Plunkett to claim her fourth notch of the season and give a 3-0 lead to the Jeffs.
Williams responded 12 minutes into the second period to make it a 3-1 game, but Lloyd and sophomore Ellen Swiontkowski (Minnetonka, MN) scored within 34 seconds of each other to give the visitors a 5-1 lead heading into the final period.
The Ephs scored a pair of power-play goals in the opening five minutes of the third period to make things interesting, but the game's next goal would not be scored until only 2:30 remained in regulation, as first-year Megan Doyen (Ortonville, MI) gave the Jeffs a 6-3 lead that held up. Sophomore Sinead Murphy (Rochester, MN) made 22 saves for Amherst, while Plunkett stopped 36 shots in the loss.
Amherst has defeated Williams in each of the past seven meetings dating back to the 2006-07 regular season. A rematch between the Jeffs and Ephs will take place Saturday at 3 p.m. in Williamstown.