Amherst Draws Norwich in NCAA First Round

resize_1325613417 Contact: Ben Badua

AMHERST, Mass. - Despite a 1-0 overtime loss to Middlebury College in the NESCAC championship game, the third-ranked Amherst women's hockey team will make its fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament when it travels to Northfield, Vt. on Saturday, Mar. 10 to take on defending national champion Norwich University.

 Ticket Information: Tickets for Saturday's game will only be available at the Kreitzberg Arena and Doyle Hall box offices on game day. Prices will be $6 for adults and $4 students.

Tournament FielD: Only eight teams are selected to compete in the NCAA Division III Women's Hockey Championship. Amherst and Norwich join RIT, Concordia-Moorhead, Plattsburgh St., Gustavus Adolphus, Wisconsin-River Falls and NESCAC rival Middlebury in this year's field.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Neither team is a stranger to the NCAA Tournament, with Amherst and Norwich combining to win the last three national championships. Making their fifth NCAA appearance after winning titles in 2009 and 2010, the Lord Jeffs have posted a 6-3 overall mark in tournament play, while the Cadets will look to defend their 2011 crown after posting a 4-2 record over its previous three Championship appearances.

SERIES HISTORY: Perennial powers over the last few seasons, Amherst and Norwich have met four times since 2009, with the Jeffs holding a 3-1 edge. After scoring a 3-1 victory over the Cadets in its 2009-10 regular season finale, Amherst again got the best of Norwich in the national championship game, notching a 7-2 win en route to its second NCAA title.

The following year, the Cadets returned the favor, downing the Jeffs 5-2 at Kreitzberg Arena. With Norwich carrying a 14-game unbeaten streak into this year's showdown at Orr Rink on Jan. 24, Amherst rose to the challenge, knocking off the nation's top-ranked team, holding the Cadets scoreless for the first time since Dec. 6, 2009 (a streak of 68 games) in a 2-0 win.

Murphy HOW THEY GOT HERE: Amherst (21-5-1) notched its fifth 20-win season under head coach Jim Plumer, securing its 11th-consecutive berth into the NESCAC Tournament after a 19-4-1 regular season. Shutting out Conn. College (3-0) in the opening round before outlasting Bowdoin (1-0) to advance to a sixth-straight league final, the Jeffs fell short in their quest for a fourth NESCAC crown, falling to #3 Middlebury in overtime (1-0).Splitting a pair of games with Elmira and RIT to open the year, Norwich (25-2-1) strung together a 14-game unbeaten streak before falling to Amherst (2-0) in Orr Rink. The Cadets responded by winning their next 11 games, outscoring opponents 78-19 during that span, while rolling to a third ECAC East title with a 6-3 victory over rival Manhattanville.GOALIES: Amherst boasts a pair of capable goaltenders in Sinead Murphy '12 and Kerri Stuart '14. Going 8-2-0 on the year, Stuart ranks fifth in the nation in goals-against average (1.30), while posting a career-best save percentage (.930).
Enjoying a stellar statistical season, Murphy currently leads the nation in save percentage (.953), while ranking second in goals-against (0.99) and tied for sixth in shutouts (6). With a 13-3-1 mark on the year, Murphy was especially effective during the NESCAC Tournament, stopping 53 of the 54 shots she faced. Earning the start against Norwich in late January, the Rochester, Minn. native played an integral role in Amherst's shutout, notching 30 saves.

Doing a solid job keeping opposing offenses at bay, Norwich sophomore Kelly Fisk has come into her own in the crease, currently sitting tied for first in the country in shutouts (7), while ranking seventh in goals-against (1.40). Posting an 18-1-0 mark, she entered the Jan. 24 match-up with the Jeffs having allowed just one goal in her last three starts, making 43 stops during that span, but despite making 24 more saves, the sophomore surrendered a pair of Amherst scores en route to her lone setback this season.

Lloyd3 OFFENSE: Balance has been key to the NESCAC's second-highest scoring offense (3.04 gpg), with the Amherst roster boasting 10 players with at least 10 points. Tied for third in the conference in scoring, Ellen Swiontkowski '12 leads the Jeff attack with 26 points on 11 goals and 15 assists. 

Fellow senior forward Josie Fisher '12 has also helped shoulder the offensive burden this year, tallying 23 points (8 G, 15 A), while defensemen Geneva Lloyd '13 and Ashley Salerno '14 have given the Jeffs some added punch, ranking first (24-9-15) and third (16-2-14) among league blue liners in points.  Over its last five games, 15 different Jeffs have factored into the scoring, with six different players scoring a goal.

The nation's most explosive offense, averaging 6.18 goals per game, Norwich boasts three of the country's top five scorers in Julie Fortier '12, Kaycie Anderson '15 and Jillayne DeBus '13. Fortier has lit up the scoreboard all season as the NCAA DIII leader in points (52-29-33), followed closely by Anderson with 46 points on 22 goals and 24 assists. DeBus rounds out the Cadets' big three, amassing 45 points on 19 goals and 26 assists.

Like Amherst, Norwich also features a pair of high-scoring defensemen in Sarianne Lynn '12 and Amanda Wilks '12, who rank first and fifth nationally amongst blue liners in scoring, with Lynn leading the nation in assists (30).

DEFENSE: With both teams carrying potent offenses into Saturday's showdown, two of the nation's top three defenses should have their hands full. Posting eight shutouts on the year, Amherst's unit ranks second nationally in scoring defense (1.15), having given up just one goal in its last three games, while allowing one goal or less in 18 of its contests.

Enjoying an early season stretch in which it surrendered just two goals in eight games, Norwich's third ranked defense (1.18), finished the season just as strong, recording five shutouts in its last 11 outings.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Special teams could prove to be the difference in Saturday's match-up with both squads featuring top-ranked units. Leading the nation in power play efficiency, Norwich has converted 52-of-146 man-up opportunities (35.6 percent). During its 11-game win streak, the Cadets have scored on 20-of-58 power play chances, while tallying a man-up goal in 10-straight games.

Hoping to neutralize the Norwich power play will be Amherst's second-ranked penalty killing unit, which has shut down 94-of-103 (91.3 percent) man-up advantages. In their first meeting, the Lord Jeffs held the Cadets to a 0-for-5 clip and have continued to be lights out since, surrendering just two goals in its opponents' last 41 power plays (95.1 percent), including a string of 19-straight penalty kills.

2012 NCAA Division III Women's Hockey Championship
First Round - Saturday, Mar. 10

#4 Amherst (21-5-1) vs. #2 Norwich (25-2-1) --- 3 p.m.

TOURNAMENT BRACKET

Norwich Team Site * Amherst Team Site

LIVE COVERAGE: Saturday's game will feature a live webcast and a live audio broadcast.