Contact: Ben Badua
AMHERST, Mass. - A pair of second period goals just 2:34 apart proved to be the difference as the second-seeded Amherst women's hockey team skated to a 3-0 win over seventh-seeded Conn. College in a NESCAC quarterfinal game at Orr Rink.
Improving to 20-4-1 (13-2-1 NESCAC) on the season, Amherst has now won its last 15 meetings against Conn. College dating back to 2005. With the victory, the Jeffs advance to the conference semifinals to face third-seeded Bowdoin.
Beginning with a pair of losses to the Lord Jeffs on Jan. 27-28, the Camels dropped their last seven match-ups against league opponents this season, finishing the year with an 11-12-2 (5-10-1 NESCAC) mark.
Hoping to get off to a fast start, Amherst registered the game's first good scoring chance just seconds after the opening whistle when Tori Salmon '15 (Batavia, N.Y.) intercepted a pass near the right circle before ripping a quick shot that prompted a Kelsie Fralick '15 (West Chester, Pa.) save.
On the power play with just under 10 minutes to go in the first, Salmon again threatened the Conn. College cage, but Fralick stopped both the initial shot and rebound before covering up the loose puck in the crease. Later in the man-up advantage, Josie Fisher '12 (Norwich, Vt.) received a cross-ice pass on the near post, but the Camels' first year goaltender quickly slid over to smother the try from point blank range.
Still hoping to break through in the waning moments of the frame, Emily Vitale '12 (Chesire, Conn.) broke out of the Lord Jeffs' defensive zone, skating up the right side on an odd-man rush before finding a charging Emily Flom '15 (Grosse Point Farms, Mich.). Coming over to cover the left post, Fralick got a piece of Flom's shot but could not control the rebound. Trailing the play, Erin Babineau (St. Paul, Minn.) scooped up the loose puck, but the senior forward pushed her shot just high and wide right to keep things scoreless heading into the second period.
Getting outshot 9-5 over the first 20 minutes, Conn. College looked to set the tone early in the middle frame, testing Sinead Murphy '12 (Rochester, Minn.) with a couple quick shots less than a minute into the period.
Looking to regain the momentum, sophomore Ashley Salerno (Brunswick, Maine) fed a nice pass from center ice to a racing Salmon on a breakaway chance, but Fralick got her right pad on the forward's backhand to momentarily keep the Camels level with just over 15 to go in the period.
Continuing to go on the offensive, the Jeffs finally snuck one by Fralick just over two minutes later, when Ellen Swiontkowski '12 (Minnetonka, Minn.) angled a shot from the right circle inside the post at 12:56. Less than three minutes later, Flom doubled the Jeff lead, curling in from the left point before lifting a hard, rising shot over Fralick's shoulder from in between the circles.
Trying to keep pace, an aggressive Conn. College attack drew a pair of penalties in the first half of the final period, but the Lord Jeff penalty-killing unit proved up to the challenge, shutting out the Camels on the man-up advantage for the fourth-straight time to preserve the home team's two-goal edge.
The league's top-ranked man-down unit, Amherst has allowed just two power play goals over its last 10 games, holding opponents to a 2-for-31 clip during that span. In three games against Conn. College this season, the Jeffs have held the Camels scoreless in 14 man-up opportunities.
With just 2:15 remaining in regulation, Vitale put the wraps on Amherst's quarterfinal win, capping off the scoring by snapping a wrister from the slot past Fralick for her 10th goal of the year.
Amherst finished with a decisive 29-13 shot advantage, as both teams went 0-for-4 on the power play. Murphy stopped 13 shots to improve to 12-2-1, while Fralick made 26 stops, dropping to 5-6-1 on the season.