AMHERST, Mass. - Andrew Fenwick '15 scored three minutes into the third period as the second-seeded Amherst College men's hockey team claimed its third NESCAC title with a 1-0 win over fourth-seeded Williams College on Sunday afternoon at Orr Rink.
Amherst (21-4-2) garnered the league's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division III Championship and is making its fourth appearance in the NCAA postseason and first since 2012. The Jeffs have twice made the quarterfinal round (1999 and 2009), and earned a berth in the semifinals in 2012. Watch the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, March 9 at 10:30 a.m.
Williams concludes its season with a 16-9-2 overall record.
After playing two scoreless periods of hockey, Fenwick finally broke the deadlock when Austin Ho '17 forwarded him a pass which he finished with his eighth score of the season at the 3:08 mark. Late in the third, Craig Kitto ripped a shot from just in front of the crease that looked to be heading for the back of the net, but Amherst goalie Danny Vitale '15 paddled the puck away from danger to keep the one-goal lead intact.
From there, Williams pulled its goalie in favor of an extra skater but the Jeffs were able to hold to win their third NESCAC title and first since 2012.
Vitale (14-3-2) earned the shutout victory - his fifth of the season - and made 23 saves in the winning effort. Conor Brown '16 finished with a game-high six shots on goal, while David White '18 fired four on net.
Tyler Young led Williams with five shots on net, while Kitto chipped in three. Goalie Sean Dougherty finished with 26 saves in the losing effort.
Early in the first period, Amherst held the majority of the offensive zone time, but Williams was able to block several attempts by the Jeffs. The Ephs had a tremendous scoring opportunity halfway through the first when Sam Gray drove the puck on net, but Vitale covered the puck to keep the game scoreless.
With 6:10 to play in the first stanza, Brown blasted a shot from the right point but Williams goalie Sean Dougherty turned the shot aside with his blocker.
With just over three minutes to play, Gray flew in on net and went for the lower left corner of the goal, but Vitale forced the attempt over the net. Amherst answered when Brendan Burke '16 skated down the left wing and blasted a shot on goal, but Dougherty caught the offering. Brown notched three shots on target in the first period as Amherst held an 8-3 lead in the category after 20 minutes of play.
With a carry-over power play early into the second period, Greg Johnson launched a shot on Vitale from the left point. Brian McNamara followed with a shot on goal but the Purple & White net-minder was able to thwart the attempt. Amherst's Jake Turrin '15 then raced in on Dougherty but the Ephs' goalie closed the door keeping the game at 0-0.
After Amherst turned the puck over in the neutral zone with just over five minutes elapsed in the second stanza, Williams rattled off three shots on goal, but Vitale responded with a trio of stops. The Jeffs answered when White and Brown laced shots on Dougherty, but neither could find the go-ahead goal.
With just over five minutes to play in the second session, Burke rifled a shot from the left faceoff dot that sailed just high, striking the crossbar. After 40 minutes of play, the score remained tied with Amherst holding a 20-15 advantage in shots on goal, led by Brown's five and White's four.
The Jeffs' senior class is the winningest in program history. Since 2011-12, the Purple & White has amassed an overall record of 76-23-9 and a NESCAC mark of 54-14-4. In 2011-12, Amherst set the program record for wins with a 24-4-1 mark and won its second NESCAC title with a 4-3 win over Middlebury College. The Jeffs also finished as the runner-up in the 2013-14 NESCAC championship game.