Jeffs Continue Quest for Third Straight NESCAC Title

HADLEY, MA – Amherst College will look to become the first team to win three consecutive NESCAC titles this weekend when the Jeffs host the final rounds of the 2009 NESCAC Women's Ice Hockey Championship. Top-seeded Amherst will take on sixth-seeded Connecticut College in the first semifinal on Saturday, Mar. 7 at 12 p.m. and will be followed immediately after by second-seeded Middlebury facing off against fourth-seeded Colby. The 2009 NESCAC Women's Ice Hockey Championship wraps up on Sunday with the puck dropping at 2 p.m.

Fans unable to attend the games will be able to follow the semifinal and final rounds via live webcasts, with audio and video feeds available. Ticket prices are $5 per day for adults and $2 for students and children. Tickets, which will be sold separately for the women's and men's championships, will be available at Orr Rink, with doors opening at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
 
Amherst (20-4-0, 16-0-0 NESCAC) locked up the number-one seed with a week remaining in the regular season, as a 5-0 win over Middlebury on Saturday, Feb. 14 guaranteed the Jeffs the top spot for the first time in tournament history. Amherst also achieved a feat that only one team, Middlebury, had been able to accomplish before: finishing the conference slate a perfect 16-0-0. The Jeffs did this with a pair of home-and-home wins against their semifinal opponent, Connecticut College, 6-0 on Feb. 21 and 1-0 at home on Feb. 22.

Amherst heads into the weekend with an impressive 12-1-0 record since a 3-1 home loss to Plattsburgh State on Jan. 16 and is in the midst of a 49-game unbeaten streak against conference foes dating back to December of 2006 (42-0-7). While Amherst has secured a third consecutive 20-win season already, one more victory will set the program mark for wins.

The Jeffs rank at or near the top of every statistical category in the league this season. The offense is second among NESCAC teams, producing 3.71 goals per game, while the defense, a big component of its past two title runs, leads the league with an average of 1.33 goals allowed. Special teams have also fared well with the power play producing at a 19.4-percent rate (2nd NESCAC) and the penalty kill tops among teams at 89.7 percent.

It all starts in net for Amherst with junior goaltender Krystyn Elek (Summerville, SC). The 2007 NESCAC Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Conference selection owns a 12-4-0 record with four shutouts and has the best goals against average (1.30) and save percentage (.945) in the conference. On offense, sophomore forward Courtney Hanlon (Fullerton, CA), an All-NESCAC honoree as a rookie last season, paces the Jeffs in scoring while ranking fifth in the NESCAC with 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points. Teammate Lindsey Harrington (Westford, MA) is second to Hanlon on the Amherst stat sheet with nine goals and 10 helpers for 19 points, needing just six more to reach 100 for her career.
 
Hoping to derail the Amherst freight train will be the sixth-seeded Camels of Connecticut College (9-13-3, 6-8-2 NESCAC). The Camels were in the hunt for a home playoff game in the quarterfinals during the final week of the regular season but the aforementioned losses to the Jeffs put the goal out of reach. Entering the 2009 tournament with a 2-5-0 mark over its last seven outings didn't seem to faze Connecticut College as it went on the road and upended third-seeded Trinity 2-1 to reach the conference semifinals for the first time ever. The penalty kill has been impressive for Connecticut College and is currently second behind Amherst with an 87.8-percent kill rate.
 
Second-seeded Middlebury (17-3-4, 12-2-2 NESCAC) enters the weekend with wins in five of its last six games, the lone loss coming at Amherst on Feb. 14. The Panthers, the only squad to appear in the semifinals every year the tournament has been held, claimed a 3-1 victory over Williams during last Saturday's quarterfinals. Since tournament play was adopted in 2002 Middlebury has earned three NESCAC championships, the first in 2003 before taking back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006.  The Panthers once again boast the most productive offense in the league as they head into this weekend's action with an average 4.04 goals scored per game.
 
Middlebury will be in search of some reciprocity on Saturday when it faces fourth-seeded Colby (12-10-3, 7-7-2 NESCAC) in the semifinals for the second-straight year. The Mules bounced the top-seeded Panthers from the 2008 championship, scoring two quick goals early in the contest and then prevailing in overtime 3-2 to reach the title game for the first time in tournament history. Colby earned a trip to the semifinals for the third time in the last four years by downing Maine rival Bowdoin 2-1 this past Saturday. The Mules dropped both of their meetings with the Panthers this season, falling by a 2-1 score on Jan. 9 in Waterville, Maine and 6-3 at Middlebury on Feb. 1.

2009 NESCAC Women's Ice Hockey Championship
Semifinals - Saturday, Mar. 7 at Amherst
No. 6 Connecticut College at No. 1 Amherst - 12 p.m.
No. 4 Colby vs. No. 2 Middlebury - 3:30 p.m.

Championship - Sunday, Mar. 8 at Amherst
Semifinal Winners - 2 p.m.