AMHERST, MA – The fourth-ranked and top-seeded Amherst College women's ice hockey team used seven unanswered goals to cruise to a 7-1 victory over eighth-seeded Hamilton College in the quarterfinal round of the NESCAC Championship. The Lord Jeffs (20-4-0, 16-0-0 NESCAC) will host the semifinal and final rounds next weekend, while the Continentals end their season at 9-14-2 (3-11-2 NESCAC).
Amherst increased its winning streak to seven games and upped its unbeaten streak against NESCAC opponents to 49 (42-0-7). The Jeffs also tied a program record for wins in a season (20), a mark that has been reached by Amherst in three consecutive years.
In next weekend's semifinals, Amherst will host sixth-seeded Connecticut College, which upset third-seeded Trinity today, 2-1. Dates and times for the semifinal and final rounds will be determined later tonight, as Amherst will be hosting the NESCAC Men's Ice Hockey Championship semifinals and finals as well.
Amherst entered Saturday's game as the heavy favorite, having earned victories of 6-2 and 6-1 over Hamilton during the regular season, but the upset-minded Continentals provided the hosts a quick wakeup call by putting the puck in the back of the net after only 63 seconds of first-period action. Senior quad-captain Kathryn Kroleski (New Rochelle, NY) picked up a steal in the neutral zone and headed straight for Amherst junior goaltender Krystyn Elek (Summerville, SC). Kroleski maintained her composure and looked like a true captain when she lofted a finesse shot over Elek's left shoulder to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
The game's first goal proved to be no fluke as Hamilton continued to pressure the Amherst defense, as Kroleski hit a streaking Stephanie Miguel (Maple, ON) on the far post for yet another prime scoring opportunity, but Elek came up with the save this time around.
Amherst junior Michelle McGann (New Berlin, WI) and senior Tarasai Karega (Detroit, MI) tried to work the give-and-go during a stretch of 4-on-4 hockey, but Karega could not put a shot on net. When the Hamilton penalty expired the Continentals were left with more than a minute of a 5-on-4 advantage to work with. After junior Amy Allen (Bright's Grove, ON) was denied by Elek at the doorstep, Kroleski received the puck with a wide open goal in front of her as the Amherst goalie was sprawled out on the ice after making a save. Kroleski's attempt went wide and the hosts escaped unharmed, as Hamilton looked like the higher seed in the first 10 minutes of the game.
The Jeffs put their fans at ease 13:55 into the first period when McGann scored her seventh goal of the season to even the game at 1-1. Sophomore Courtney Hanlon (Fullerton, CA) increased her team-leading point total to 26 with an assist on the play, with senior tri-captain Julie Radziewicz (Orlando, FL) picking up the other helper.
The teams headed into the first intermission notched at 1-1, with Amherst holding a 16-9 edge in shots. The Jeffs looked more like a No. 1 seed in the second period, during which they out-shot the Continentals by a 19-8 margin and scored three goals to carry a 4-1 lead into the second intermission.
Amherst's first goal of the second frame came when sophomore Megan Curry (Shorewood, MN) mimicked Kroleski by composing herself in front of the net and casually placing a shot high and to the glove side of junior goaltender Meghan Shine (Duxbury, MA). Curry's fourth goal of the season gave the Jeffs a 2-1 lead just 1:15 into the period.
Hanlon picked up another assist nine minutes later when she fed classmate Randi Zukas (Glen Head, NY), who continued the scoring trend by sending a soft shot to the goalie's glove side, as Shine bobbled the puck before it trickled across the goal line. First-year Josie Fisher (White River Junction, VT) made it a 4-1 game with 3:18 to play in the second frame when her shot snuck by Shine and stopped on a dime just beyond the line, with Karega picking up the assist.
The hosts carried their 4-1 lead into the third period and would add another three scores in the final frame, as Fisher netted her second tally of the night before sophomore Brittney Evans (Edina, MN) and junior Molly Malloy (Stamford, CT) added goals of their own. Fisher put the puck in the back of the net after a scramble in front of Shine, Evans ripped home a slap shot from the point, and Malloy stormed in on an uncontested breakaway—all in a span of 5:03— to give Amherst a 7-1 lead that it would hold onto the rest of the way.
Amherst held a 16-5 edge in shots in the final period, as Shine finished the night with 44 saves for the Continentals while Elek made 21 for the Jeffs. In other NESCAC Championship action, second-seeded Middlebury earned a 3-1 win over seventh-seeded Williams, while fourth-seeded Colby ended fifth-seeded Bowdoin's season with a 2-1 result.