Top-Ranked Jeffs Fall to Elmira for First Loss of Season

MIDDLEBURY, VT – Less than two hours after claiming the No. 1 ranking in the Division III Poll, the Amherst College women's ice hockey team suffered a 2-1 loss to No. 3 Elmira College in the fifth annual Panther/Cardinal Classic championship game at Middlebury College's Kenyon Arena.

Amherst, which today played in its sixth consecutive game against an opponent ranked among the top eight teams in Division III, fell to 6-1-2 after its first loss of the season. The Soaring Eagles, who upset the host Panthers in the tournament's opening round yesterday, improved to 10-3-0.

With Amherst upsetting then-top-ranked Plattsburgh and Elmira upsetting Middlebury on Sunday, Monday's title game set up a rematch of last year's national championship, in which the Jeffs earned a 4-3 victory in overtime to mark the program's first NCAA crown. Amherst entered today's contest riding a two-game winning streak against the Soaring Eagles, having also defeated them in overtime during the 2008-09 regular season.

Amherst junior Randi Zukas (Glen Head, NY)—who scored the game-winning goal in Sunday's win over Plattsburgh—and sophomore Stephanie Clegg (Woburn, MA) earned All-Tournament Team honors, as did Elmira's Caitlin Metcalf and Karen Colehour. Elmira goaltender Lauren Sullivan was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player for stopping 37 of 40 shots in two victories.

Sullivan made 18 saves against Amherst, while junior Caroline Hu (Cerritos, CA) stopped 14 shots for the Lord Jeffs. Amherst has out-shot its opponent in every game this season.

Elmira had a nice scoring chance early on, but Colehour was stopped by Hu on a breakaway in the game's opening minutes. The Soaring Eagles took a 1-0 lead at the 9:42 mark with a power play goal, as Lauryn DePaul's shot was saved and Colehour followed by ringing the post. Jillayne DeBus took the rebound and found the back of the net for the 1-0 advantage.

Later in the opening period, Elmira's Carly Richardson hit the left pipe after driving in on the left wing with 1:38 remaining before intermission. Amherst put significant pressure on the Elmira net in the second period and had three power play attempts, but the Jeffs could not find the back of the net despite a 10-3 shots advantage. The Soaring Eagles carried their 1-0 lead into the third period.

Amherst broke through just 1:56 into the third with a power play goal to tie the game at 1-1. Senior tri-captain Kirsten Dier (Appleton, WI) saw her shot from the right face-off circle saved by Sullivan, before sophomore Josie Fisher (Norwich, VT) pounced on the rebound and scored from the left side.

Elmira scored the game winner midway through the third period, with Jenna McCall recording her fourth goal of the season. McCall cut to the slot with the puck and fell to the ice, but as she was falling she managed to sweep the puck past Hu for the go-ahead score. Amherst had an unsuccessful power play later in the period and was unable to tie the game with its netminder pulled in the final 75 seconds of regulation.

Amherst will return to action Friday, Jan. 8 for a home game against Connecticut College at 7 p.m. The Jeffs and Camels will meet again Saturday at 3 p.m. to wrap up a two-game series at Orr Rink. A live webcast will be available for each game.