Amherst Wins Third NESCAC Title With 2-1 Overtime Winner Over Trinity

AMHERST, MA – The top-seeded Amherst College women's hockey team played host to the No. 2 Trinity College this afternoon at Orr Rink in the 2010 NESCAC Championship title game. Trinity scored the opening goal of the game in the first period, but Amherst forced overtime and took home the program's third NESCAC crown 2-1 on Courtney Hanlon's (Fullerton, CA) game-winner in the extra session.

After rallying from a two-goal deficit to top Bowdoin 3-2 in overtime yesterday, Amherst earned a spot in the NESCAC championship game for the fourth straight year. Trinity was playing for the NESCAC title for the first time in program history after topping Middlebury in a 2-1, four-overtime marathon last night, which now stands as the longest game in Division III women's hockey history.

The Lord Jeffs and the Bantams played twice during the regular season, both at Amherst's Orr Rink in early December. After skating to a 0-0 overtime tie in the season series opener, Amherst topped Trinity 3-2 the following day.  Amherst's 1-0-1 record against Trinity during the regular season was the difference in the final NESCAC standings that gave the Jeffs home ice in the playoffs.

Just after the midpoint of the first period, Trinity's Celia Colman-McGaw beat an Amherst player to a puck in the corner and fed a pass to a streaking teammate crashing the Amherst net. Lord Jeff netminder Caroline Hu (Cerritos, CA) made a sprawling save moving left to right to keep the puck out of the net and the game tied 0-0.

With just 3:51 remaining in the first, Trinity struck first on a two-on-one break. Tri-captain Kim Weiss skated down the left wing, and set up Colman-McGaw for a one-timer just outside Hu's crease. The Amherst goaltender was unable to get across the crease in time, as Colman-McGraw had an open net to shoot on.

Amherst ended the first period with a power play opportunity, and then went on an extra-skater session one minute into the second stanza. The Jeffs generated a handful of chances on the two power plays, but could not beat Trinity goaltender Isabel Iwachiw for an equalizer. Three minutes later, Trinity's Britney McKenna broke down the left wing one-on-one with Hu during a Bantam power play, but the Amherst goalie was up to the task.

Just before the midpoint of the second period, Amherst once again went on the power play. After overloading the right side, Amherst's Michelle McGann (New Berlin, WI) dropped the puck down to Emily Vitale (Cheshire, CT) just off Iwachiw's left post. In traffic, Vitale batted the puck in front for senior tri-captain Kirsten Dier (Appleton, WI) to punch home a game-tying goal, drawing Amherst even at 1-1.

Amherst ended the second period putting heavy pressure on Iwachiw and the Bantam defense, including over a minute of 5-on-3 action. The Jeffs could not score a go-ahead goal before the period came to a close, but would begin the third with 17 seconds of power-play hockey remaining.

Midway through the third period, Amherst nearly took its first lead of the game as senior tri-captain Kate Dennett (Highlands Ranch, CO) found a bouncing rebound fall to her ten feet in front of Trinity's net. Dennett's backhand shot lifted over a crowd, but not under Iwachiw's crossbar, as the score remained 1-1.

In the final ten minutes of regulation, Amherst held the puck in Trinity's end for a majority of the play, but could not beat Iwachiw. As regulation ended, it was only fitting that the third game this weekend would head to extra sessions just as both semifinals had. Prior to overtime, Iwachiw had made 32 saves in the game, leaving her just one shy of the NESCAC record for saves in a single tournament (127, Krystyn Elek, Amherst 2007).

Less than six minutes into overtime, Dennett fed Hanlon inside the right circle, who turned to fired a wrist shot that snuck past Iwachiw. The Trinity backstop made two saves in overtime to set a new tournament record (128), but could not keep Hanlon's game-winner out of the net. Hu finished the night with 14 saves in the win.

Amherst improves to 21-2-4 (12-1-3 NESCAC) with the victory, and earns the NESCAC's automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Despite the loss, Trinity (21-4-2/11-3-2) will likely still earn an at-large bid to the NCAAs when the field is announced on Monday. A webcast of the live selection process will air at on Monday at 10 a.m. EST.