ST. PETER, MN – The top-ranked Amherst College women's ice hockey team captured its second-straight national title Saturday night with a 7-2 victory over the Norwich University Cadets at Gustavus Adolphus College. The Lord Jeffs wrap up yet another spectacular season with a 23-2-4 record.
The contest was nowhere near as close as the Feb. 20 meeting in Amherst between the two squads, which Amherst won by a 3-1 margin, nor was it as nail-biting as last season's overtime victory over Elmira that captured the program's first-ever title. The Jeffs scored once in the first period and added two in the second before erupting for four goals in the final 20 minutes.
After Amherst stormed the ice to celebrate with its newest NCAA Championship trophy, seniors Kate Dennett (Highlands Ranch, CO) and Kirsten Dier (Appleton, WI) were named to the All-Tournament Team along with junior goaltender Caroline Hu (Cerritos, CA) and sophomore Stephanie Clegg (Woburn, MA).
Sophomore Emily Vitale (Cheshire, CT) scored two goals and Ellen Swiontkowski (Minnetonka, MN) had four assists to lead the Amherst attack Saturday evening. Also scoring in the title game were seniors Alyssa Chwick (Purchase, NY) and Molly Malloy (Stamford, CT), as well as junior Braidie Campbell (Surrey, BC), first-year Geneva Lloyd (Calgary, Alberta) and Clegg.
The women's hockey program is the school's first to win multiple NCAA team championships. This is the sixth national team title in school history (women's tennis 1999, women's lacrosse 2003, men's basketball 2007, women's cross country 2007, women's ice hockey 2009, women's ice hockey 2010), as a Lord Jeff team has claimed an NCAA crown in each of the past four academic years.
Lloyd opened the scoring for the Jeffs with 8:17 remaining in the first period, rifling a wrist shot past the glove of Norwich goalie Cindy Fortin after Swiontkowski left her a drop pass inside the left face-off circle.
The story of the rest of the period was much the same as Friday evening: the goaltending of Hu, who twice stopped Norwich forwards from inside the slot. Hu kicked away a bid by Sarianne Lynn with her right pad on the power play with just over four minutes to go before knocking away Sarah Scardino's rip with her glove with just 38 seconds to play in the first.
The Cadets employed a trap to force the Jeffs into multiple defensive zone turnovers and, as a result, out-shot Amherst 7-4 in the opening frame.
The Jeffs extended their lead to 2-0 just over three minutes into the second when they got their best offensive zone pressure of the evening. After some slick passing from Julia Koch (Rochester Hills, MI) and Swiontkowski, Chwick's shot hit the post and slid behind Fortin for the tally. It was Chwick's second career goal and her first since her first collegiate season.
Fortin kept Lloyd, Koch and the rest of the Jeffs' power play unit off the board in the ensuing few minutes after Julie Fortier was sent off for hooking, but couldn't stop Campbell from receiving a slick feed from Dier and depositing the puck into the net to push the lead to 3-0 7:05 into the frame.
The Cadets pushed back a little in the second half of the period, but Hu and the Jeffs kept them off the board on two power play opportunities and Amherst took a 3-0 lead to the locker room after two. Amherst dominated play in the second frame, out-shooting Norwich by a 16-7 margin.
The Jeffs opened the third frame with a five-on-three advantage and Dennett converted on a great pass from Courtney Hanlon (Fullerton, CA) just 34 seconds into the period to give Amherst a 4-0 advantage.
Just under three minutes later Vitale rifled home a rebound to push Amherst's lead to 5-0.
Norwich got on the board just over five minutes into the period when Brittany Casey's wrist shot from the face-off circle found its way past Hu's glove. The goal was the first Hu had allowed in over 140 minutes of play, the most recent coming in the NESCAC title game against Trinity Mar. 7.
The Cadets scored again when Katie Leupp deflected Sophie Leclerc's shot past Hu midway through the third to make the score 5-2.
The Jeffs reestablished a four-goal advantage when Vitale netted her second tally of the evening off of a Lloyd rebound with just under six minutes remaining.
Malloy scored the Jeffs' final goal with 1:10 remaining to finish off the victory. Hu made 19 saves to wrap up her junior season with a 16-1-1 record.
Amherst became the fourth team in NCAA women's hockey history to repeat as champions. Plattsburgh State had most recently accomplished the feat, after Middlebury and Elmira had previously done it.
Dier, Dennett, Chwick, Malloy and Michelle McGann (New Berlin, WI) wrapped up an exceptional four years with a combined record of 87-18-11 to go along with three NESCAC titles and a pair of NCAA Championship trophies. With 41 goals and 63 assists, Dennett finishes her career ranked fifth on the program's all-time points list.
Amherst head coach Jim Plumer is 118-57-16 in seven seasons at the helm of the Lord Jeffs. "We know how much fun it is to play well," Plumer said after his team captured a second national title. "When we play well, the results take care of themselves. We're just going to keep having fun."