Contact: Matthew Hart
AMHERST, Mass. – The Amherst College women's ice hockey team will begin its quest for a fourth NESCAC title on Saturday when the third-seeded Jeffs host sixth-seeded Hamilton College in a 7 p.m. quarterfinal matchup at Orr Rink.
After back-to-back losses to seventh-ranked Bowdoin last weekend dropped Amherst to third place in the conference standings, the Jeffs will look to right the ship against a Continental squad that it hasn't seen since the season's opening weekend of Nov. 16-17, when the teams split a pair of close one-goal contests.
Matchup: No. 6 Hamilton (13-10-1, 7-8-1 NESCAC) vs. No. 3 Amherst (12-10-1, 10-5-1 NESCAC)
Tickets: $3 Adults, $1 Students/Senior Citizens
Live Coverage: Live Stats, Jeffcast (featuring play-by-play commentator Hugh Campbell)
The past has favored the Jeffs in this series, as Amherst entered 2012-13 with a 15-game unbeaten streak against their Empire State rivals dating back to the 2005-06 season. The run included a 7-1 thumping in the 2009 NESCAC quarterfinals, but Hamilton in fact owns a 2-1 all-time mark against the Jeffs in conference championship play, having notched 6-1 quarterfinal wins in both the 2004 and 2005 playoffs.
Amherst continued its winning ways in the season opener on Nov. 16, but not without drama, as Hamilton mounted a furious third-period comeback, turning a 6-2 Jeff lead into a 6-5 final score.
Seniors Megan Doyen, Geneva Lloyd and Kaitlyn McInnis as well as Emily Flom '15 each recorded a goal and an assist for Amherst, while Kerri Stuart '14 recovered from the three late Continental strikes to make a trio of clutch saves in the final minute after Hamilton had pulled goalie Becca Hazlett '13. Meanwhile, Stephanie Lang '14 netted a hat trick to lead the Continentals while Naomi Woolfenden '16tallied a goal and an assist in her collegiate debut.
The action was tense once again when the teams traveled to Clinton, NY the following day. Building off their big third period the night before, Hamilton finally snapped its winless streak as Katie Zimmerman '13scored two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, to lift the Continentals to a thrilling 4-3 win.Hayley Opperman '14 netted a pair of goals for Amherst.
SCOUTING AMHERST (12-10-1, 10-5-1 NESCAC)
This year's Amherst squad inherits a formidable postseason legacy as the Jeffs have played in the last six NESCAC championship games, winning titles in 2007, 2008 and 2010 before one-goal losses to Middlebury in each of the last two finals. Overall, Amherst holds a 15-8 record in conference postseason play, falling in the quarterfinals each year from 2002-06 but going a dominant 15-3 since.
The Jeffs' only previous trip to the NESCAC playoffs as the No. 3 seed came in 2007, when Amherst knocked off Williams and Bowdoin in 3-2 overtime thrillers before a stunning 2-1 triple-overtime win over Middlebury for the program's first conference crown.
Head coach Jeff Matthews' first season at the helm has been quite the rollercoaster, but the last month has seen Amherst play its best hockey of the winter. After a 1-0 setback to Conn. College on Jan. 26 sunk the Jeffs to the .500 mark on the year at 7-7-1, the team responded, with Tori Salmon '15 scoring the overtime winner against the Camels the next day and sparking a five-game conference win streak that secured Amherst a top-three seed heading into last weekend's doubleheader with second-place Bowdoin.
A tough schedule has done the Jeffs no favors as seven of Amherst's 10 losses have come against teams that were ranked in the top 10 nationally at the time of the contest, including non-conference setbacks to top-five powers Plattsburgh, Elmira and Norwich (twice).
Statistically, Amherst ranks fourth in the league at 2.74 goals per game, but the Jeffs have struggled to keep opponents off the board, surrendering an average of 2.52 scores. The trend is even more extreme on special teams, where the Amherst attack is second in the league with a 22.2 percent (18-of-81) conversion rate on the power play but is seventh on the penalty kill at 83.1 percent (64-of-77).
Lack of roster depth has troubled Amherst as the Jeffs have struggled late in games, with opponents outscoring them 32-22 in third periods and overtimes despite Amherst holding a 41-26 scoring edge in the opening two frames. The Jeffs have been lights-out when taking early leads, posting an 11-0-0 mark when they score first, but comebacks have been in short supply as the team is just 1-10-1 when surrendering the first goal.
A two-time All-American and three-time All-NESCAC first team pick, Lloyd has led the way for Amherst as a senior co-captain, ranking third in the conference (first among defenders) with 26 total points on 12 goals and 14 assists. Meanwhile, Salmon has emerged as one of the league's top forwards as a sophomore, tying for the conference lead with 17 assists and ranking seventh overall with 24 points. Enjoying a breakout season as a senior co-captain, Doyen (11-5-16) has also been a strong finisher up front while Flom (7-4-11) and co-captain Ashley Salerno '14 (3-7-10) have also reached double-figure scoring.
Stuart has shouldered the bulk of the goaltending duty for Amherst, posting a 2.55 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage, while Kasia Henley '16 (2.12/.911) has proven herself a capable backup in six appearances.
SCOUTING HAMILTON (13-10-1, 7-8-1 NESCAC)
The Continentals are no strangers to the NESCAC playoffs, appearing in each of the league's 11 postseason tournaments, but never advancing past the semifinals. Hamilton holds just a 3-11 record in the conference postseason, but first-year head coach Emily McNamara's squad has tied the program record for wins this season after a sweep of Colby last weekend brought the Continentals into a tie for fifth place in the league standings with Connecticut College.
While Hamilton did not face as intimidating a slate of non-conference foes as Amherst, the Continentals took care of business against many of their in-state rivals, notching wins over Utica and Oswego, among others. In NESCAC play, the Amherst win has proven to be Hamilton's biggest, as the Continentals were swept by both Bowdoin and Middlebury but own a 7-4-1 mark against the rest of the league.
Despite its lower seed, Hamilton owns a slightly higher goal differential than Amherst, ranking third in the conference at 2.88 scores per contest while surrendering 2.42 per game. The Continentals have been dangerous on the power play, leading the NESCAC and ranking seventh nationally with a 22.7 percent (20-of-88) conversion rate while ranking fifth in the league on the defensive end with an 84.4 percent (65-of-77) showing on the penalty kill. At plus-nine, Hamilton trails only Middlebury and Bowdoin in net special teams.
The Continental attack features the NESCAC's top scorer in Zimmerman, whose 29 points lead the conference and rank 11th nationally while her 20 goals are tied for fourth in all of Division III. Junior forwardNikki Haskins is also among the league's top finishers with 14 goals and seven assists while captain Abby Runyon '13 (6-8-14), Hannah Bartlett '16 (2-12-14), Hannah Jaiven '14 (6-6-12), Jill Tokarczyk '14(4-8-12) and Woolfenden (3-8-11) have all hit double-figure scoring as well.
Hazlett has been a workhorse in net for Hamilton, totaling nearly 1300 minutes while posting similar numbers to Stuart (2.51 GAA, .891 save percentage).
2013 NESCAC Women's Ice Hockey Championship
Quarterfinals – Saturday, February 23 (at Higher Seeds)
#8 Colby at #1 Middlebury – 3:00 pm
#7 Williams at #2 Bowdoin – 4:00 pm
#6 Hamilton at #3 Amherst – 7:00 pm
#5 Connecticut College at #4 Trinity – 4:00 pm
Semifinals – Saturday, March 2 (at Highest Remaining Seed)
1:00 pm | 4:00 pm
Highest Remaining Seed vs. Lowest Remaining Seed
Remaining Quarterfinal Winners
Championship – Sunday, March 3