Arena's Jeffs heat up for playoffs

Though the first period remained relatively even, Amherst outshot Conn. 17-16, and Nelson gave the Jeffs an early 1-0 lead, as Conn. goaltender Steve Oven was unable to put his mitt on the hot puck. Nelson’s power-play goal at the 9:10 mark of the first period was a deflection of senior defenseman Bill Jenkins’ shot from the blue line. Junior forward Jack Greeley assisted on the play. Amherst’s Mike McIntosh ’08 added another tally to extend the lead to 2-0 near the end of the period. The first-year defenseman’s goal at the 19:58 mark of the first was his fourth of the year and came off an assist from defenseman Brandon Zangel ’07.

Going into the second period up 2-0, Amherst hoped to maintain its aggressive play and extend its lead. While Amherst outshot Conn. 10-6 in the period, it was the Camels’ Dave Moccia who found the back of the net prior to the second intermission.

Not wanting to relinquish its one-goal lead, Amherst skated aggressively to start the third period. Nelson added his second goal of the game when he rebounded his own shot on a three-on-two rush to put the biscuit past Oven. Forwards Marc Russell ’05 and Sean Ellis ’06 assisted on the tally at the 3:50 mark. Just 15 seconds later, the NESCAC’s leading scorer, senior co-captain Beau Kretzman, put the game on ice, scoring another Amherst goal to give the Jeffs a 4-1 lead. Kretzman’s 15th goal and 38th point of the season, was assisted by senior forward Scott Aldrich and the NESCAC’s highest scoring rookie, Kyle Schoppel. Kretzman’s tally capped the game’s scoring, as neither team could find the back of the net in the game’s final 15 minutes. With the win, Amherst improved to 11-9-2 overall.

“It was a game we had to win. We came out hard, and after losing to them earlier in the season, we knew we had to battle to get the ‘W,'” said Greeley. “We had some guys, especially Steve Nelson, step up and make some big plays to win it for us.”

On Friday night, the Jeffs were upset by a surprisingly resilient eighth-place Tufts University squad, 4-3. Playing the Jumbos in the imposing Malden Valley Forum, the Jeffs drew first blood on senior forward Roy Mabrey’s power-play goal off assists from Andrew Schremp ’08 and McIntosh just over 12 minutes into the contest. Tufts, however, would score the games’ next two goals to give the hosts a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.

Tufts added a third goal five minutes into the second period to extend the Jumbos’ lead to two. Amherst answered nine minutes later with a Nelson tally on assists from Greeley and Mabrey. At the end of the second period, Tufts led 3-2.

Needing only one goal to tie, Amherst turned to its most consistent scorer, Kretzman. At the 12:54 mark of the third, Kretzman put the puck past Tufts netminder James Kalec to even the contest. Junior forward A.J. Greco, in his first game back from a shoulder injury, and senior co-captain Jon Hill assisted on the game-tying score. Unfortunately for Amherst, Tufts responded to Kretzman’s tally with the game-winner at the 18:48 minute mark of the third period.

“We didn’t take them seriously, and it showed in the way we played,” said defenseman Trevor Calamel ’07. “We are the better team; we have to take every team seriously because anyone can win on any given night.”

With the loss at Tufts and the win at Conn. over the weekend, the Jeffs now find themselves in fifth place in the NESCAC standings. The Jeffs conclude the regular season with two games on their home ice this weekend. On Friday evening, Amherst battles the White Mules of Colby College at Orr Rink. The next day, Amherst takes on fourth-place Bowdoin College in a contest that could determine whether Amherst hosts a first-round NESCAC playoff matchup.

“We have a shot at home ice in the playoffs which we haven’t had in several years,” said Jack Greeley. “Our preparation for the Colby-Bowdoin weekend began immediately following the final buzzer of the Conn. game. We are certain we will be coming into this weekend feeling as prepared as we have been for any weekend all year.”