Final home win eludes senior pair

Before the game, Head Coach Jim Plumer presented the two seniors with flowers, recognizing them for their fine play and overall dedication to the women’s hockey program.

“The words that Jim [Plumer] said about me and [co-captain defender] Sarah [Mason ’05] were very touching. I know we both feel very honored and proud to be a part of such a special group of girls,” said forward Annie Grabowski ’05.

“It is an honor in itself to be on the ice with this group of girls. Knowing that this past weekend was my last regular season home weekend was especially emotional,” said Mason. “Hockey has been a huge part of my Amherst career, and I know I am going to miss it tremendously.”

The Jeffs appeared on their way to an easy victory for their seniors when defenseman Meghan Dickoff ’07 hit the top shelf for the Jeffs’ first goal during four-on-four action in the first period. Dickoff was assisted by team points leader defenseman Rachel Simon ’07 and forward Leah Kaplan ’06, who had two points in the game.

The rest of the first period belonged to goaltender Lindsay Grabowski ’07, who made 13 saves, including a breakaway stop with only 15 seconds remaining in the first frame.

The second period was more of the same, as Kaplan notched her seventh goal of the season at 0:57. Skating up the left side, Kaplan crossed in front of the goal and calmly slid the puck under sprawling Husky goaltender Justene Larnard. Defensive line mates Katharine Kelly ’08 and Bethany Croy ’06 got credited with assists on the play.

Less than a minute later, Southern Maine got on the board as Courtney Feeney knocked in a rebound in front of Grabowski. That was all the offense Southern Maine mustered in the second period, as the Jeffs outshot the Huskies 16-6 but did not score again.

With a 2-1 lead after two periods and a 26-19 shots-on-goal advantage, the Jeffs looked poised for their sixth win of the season. However, the Huskies had other things in mind, as they lit the lamp three times in the first six minutes of the third period, suddenly jumping out to a 4-2 advantage. The first two goals came on the power play; the first took place during a five-on-three advantage at 4:28 and the second only 27 seconds later. The final Husky goal at 5:51 was scored at full strength, as a defensive lapse led to a lopsided rush for Audra Hill’s game winner.

Nevertheless, the Jeffs made it a game. Plumer called an Amherst timeout to rally the team; and it seemed to make an immediate impact. Defenseman Kirsten Forsberg ’07 nearly scored in the eighth minute when she caught the goaltender out of position on a crossing pass but shot just wide. Kaplan also had another chance when she took a great feed from Croy across the blue line but missed a point-blank opportunity.

The Jeffs got within one when they scored one of their prettiest goals of the season. Mason gathered the puck during a Southern Maine line change and bounced a pass off the boards to forward Elizabeth Ditmore ’08. Ditmore found wide-open forward Renee Sisti ’06, who scored her team-leading ninth goal of the season on the two-on-one.

Kaplan commented on the Jeffs’ performance in the loss: “It felt good to be able to put the puck in the net, but it was too little too late. We have not been coming out hard enough these last few games; we save too much for the end of the game,” said Kaplan. “I think we all agree that we could have easily won our game on Sunday if we played with a little more urgency and really focused on putting the puck in the net. Hopefully this week will be different. I really feel that we will regain our focus and win our next couple of games.”

Two days earlier the Jeffs took down NESCAC rival Connecticut College, 3-2, in a game that was not as close as the score reflected. The Jeffs were up 3-0 after only 30 minutes of play. First-year forward Natanya Khazzam was the story of the contest, turning in her first multi-point game of the season. She assisted on sophomore Tes Siarnacki’s goal in the first period, and Siarnacki returned the favor in the second. Sisti also contributed a goal in the middle stanza.

With a 3-0 lead, Amherst tried to keep up the intensity, but could not increase its lead. The Camels rebounded with goals late in the second and third periods, but Grabowski and the Jeffs held on for the victory. The Jeffs’ keeper tallied 39 saves on the night.

The Jeffs face off against non-conference foe the College of the Holy Cross tonight at home before traveling to face NESCAC opponents Wesleyan University and Trinity College this weekend. With wins over Wesleyan and Trinity, the Jeffs have a chance to leapfrog fourth-place Hamilton College and host a first round NESCAC playoff game. It would be Amherst’s first ever home playoff contest.

Although the seniors have five more games left in the regular season and at least one playoff game, this weekend was one of reflection for the veteran Jeffs. “I have loved my four years playing hockey at Amherst, and I cannot believe that it is all about to end,” said Annie Grabowski. “Before this weekend, the end of the season seemed so far off, but now I’m beginning to realize that the end of my hockey career is just around the corner. I’m going to cherish every last moment that I have on the ice and with the team.”