On Friday night, Head Coach Jack Arena’s squad took on the defending national champion and sixth-ranked Middlebury College Panthers at Orr Rink. The Jeffs entered the game trailing the Panthers by a point in the NESCAC standings, and Amherst hoped to improve its standing with a win. However, after only the first period, the Jeffs found themselves in a hole from which they could not out.
Less than five minutes into the game, Middlebury’s Patrick Nugent put the Panthers up 1-0. Three minutes later, Middlebury added another tally. Then, at the 16:28 mark of the first period, Middlebury notched its third goal, giving the Panthers a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
After a tough first period, the Jeffs played inspired hockey. Though they were outshot 13-4 in the second frame, sophomore netminder Josh Fillman allowed no additional Panther goals. Meanwhile, forward Kyle Schoppel ’08, the highest scoring freshman in the NESCAC, put Amherst on the board at the 12:35 mark of the second period. Schoppel’s dramatic shorthanded goal came off of assists from NESCAC leading scorer and senior co-captain forward Beau Kretzman and sophomore defenseman Brandon Zangel.
Amherst did not score again until Schoppel tallied in the final two minutes of the contest. His second goal of the night, off an assist from senior defenseman and co-captain Jonathan Hill, was the rookie’s 14th of the season. Amherst outshot Middlebury 13-7 in the third, but Middlebury goaltender Yen-I Chen made 28 saves to earn the 3-2 victory.
“We played well, even outplaying them for two periods,” said Kretzman. “But getting down three goals early in the game is too much against a team like Middlebury. If we had been able to convert a couple of scoring chances it would have been our game to win.”
On Saturday Amherst faced archrival Williams College. For the second night in a row the Jeffs got out to a very slow start. Williams’ Dennis Kim scored on a powerplay just over five minutes into the game. The Ephs’ Jim Canner added another tally 10 minutes later, giving his team a 2-0 lead at intermission.
Again Amherst seemed to come out of the break playing crisp hockey. Freshman Mike McIntosh made the best of two Eph penalties, putting the puck past Williams goaltender Brad Shirley on a two-man advantage. Shoppel and senior forward Bill Jenkins assisted on the goal. Less than 1:30 later, Kretzman maneuvered through the Williams defense and the puck to senior forward Scott Aldrich, who lit the lamp for another power-play goal. Williams’ Guy Smith answered, making it 3-2 in Williams’ favor at the end of the second.
The Ephs added another goal to extend their lead less than seven minutes into the third period. Kretzman initiated the Jeff response, scoring off a Schoppel pass at the 9:15 mark to bring the Jeffs again within one. Williams’ Kevin Child scored the eventual game winner less than two minutes later. Child added an empty-net goal at the 18:27 mark before sophomore defenseman Trevor Calamal, assisted by junior forwards Jack Greeley and Steve Nelson, scored a meaningless goal with four seconds to play to make the final score 6-4.
“It was a disappointing weekend. Williams is the team, of all teams, that we want to beat,” said Greeley. “We showed fatigue from the Middlebury game on Saturday. In both games we put ourselves in a hole early; it’s not the way to start out a game.”
With the losses to Middlebury and Williams, Amherst falls to 10-8-2 overall and 8-5-2 in conference play. The men are tied with Hamilton and Williams for fifth place in the NESCAC with just four conference games left to play.
“We’re in a situation where every point matters because the league is so close. These next four games will be hard-fought just like this weekend,” said Kretzman. “But we’re going into the games on a positive note as we’re getting two of our key forwards back in [junior] A.J. Greco and [sophomore] Greg Adamo. Both are instrumental in our powerplays which struggled this weekend and could have been a difference in both games.”
The Jeffs will face Tufts University at home on Friday before heading to Connecticut College on Saturday. They will end the regular season hosting Colby and Bowdoin Colleges on Feb. 18 and 19, respectively.