Jeffs show signs of improved play

The Jeffs started their weekend with a trip to New England College (NEC) to face the Pilgrims. Although the Pilgrims do not traditionally have a strong team, they carried an impressive 10-5 record into their encounter with the Jeffs.

“It was a little surprising,” Brad Craigen ’05 said. “They were a little better than we expected. We played hard, and they played hard.”

The Pilgrims took the early lead, as has often happened against the Jeffs this season. Travis Banga, a transfer from Division I power University of New Hampshire, redirected a shot from the point past Amherst goaltender Sean Lynch ’06 midway through the first period.

The Pilgrims then added to their lead in the second frame, notching a pair of goals. The second period was marred by 12 penalties called against the two teams, as chippy play prevailed. Nick Warriner and Banga added goals for the Pilgrims in between the whistles.

In the third period the Jeffs roared back, but it proved to be too little, too late. Steve Nelson ’06 continued his hot streak, tallying the Jeffs’ first goal of the game just 23 seconds into the final period. Adam Wallace extended the lead for NEC just minutes later, but the Jeffs weren’t finished in the scoring column yet. Craigen shook loose from a defender behind the NEC net and fed captain Erich Schram ’03 the puck for the Jeffs’ second goal of the period.

The Jeffs were unable to get any closer in the closing minutes, and the Pilgrims added an empty-net goal with only seconds remaining to secure the 5-2 victory.

The next afternoon, Amherst took on St. Anselm’s College, which came into the match at 6-9-2. The Hawks did have a big victory the night before though, as they took down Hamilton College in overtime.

The Jeffs carried over their improved play and quickly jumped out on top of the Hawks. Mike Kreger ’04 tallied the Jeffs’ first two goals-the first coming on a wrister from the slot and the second after a scrum in front of the net-and the Jeffs never looked back. Beau Kretzman ’05 upped the Jeffs’ lead to 3-0 entering the first intermission with a highlight reel goal.

In the second period, the Jeffs added another trio of goals. Schram potted his second goal in as many days, when his shot deflected off of a Hawk defender and into the back of the net. Fellow defenseman Billy Jenkins ’05 knocked in a slap-shot from the point less than a minute later. Kretzman again finished the scoring for the period, with his second goal of the game.

In the final period, the Hawks were finally able to get on the scoreboard, but their lone tally was not enough to get them back in the game. The 6-1 win was one of the Jeffs’ most impressive efforts of the season.

Freshman goaltender Sean Lynch gave outstanding defensive support. “Lynch had a great game. He stepped up a lot for us and made some huge saves,” Craigen said. “He had a great weekend. He got his chance and capitalized on it.”

This weekend the Jeffs face two of their toughest opponents, as Williams and Middlebury Colleges journey to Orr Rink. The Ephs, along with the Jeffs, have experienced a disappointing season, entering this weekend with a record of 6-10-2.

The Panthers, however, are again one of the top teams in the nation, and they enter this week with a number four national ranking and a 12-game win streak. “We’re all really excited for the games this weekend,” Craigen said. “We’re getting pumped up and can’t wait to step up to the challenge against Middlebury.”