Men's ice hockey seeks a return to dominant form

In addition, Amherst won the Little Three Championship, sweeping Wesleyan University and Williams College. The optimism surrounding this season’s group should help the Jeffs meet, and even surpass, expectations for the upcoming year.

This year’s co-captains, Beau Kretzman ’05 and John McNicholas ’04, bring experience and stability to the team. Kretzman, a brilliant offensive leader, is on pace to shatter many Amherst offensive records.  McNicholas led all of the team’s defensemen in points last year, but more importantly is a rock on the back line. The pair are poised and ready to drive Amherst forward to an excellent regular season and hopefully into postseason play.

“John and Beau are doing a good job of getting the team ready and are showing good leadership,” said forward Jonathan Hill ’05.

The team is led by a strong returning group of starting players. Kretzman and classmate Scott Aldrich ’05, last year’s two leading scorers, both return. Kretzman is coming off an excellent sophomore year in which he was named First-Team All-NESCAC after leading the Lord Jeffs with 19 goals and 14 assists. In his freshman year, Kretzman earned NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors and led the team in scoring with 25 goals and in points with a whopping 44.

Aldrich and Steve Nelson ’06 were also offensive leaders for the Jeffs last year, with 19 points apiece. As Amherst’s three top point scorers from the 2002-03 season, Kretzman, Aldrich and Nelson should make Amherst a formidable offensive force.

The defense should remain sound as well. Sean Lynch ’06 performed admirably as a first-year starter in goal last season-finishing with a 4-3-3 record and a 3.72 goals against average. He should be even better between the pipes as a sophomore and will be ready to carry the defensive unit, along with returning seniors McNicholas and Chris Norqual ’04. First-years Josh Fillman and Dan Smith should provide Lynch with competition for time at goalie.

“I think the team has maintained its core group of players, and added probably the best recruiting class in the conference,” said Kretzman.

An additional challenge the team faces is that they still have an excruciatingly difficult schedule. “The NESCAC is going to be tough this year,” said Hill. “There are no teams we can walk through. We need to come to play every game.”

Notwithstanding a conference schedule that includes nationally-ranked NESCAC opponents Middlebury and Trinity Colleges, Amherst has also scheduled games with Norwich University and Wentworth University, ranked first and 14th, respectively, in the preseason national rankings. Norwich is the two-time defending ECAC East Champion; Wentworth is the defending ECAC Northeast Champion. Amherst’s schedule will be taxing, but the team should be ready to compete with these reigning national powerhouses.

Despite the preseason optimism, Amherst will have to fill the holes left by graduates Erich Schram, Erik DiNardo, Justin Pitrack, Justin Jagher and Jaffrie Perrotti. Schram was an anchor on the defense during his 98-game career, and also helped out on the offensive end last season as the team’s fourth-leading scorer.

More damaging, however, may be the loss of senior leadership. DiNardo won the Thomas Lawler Award last year, a distinction recognizing the player from NCAA Division II or III who best combines heart, ability and sportsmanship. Losing Dinardo, Schram and classmates will be a challenge for the Jeffs in 2003-04, though it is one that they are ready to surmount.

This season should be the one in which Amherst returns to its dominant form of past years. From 1999-2001, the Jeffs compiled a 37-8-3 record and were a consistent force in the national rankings. Although the teams of the past two years have not seen the same degree of success, the 2003-04 team should be much improved. Led by Kretzman and a host of other talented, experienced players, Amherst should rediscover its dominant roots and make a splash at the NESCAC and even the national levels.