Coming off an impressive 5-1 streak, the Jeffs hit the ice flying against Babson as junior co-captain Eddie Effinger beat the keeper in the 10th minute off an assist from senior Matt Rhone. It was his 10th goal of the season. The Beavers hit back soon after on a power play, with sophomore Ryan Smith hitting the ball inside the left post after an initial shot by teammate Dan Ahern deflected off a Jeff defender.
Heading into the second period level at 1-1, the Jeffs capitalized on their only power play of the night when rookie Andrew Kurlandski fired the puck through the legs of the Babson goalie for his sixth score of the year. This was not to be the last goal of the game, however, as the Beavers proved resilient, equalizing just under two minutes later off another rebounded shot.
There was still an entire period remaining, and the Jeffs would break the deadlock — and Babson’s fighting spirit — once and for all with two quick-fire goals in one dramatic minute. The first came from junior forward Mark Colp, who sent the puck flying into the upper left corner of the net to put the Jeffs ahead. Fifty-nine seconds later, Kurlandski added icing to the Amherst cake when he slid in his second of the evening with a sweet shot into the left corner. The two-goal lead was not one the Jeffs would relinquish, with senior goalkeeper Cole Anderson finishing the contest with 24 saves, as Amherst clinched a spot in the NESCAC quarterfinals.
Things would not go so smoothly the next night, however, and with the top seed of the NESCAC on the line, the Jeffs went down against the prolific Beacons. The second period proved fatal for Amherst, as Boston hit the target four times to build on a 1-0 lead, with the Jeffs answering only once through a 18th minute goal by forward Rhone.
Amherst did attempt to rally back against the four-goal deficit by seizing the momentum in the period and dominating possession in the third period. That eventually lead to a 13th minute goal by sophomore forward Dylan Trumble, who redirected junior Mike Baran’s shot from the point into the net.
However, the Beacons quickly crushed any hopes for a late Jeff comeback by hitting the target two more times in quick succession for a 7-2 victory. The seven goals were the most the Jeffs had let in all season, even with Anderson’s 22 saves and sophomore Nathan Corey’s nine in the final period.
Despite the defeat, captains Effinger and Trip Wray ’11 insist that the Jeffs will not lose confidence as they head into the weekend quarterfinal clash with Bowdoin.
“We always seem to play better against NESCAC teams as opposed to games out of our conference,” said Effinger. “In fact we have the best record in the league if you only consider NESCAC games. So I’m not worried about us coming out flat like we have done in past games against less emotional opponents, [such as] UMass Boston. We always seem to play our best against quality opponents.”
The matchup with the Polar Bears will prove particularly interesting, as it will be a replay of a scintillating game earlier in the season in which the Jeffs edged out Bowdoin 3-2. With that experience in mind, the Jeffs are “focusing on transitioning the puck quickly and winning the special teams battle,” said Wray. “Bowdoin is going to a great test. We beat them 3-2 earlier this year in a really close game. They are a talented team that generates a lot of offense.”
The Jeffs will attempt to stop the Polar Bears’ successful offense with their ironclad defense, and Effinger predicted that the game will be a clash of styles.
“We match up well against them; they are skilled up front and on defense but they take a lot of chances, which is why their games are so high scoring,” he said. “We on the other hand play a more defense style, less risk, and we win a lot of low scoring games.”
He also pinpointed the Jeffs’ weaknesses and hopes that the team will continue to improve as they begin their search for NESCAC glory. “We do have some areas that we need to improve if we are going to make a long playoff run,” he said. “We struggle with consistency for a full 60 minutes, and although we have found some lines that have starting producing, we still worry about scoring enough goals. Because of our high skill and speed, when we play our best, no one in the NESCAC can stay with us, but we will have to get everyone’s best is we are going to be successful.”