Polar Bears prove too tough for Lord Jeffs in NESCACs

The 6-15-1 (4-11-1) Jeffs started the game skating strong and held the 20-3-1 (13-2-1) Polar Bears scoreless in the first period. Tri-captain goaltender Heidi Alexander ’03 made 10 saves in the first period to keep her team in the game. But Bowdoin was able to break through for the game’s first goal at 7:55 of the second period.

The game remained 1-0 for Bowdoin going into the third period, when things got bad for Amherst. Jen Pelkey found the back of the net at 4:56, and then teammate Beth Muir scored at 6:42. Hoping to curb the Polar Bears’ momentum, Head Coach Kay Cowperthwait called a timeout immediately after the Muir goal to settle her troops. It didn’t work. Just 12 seconds later, Bowdoin scored again, extending the lead to 4-0 and destroying any Amherst hopes of a first-round upset.

Amherst allowed 37 shots in the game, a far cry from the 49 and 60 shots allowed in its first two meetings with Bowdoin. Considering the monumental odds against Amherst, it was a good day.

“We played very well,” said Cowperthwait. “The heart, intensity and effort by the team were excellent.”

Saturday’s playoff game against Bowdoin was the last game in the career of tri-captain defenseman Hilary Zwerdling ’02, who has captained the Jeffs for the past two years. “We also were losing 13-0 my freshman years and now we’ve held teams like Middlebury and Bowdoin to 4-0 games,” said Zwerdling. “That says a lot about the direction of our program.”

The future of the Amherst program is bright, as the Jeffs will be returning all but one of their players next year. Their leading scorer this season was forward Alison White ’04, who tallied eight goals and five assists. Just behind White was tri-captain forward Danielle Williams ’03, with 12 points. Forward Tory Serues ’04, with her 11 points, rounds out the top three.

Zwerdling was the Jeffs’ top scoring defender with nine points, including a team-high seven assists. Three freshmen-forward Annie Grabowski, forward Ellie Roe and defender Sarah Mason-shared the lead in rookie scoring with seven points each. Defender Elissa Landes ’04 also added seven points of her own.

“This was a crucial year for Amherst women’s hockey because it continues to lay the groundwork for the upcoming years in terms of experience and establishing the women’s hockey tradition at Amherst,” said Cowperthwait.

After the game, Cowperthwait told the players “that they should hold their heads high because they represented Amherst very well by playing their hearts out.” Bowdoin would probably agree.