Women's Ice Hockey: Jeffs build confidence against Elmira before NESCAC tourney

The positive changes in the Jeffs’ play has been noticeable in recent weeks, but it was especially evident this weekend as they took on number-one ranked Elmira College Saturday on neutral ice at Williams College. With a hefty 18-3 record entering the game, Elmira could not have foreseen Amherst’s inspired play during the first two periods.

In the first, the Jeffs flooded the Soaring Eagles’ goaltender, Cara McGurry, with 10 shots. But McGurry, who boasts a miniscule 0.94 GAA, turned away even the Jeffs’ best efforts. Amherst goaltender Lindsay Grabowski ’07 and the rest of the Amherst defense were also up to the task, limiting the high-scoring Eagles to only three shots in the opening period.

In the second, reigning co-NESCAC Player of the Week defenseman Rachel Simon ’07 capitalized on an Elmira penalty, scoring her 11th goal of the season at 1:56 with help from defenseman Kirsten Forsberg ’07 and forward Renee Sisti ’06. After an Elmira strike less than two minutes later, Simon lit the lamp for the second time at 17:31. On this tally, first-year forward Christa Porcaro ’07 provided the helper.

With a 2-1 lead and a 14-9 shots on goal advantage, the Jeffs entered the third period in hopes of the biggest win in Amherst women’s hockey history.

“We played the best 50 minutes of hockey I have ever seen this team play in our game against Elmira. Everyone was doing more than their job,” said senior co-captain defenseman Sarah Mason. “We were winning the 50-50 battles and the races to the puck, playing with composure and making the plays. We dominated most of the game. It was thrilling, and just how we need to be playing going into playoffs.”

Unfortunately, victory was not in the cards for the Jeffs, as the Soaring Eagles found their wings, scoring four unanswered goals in a five-minute spurt of offensive firepower. Although they were on the wrong end of a 5-2 loss, the Jeffs gained some valuable confidence from leading the top team in the country after two periods.

“It was really exciting to be able to enter the third period up a goal on the number-one team in the country,” said Simon. “The next step is to finish the game the same way. We have a great opportunity to accomplish just that in the playoffs starting Saturday.”

Last Wednesday, the Jeffs hosted non-conference opponent St. Anselm College, the proud owner of a 16-3-1 record entering the game in their first season of varsity play. In a game played mostly between the blue lines, the Hawks defeated the Jeffs 1-0. Neither team had many scoring opportunities, but St. Anselm’s captain Danielle Campbell scored the game-winning goal with less than three minutes left to play in the second period. Netminder Grabowski finished with 15 saves in the losing effort.

If the Jeffs want to make it out of the first round of the NESCAC Tournament for the first time in the program’s history, they must shut down Hamilton’s dynamic duo of co-captains Zoe Baldwin and Marissa Halligan. Baldwin, the NESCAC Rookie of the Year and a First-Team All-NESCAC selection in 2003, comes into the game with 74 career goals in 71 games, including 23 goals in as many games this year. Halligan has 26 points in 23 games this season and boasts 106 points in 95 career games.

With an upset win over the Continentals this Saturday, the Jeffs will qualify for the semifinals of the NESCAC Tournament where they will travel to Brunswick, Me. and likely play Bowdoin College on Sat., March 5.