Sunday’s game against NESCAC opponent Hamilton College proved how resilient the young Amherst team can be with its back against the wall. After being outshot 39-18 the previous afternoon in a 3-1 loss to the Continentals, the Jeffs found themselves down once again, 3-0, after only 13 minutes of play. Since their opponents featured two players who had combined for 14 goals and 11 assists in the previous seven games against them, the Jeffs had some serious work to do.
“After the first Hamilton game I think everyone went back to the hotel and thought about what didn’t happen on the ice,” said co-captain defender Amanda Mattei ’06. “And by the next morning, we had all moved on. We understood that we needed to play every minute of the game with a sense of urgency and that we needed to own the neutral zone and win every battle if we wanted to win the game.”
During a timeout after the third goal of the first period, Coach Jim Plumer must have said something that got the Jeffs’ attention because they came out of the timeout flying.
“During the timeout we all took a step back and reminded ourselves of the little things we needed to do in order to gain control of the game back,” said forward Renee Sisti ’06. “We had been outplaying them before they scored their three quick goals, but in those few minutes we fell back into bad habits. For the rest of the game, we focused our energy on beating Hamilton to every puck and making smarter decisions.”
Junior forward Leah Kaplan scored her first two goals of the season to end the first period, closing the gap to 3-2. After a Continental goal to start the second period, the Jeffs finished the game with four unanswered goals, giving rookie goaltender Stacey Johnston her second career victory. After settling down, Johnston finished the game with 21 saves as Amherst outshot Hamilton 33-25.
“It’s difficult to look at a 3-0 deficit and honestly think you can dig your way out of it, but it is one of the most exciting and gratifying feelings when the team pulls through,” said defender Rachel Simon ’07.
Simon and forward Tes Siarnacki ’07 scored power play goals for the Jeffs while Sisti and first-year defender Megan Quinn added even strength tallies. Simon also contributed three assists while Siarnacki and Quinn tacked on two apiece. After four games, Simon and Sisti lead the Jeffs with three goals apiece, while Simon and Siarnacki are tied for the team lead in assists with five.
Saturday’s 3-1 loss could be summed up by the shot tally: Hamilton’s 39 to Amherst’s 18. Although the quality of shots is much more important than the quantity, the numbers don’t lie. The Jeffs got outplayed and were lucky to keep the score as close as it was. Johnston recorded 36 saves in defeat, but the Jeff offense struggled after Siarnacki’s first period goal on a pass from forward Elizabeth Ditmore ’08.
Before splitting with Hamilton, the Jeffs spent the first weekend of the season hosting Trinity College and Wesleyan University. Trinity, a team that finished without a NESCAC win last season, welcomed 12 new freshman faces this season and looked remarkably improved. Despite controlling play for most of the game, the Jeffs only managed a 4-4 tie with the Bantams.
Ditmore scored her first career goal in the first period on a breakaway. After receiving a pass from Siarnacki, Ditmore was denied on her first attempt, but squeezed the rebound past the Trinity goalie. Sisti added her first goal of the season with just over a minute left in the first period, giving the Jeffs a commanding 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
After Trinity got on the board against sophomore goaltender Lindsay Grabowski, Simon scored her first of two goals on a pass across the crease from Siarnacki. Up 3-1, the Jeffs looked to be taking control of the game. However the Bantams scored with 40 seconds left in the second period before converting on two power play opportunities to start the third period, giving them a 4-3 lead with only eight minutes remaining.
Luckily, Simon came to the rescue, evening the score after a shot from first-year Katharine Kelly was denied. The Jeffs, despite outplaying the Bantams, were lucky to come away with a tie. Grabowski stopped 15 shots in her only start of the season.
“The first game of every weekend we need to be just as mentally prepared as we have been for the second game, and step onto the ice ready to play 60 minutes of hockey,” said Mattei.
The next afternoon against Little Three rival Wesleyan, the Jeffs came out on a mission. Behind the spectacular play of rookie Johnston, the Jeffs blanked the Cardinals 3-0. Johnston stopped 23 shots to earn the shutout in her first career start. “Stacey has unbelievable hand-eye coordination and plays with so much composure that it’s hard to believe she is a freshman,” said Kaplan.
After 19 minutes of scoreless play to start the game, Sisti jumped on a rebound of a Kaplan shot and scored her second goal in as many games. One goal was all the Jeffs needed for the victory, as Johnston made one brilliant save after another. With only a few seconds left in the first period, Johnston stonewalled Wesleyan’s Anna Siliciano on a point blank shot in front of the net, preserving the first period lead.
Ditmore scored her second career goal 34 seconds into the second period on a breakaway, flipping the puck over the goalie’s right shoulder. Kelly added the final tally, the first goal of her career, just six minutes later when Siarnacki gathered a wayward shot behind the net and found Kelly open in front.
This weekend the Jeffs travel to Middlebury College and Little Three rival Williams College. The defending national champion Panthers are 4-0, having outscored their opponents 24-3. The Ephs have two NESCAC losses but gave Bowdoin College a scare last week, losing 4-3 on the road.
“We need to start playing like a winning team and stop thinking of ourselves as the underdog,” said Kaplan. “I think that we have a lot of great talent on this team yet for some reason we underestimate ourselves.” Make no mistake about it; the Jeffs, who currently sit in second place in the NESCAC, will not be underestimated by either of their opponents this weekend.