Women’s Ice Hockey Loses in NESCAC Finals

Women’s hockey finished their season this past weekend, traveling to Middlebury for the final rounds of the NESCAC Tournament. After taking down Colby in overtime on Saturday, the Mammoths lost a 2-0 heartbreaker to Middlebury in the conference final.

Women's ice hockey players line up during the national anthem. Photo courtesy of Clarus Studios.

Women’s ice hockey advanced to the 2022 NESCAC Tournament championship game with a massive 2-1 semifinal win against the Colby Mules, before suffering a tough loss to No. 1-ranked Middlebury in the final game, ending the Mammoths’ season.

The action kicked off on Saturday, March 5, at Middlebury’s Chip Keynon Arena. The first period against No. 2-seeded Colby was scoreless, with the Mules outshooting the Mammoths 6-3. Despite the slow start, Amherst was the first to hit the back of the net with just 3:56 left in the second stanza. Alyssa Xu ’25 moved the puck to Avery Flynn ’23, whose shot slid straight to goal, but was blocked by Colby goalkeeper Nia Prunster. The resulting rebound found its way to first-year forward Anna Baxter ’25, who put the Mammoths on the board, giving them the 1-0 lead.

It didn’t take long for the Mules to respond — Megan Rittenhouse took advantage of a breakaway opportunity and tied the game at 1-1 less than two minutes into the final period. The Mammoths attempted to respond, with a good shot from captain Angelina Wiater ’22 in the last 18 seconds almost finding the back of the net. But Prunster saved it, forcing the game to head into overtime.

While all season, the overtime rules have dictated a short five-minute, golden-goal overtime period of three-on-three hockey before a tie is declared, the NESCAC Tournament has a different set of rules. On Saturday, the Mammoths and the Mules were set to play another 20-minute period of five-on-five, with the team scoring the next goal winning the game. The two teams had already played an overtime game this season, only two weeks ago, that ended in a 1-1 tie. This would not be the case in round two.

It was Wiater who set up the winning goal, passing the puck to Flynn, who scored the Mammoths a ticket to the championship game for the second year in a row. Second Team All-NESCAC goalie Caitlin Walker ’22 was vital to Amherst’s victory, saving all eight of Colby’s shot attempts in the additional period of the matchup.

The next day, in the game to decide the NESCAC champion, the Mammoths squared up against undefeated national No. 1 Middlebury, playing at the Panthers’ home arena.

Middlebury outshot Amherst 12-5 in the first period of the championship game, but Walker once again held strong, saving all 12 of Middlebury’s attempts. The Mammoths had a good chance to convert with five minutes left, when Rylee Glennon ’24 and Wiater both got shots on goal, but ultimately they were unable to convert.

The pressure only heightened in the second stanza, when the Panthers got a penalty off of a body check by Baxter with 12 minutes left in the period. The Mammoths killed off the resulting power play, with Walker able to stop the only shot, but just moments later, Middlebury’s Claudia Vira collected the rebound to score the game's first goal, putting the Panthers up 1-0.

Despite strong performances, Amherst failed to score in the final period, and Middlebury got on the board yet again with six minutes left in the game. Ultimately, the Mammoths lost and the Panthers earned the NESCAC championship and an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Women’s hockey ends their regular season with a 14-9-2 record.