“Mice On The Ice” Caps Two-Win Weekend For Jeffs
With the help of some unique fan support, the men’s ice hockey team put an end to their two-game losing streak over the weekend. The back-to-back wins at Orr Rink, 4-1 over Connecticut College on Friday night and 3-2 against Wesleyan University in overtime on Saturday, place the Jeffs in contention for an NCAA tournament berth.
The Jeffs played a somewhat lackluster, scoreless opening period Friday night against Conn and found themselves down a goal early in the second when a failed clearing attempt out of their own zone was knocked down by Camel defenseman Matt Coleman at the blue line. Two crisp passes later, a shot from the slot beat goaltender Chris Addesa ’99 inside the left post.
The goal, while seemingly a momentum-builder for the Camels, would be the last serious scoring threat Conn had for the night.
"We seemed to be getting our legs back early on," said Gregg DiNardo ’01. "Defensively, we played a very strong game."
After an obvious non-call when Joe Graceffa ’00 was hauled down on a breakaway, Jim Smith ’01, on the same shift, finally put the puck behind busy Camel goalie Justin Bracket. The score, with 6:35 left in the second period, came courtesy of assists from Tim Quinn ’00 and Graceffa.
Next came the most memorable event in the stands in quite some time. With Smith pumping his fist on the ice, a shoebox filled with live mice covertly made its way onto the rink from the crowded section of fans seated near the neutral zone, leading many to fill the arena with the chant, "Mice On The Ice."
"[After seeing] other teams’ fan support which has often been very strong, we would love to get more from ours," said DiNardo. After the helpless rodents were cleared from the ice, the Jeffs got back to the business of dominating the Camels. Co-captain Rob MacDonald ’99 gave Amherst a lead they would not relinquish with a great individual effort 1:30 before the end of the period.
MacDonald created his own open ice after faking a Camel defenseman alongside the left boards, and moving in alone on Brackett, undressing the helpless goalie with a well-placed wrist shot. Bob Miele ’02 increased the Jeffs’ lead to 3-1 with a hard slapper above the right circle 1:45 into the third, and the speedy Graceffa finished the scoring midway through the final period on Quinn’s second assist of the game.
In Saturday afternoon’s game, the Jeffs hosted a Wesleyan team that had limped to a 4-7 ECAC East record, but with their great goalie play, the Cardinals pushed Amherst much further than anticipated.
While the Jeffs dominated the Cardinals, peppering goalie Eric Carmody with 44 shots, they were unable to capitalize on some quality scoring opportunities.
"Coach told us that they had strong goaltending so we knew he could play," said DiNardo. Like the night before, the favored Jeffs surrendered the first goal of the game, with the Cardinals scoring 11:39 into the contest.
The Jeffs broke through Carmody to even the game up with 1:07 left in the period when Co-captain Charlie Blythe ’99 recorded a power play goal.
With only two seconds remaining in the first, Darce Swaggert ’01 ripped one from the point past Carmody, giving the Jeffs the lead.
Having outshot the Cardinals 25-15 through two periods, and only in front by a 2-1 score, the Jeffs had to know that they were treading on thin ice. When Wesleyan tied the game seven minutes into the third, the Jeffs found themselves in a dogfight against an overwhelmed opponent.
"Coach called a timeout with 11 minutes to go to basically tell us to get it going," said DiNardo. Despite firing 18 shots on the Cardinal net in the final period, the two teams went to overtime deadlocked at two thanks in part to Jeff goalie Nick Rieser ’01.
With his team constantly buzzing around the Cardinal net, Rieser was able to stay focused, turning away 22 shots, including an eye-opening stop in the extra session. "Nick kept us in the game and made some great saves," said DiNardo. Matt Rogers ’99 finally sent the crowd home happy with 1:24 left in the overtime. After Robbie Hill ’01 put the puck on net, Rogers jumped on a juicy rebound not once but twice, first clanging one off the post and then slipping it past Carmody for the win.
The Jeffs’ record now stands at 14-2 and 9-2 in ECAC East play. They lead Williams College, their next opponent, by just one point. While always an emotional rivalry game, the showdown next Friday night in Williamstown could very well determine which team will earn an NCAA bid, and who will have to settle for an ECAC playoff spot. Said Quinn, "There is definitely a little extra to play for this time."