Men's Hockey Ready for Tough Regular-Season Slate|
Jeffs Open With Connecticut College on Friday 11/16
November 16, 2000
AMHERST, MA - The Amherst College men's hockey team begins a new campaign in a similar position to where it ended last season. The Jeffs, who finished fifth in the New England Small College Athletic Conference with a 15-6-3 record a year ago, are once again picked to finish fifth in the NESCAC behind Middlebury, Williams, Hamilton and Colby Colleges.
What the pre-season polls don't tell you, however, is how deep the Jeffs are and just how close they came to winning the NESCAC last year. Amherst stood atop the conference standings through the second month of the season with a 14-2-2 record, but went 1-4-1 in its last six games, including a 2-1 loss at Williams in the first-round of the NESCAC Championship Tournament, putting a damper on what was shaping up to be one of the most successful men's hockey seasons in years.
Luckily, Amherst returns a host of experienced impact players from last year's "near-miss" crew. 18th year Head Coach Jack Arena looks to a solid group of veterans, especially on defense, as the Jeffs open the 2000-01 season Friday night against NESCAC rival Connecticut College at 7 p.m.
"We expect to be very solid in goal and on defense," said Arena before practice on Thursday. "Our question will be how often we can put the puck in the net. We have some good, talented forwards. The time it takes them to mesh will be the key to our offense."
Amherst will have to contend with the loss of graduated senior co-captains Tim Quinn (Newington, CT) and Andy Jones (Minnetonka, MN). With nine goals and nine assists last season, Quinn was one of the best forwards in the NESCAC and the Jeffs' fourth leading scorer. Jones, now an assistant coach, was third among Amherst defensemen with two goals and nine assists.
The Jeffs return a trio of top-notch senior defensemen in Jim Smith (Rochester, MN), Darce Swaggert (Wayzata, MN) and Ben Kennedy (Brockton, MA). Smith was a First-Team All-NESCAC selection and a New England Hockey Writers Division III All-Star last season while leading a solid crew of Amherst defensemen in scoring with three goals and a team-high 17 assists. Swaggert is a physical player and skilled puck handler with five goals and nine assists last season, while Kennedy, a NESCAC All-Academic selection, was similarly steady with four goals and four assists. Sophomore defenseman Erich Schram (Madison, WI) also looks to have a breakout season after logging nine assists and a pair of goals as a rookie.
On offense, Amherst boasts a slew of proven scoring threats including junior forward Bob Miele (Woburn, MA), who led the Jeffs with 13 goals and 10 assists last season, and senior forward Rob Hill (Averil Park, NY), the Jeffs' second leading scorer with 13 goals and seven assists. Meanwhile, fellow senior Gregg DiNardo (North Reading, MA) tied Quinn as Amherst's fourth leading scorer with 10 goals and eight assists, while junior forward Greg Carr (Hanover, MA) added 10 goals and seven assists as a sophomore.
Back on defense, Amherst could have the deepest and most talented corps of goaltenders in the NESCAC, led by four-time Goaltender of the Week, senior Nick Rieser (Northfield, IL). Rieser went 11-5-2 in his first season as a starter with 469 saves in 18 games, with a solid 2.40 goals against average. Sophomores Justin Jagher (Framingham, MA) and Jaffrie Perrotti (Winthrop, MA) will vie for time between the pipes behind Rieser. Jagher saw limited action in five games last season, while Perrotti earned ECAC/Heaton Goaltender of the Week honors after posting a 5-0 shutout over Wentworth on Dec. 7.
The Jeffs look great on paper, but they'll have to tackle one of the toughest Division III schedules in New England in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. Arena hopes a difficult regular-season slate will harden his team for an inevitable run at a conference and ECAC Championship.
"The NESCAC is one of the toughest leagues in the country and our schedule doesn't get any easier from there," Arena added. "Middlebury won the National Championships five years in a row and Plattsburgh, one of our non-conference games, is the pre-season number-one team in the nation. Hopefully, it'll prepare us to play at a high level in the playoffs. The more you play at that level, the more prepared you are in the post-season."