Amherst College women’s hockey thumps Hamilton 5-0 to capture NESCAC championship (PHOTOS)
|Published: 03-05-2023 9:21 PM
AMHERST – It was a nearly flawless performance from the Amherst College women’s hockey team on Saturday night.
The top-seeded Mammoths scored the opening goal of the NESCAC title game against No. 2 Hamilton in the first period to take an early lead. They then added two goals in the second period and tacked on two insurance tallies late in the third, all while backed by goalie Natalie Stott (26 saves) as Amherst rolled to a NESCAC tournament championship with a 5-0 victory at Orr Rink.
“This means everything,” Amherst coach Jeff Matthews said. “Our program has a tremendous tradition and an amazing culture. It goes back a long way and we have a lot of supporters. People were pulling for us and we were playing for a lot of people. We take a lot of pride in what we represent and to be able to win it is the cherry on top.”
The win marked the second NESCAC title in three tries for the Mammoths, which last won a conference crown in 2020. There was no season in 2020-21 due to COVID-19, and in 2021-22, Amherst fell to Middlebury in the title game.
For seniors like Avery Flynn, getting to win a league title in their final season means the world.
“It’s crazy and surreal,” Flynn said. “We did it our freshman year so it’s a nice full circle moment. We made it to the finals last year. I’m so excited for our team.”
Amherst (24-3) went to the power play with 7 minutes, 14 seconds to go in the opening period, and with the advantage, put constant pressure on the Continentals (20-5-2). Bobbi Roca committed a tripping penalty while the Mammoths were already a skater up, and with the extra skater coming on, created a 6-on-4 opportunity.
Before Hamilton could touch up to halt play, Rylee Glennon flipped the puck to the blue line to Flynn, who buried a slap shot to give Amherst the all important opening goal.
“Hockey is a game of momentum,” Matthews said. “You have to maximize your chance to win. Every second and minute is crucial. To be able to go up helps you relax a little bit and focus on your game.”
The Mammoths tallied their second goal of the game with 16:33 to go in the second. Flynn sent a pass up to Alyssa Xu who was streaking up the left wing. Glennon joined her flying up the right side, creating a 2-on-1 opportunity. Xu read the defender right and blasted a shot on goal that made it to the back of the net to give Amherst a two-goal cushion.
After scoring a power play goal and an even strength goal, it only made sense that the Mammoth’s third tally would come while shorthanded.
Maeve Reynolds retrieved the puck in the Continental end and drew a pair of defenders to her behind the net before slipping a pass out to Carly Daly in the slot. She blasted one home to make it a 3-0 game with 8:18 to play in the second.
After only facing 10 shots through the opening two periods, Amherst knew Hamilton was going to throw the kitchen sink at it in the third period.
That’s exactly what happened, as the Continentals put 16 pucks on frame in the final 20 minutes, but Stott stood tall in goal. The freshman from Franklin, who played locally at Williston Northampton, didn’t allow anything to reach the back of the net to keep the shutout intact.
“Natalie is the craziest goalie I’ve ever seen,” Flynn said. “She’s so good and is going to be by far the best goalie in the NESCAC by her senior year if she isn’t already.”
Hamilton emptied its net with four minutes to play but was unable to break the shutout. With 1:59 to play Xu stole the puck at the red line, took a few steps in and sent a shot into the abandoned goal to put the game away.
With 13 seconds to go Jayna Park found Marie-Eve Marleau, who tapped a shot in to put an exclamation point on the Mammoths’ victory.
“We knew they were going to come out with desperation and throw everything they had against us,” Matthews said. “We had to keep our focus, keep playing our game and keep playing smart.”
The shutout capped a NESCAC tourney run for an Amherst team that didn’t allow a single goal in three games. The Mammoths beat Wesleyan 2-0 in the quarterfinals and Middlebury 2-0 in the semifinals.
“Any championship team starts with playing great defense,” Matthews said. “It’s a combination of having an exceptional goaltender, great structure and great defensemen. We’re very strong from the back out. This was a total team effort.”
The Mammoths secured an automatic berth and trip to the 11-team NCAA Div. 3 Tournament with the win. The program earned a first-round bye and will host a quarterfinal game back at Orr Rink on Saturday at 3 p.m. against the winner of Wednesday’s first round game between Norwich and Trinity.
After winning three in a row, Flynn said Amherst will enter the field as confident as ever.
“We finally have our mojo back,” Flynn said. “It’s been a little bit. I’m really excited to see where it goes.”