Women’s hockey: Explosive third period pushes Amherst College past Colby, into D3 Frozen Four
|Published: 03-11-2023 9:53 PM
AMHERST – Forty minutes into the NCAA Division 3 women’s hockey quarterfinal between Amherst College and Colby, both sides were a little on edge.
The first two periods had been a goaltender’s duel, with Amherst’s Natalie Stott and Colby’s Paige Bolyard making save after save to preserve the stalemate. Something had to give, but the question of who would get the first goal of the game still lingered after two periods.
Colby had thrown everything it had at the Mammoths in the second period, peppering Stott on two power plays, but the Amherst penalty kill shut them down both times. As the second period drew to a close, the Mammoths started to fight back, getting a number of prime opportunities. It was only a matter of time before one of them went in.
“Once we got one, we knew the floodgates would open,” Amherst’s Carley Daly said. “We had the pressure on them for a lot of the game, and so once Maeve (Reynolds) was able to get the first one in, we saw the team light up and really work together to continue to keep the pressure on.”
Reynolds scored the first goal of the game 2 minutes, 47 seconds into the third period, and that was just the spark that the home team needed. Amherst scored three goals over the next 2:20, and Daly added a breakaway tally late in the period to give the Mammoths a 4-0 win over Colby at Orr Rink.
The victory punched the team’s ticket to the Division 3 Frozen Four, and Amherst also earned the right to host the semifinal and final as the highest-seeded team in the bracket. The Mammoths (25-3) will face a familiar opponent in Hamilton in their semifinal on Friday at 7 p.m. The two teams also clashed in the NESCAC championship game a week ago. Amherst skated away with a 5-0 victory in that matchup.
Plattsburgh State and Gustavus Adolphus College will play in the other semifinal in Amherst, with puck drop set for 3 p.m. on Friday. The winners of the two semis will meet on Sunday in the national title game at 3 p.m.
“It's nice to see someone (who) you know their tendencies and who you've played before,” Daly said. “It's not really going to be new in our prep because we've prepped for them before so that's kind of grounding and knowing that going into the Frozen Four.”
Reynolds scored a pair of goals less than two minutes apart for the Mammoths in the win, and Alyssa Xu scored 33 seconds after Reynolds’ second goal to give Amherst an extra cushion ahead of Daly’s goal. Stott picked up her sixth shutout in her last seven games, making 28 saves for the win. The victory was Stott’s 13th shutout of the season, putting her one away from the Division 3 record for most shutouts in a single season set by Plattsburgh State’s Sydney Aveson back in 2014.
“My defense (is) my secret sauce,” Stott said. “They block shots like crazy, they keep people out in front of the net. There were so many shots from the point today that I could see all the way because we had people moving their team out of the way. So credit back to them.”
The first period was a back-and-forth battle with golden opportunities to score for both teams. The Mules (18-8) came out hard in the first few minutes, firing six shots on Stott in the first five minutes, but from the 15 minute mark on, the Mammoths were dialed in, throwing 18 shots toward the net.
Colby’s best chances came in the second period, when it had two power play chances. Amherst needed Stott and the penalty kill units to come up big time and time again, weathering the storm as best they could. Amherst escaped unscathed, and as the last minutes of the second period ticked away, the team’s first and second lines started stringing together strong shifts, forcing Colby to focus on its defense. That momentum carried over into the third period, when the game broke open for the home team.
“We'd been on them all game possessing down low and moving the puck really well,” Reynolds said of her line. “I think just building up some momentum, especially after we had to kill a few penalties… and carrying it into the third, we were able to really put the pressure on them and finally finish the third period.”
The trip back to the Frozen Four means a little bit more to this year’s senior class. They qualified for the NCAA tournament as freshmen, but lost in the first round. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic dampened the end of that season and kept them off the ice entirely the following year. Getting back in their final year was well worth the wait.
“For my grade to be back and to battle through all of that – it feels so good,” Daly said. “We've worked so hard to get here, and so it almost feels like it's paying off, all of the hard work we've put into the seasons that we've been a part of here.”