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This Week in ECAC East

College Hockey:
In search of consistency

In the 80s, Leonard Nimoy, Spock of “Star Trek” fame, hosted a TV show that featured searches for proof of legends, myths and other creatures of questionable reality, such as the Loch Ness Monster and Sasquatch. While the show was interesting, it often led to inconclusive endings or lack of discovery, so the legends lived on and questions remained unanswered.

This year, hockey fans from schools all over New England may want to bring the old TV host and show back and ask to search for consistency that would produce better overall results and, hopefully, more wins. Regardless of who hosts the profiling of this subject, coaches are continuing to hunt for the high intensity and effort needed to make a run up the conference standings and playi their best hockey at the time of year it means the most.

“You must have heard my talk with the team last week after the 4-4 tie with Hamilton,” stated Amherst coach Jack Arena. “I don’t understand the up and down. When we really play with intensity and effort, we are a very good hockey team, but for whatever reason it is not there every night. With such a short season, or relatively short with 24 or so games, you would think it wouldn’t be an issue to have your team come and play every night they step out on the ice.”

The coach at Amherst isn’t the only coach talking about the lack of consistency game-to-game, as many of his peers have expressed the same sentiments regarding their teams and the level of performance exhibited over the course of two-game weekends.

“It is clear that the level of competition is at an all time high,” noted Arena. “There are no automatic two-point games for anyone in this league, so you can’t just expect to show up and pick up an easy two points with a win. So the need to be ready to play and match an opponent’s intensity for a full 60 minutes is key.”

At 7-3-4 overall and currently sitting in second place behind Bowdoin in the NESCAC standings, Amherst is obviously playing pretty well, but has bigger expectations based on recent past performance and the experience level on their current roster.

“Like every other team, we have had our share of injuries, including a recent rash in the past two weeks that has a few players out for the short-term. Everyone goes through those issues, and while there are certain players that you do not want to lose for any period of time, these injuries give others on the team a chance to step up and show their talent and help to contribute to the team’s success. I am hoping that we can get the most out of everyone that dresses for the games, get healthy and tighten up some weak spots in our game that have been part of some of the inconsistencies we see during games.”

One area where Amherst has traditionally excelled has been on special teams, and while this year’s numbers are good by many teams’ standards, they are not up to the level that recent Lord Jeff squads have exhibited. The penalty kill, where Amherst normally is among the leaders in the country, is below a 90 percent efficiency rate, which is new territory for a team that features one of the best goaltenders in the league in Cole Anderson.

“Yeah, it’s not quite where we would like to see it for sure,” said Arena. “Overall in the league, we are a little better and we have given up some power-play goals in the past few games that hurts our numbers a bit, but we think we can get better. We experimented with something new earlier in the season and abandoned that pretty quickly based on the results, so we will continue to tinker with things and hopefully push up that kill rate to where we usually see it.”

When you have one of the best in the nation between the pipes that has shown consistency over three seasons, you wonder about what happens if he goes down to an injury?  While Cole Anderson continues to play exceptionally well under different circumstances this season, the team has also found a very viable backup to give their starter a break during the season and reduce his overall workload.

In just his second season, Nathan Corey is 5-0-2 for his career with a miniscule 1.06 goals-against average and a save percentage of .946. This season, Corey is 2-0-2 with a 1.62 goals-against-average, including a win and a tie this past weekend in back-to-back games against Connecticut College and Tufts on the road.

“It’s kind of funny that he is unbeaten here, but when we have asked him to play he has been solid, which is a credit to him being ready to play and staying focused,” commented Arena. “Obviously playing with Cole, he has not seen a lot of games so far, but the team has lots of confidence in him when he goes in the net and so far his record shows we play pretty well with him back there.”

Offensively, the Lord Jeffs are led by their spark plug Eddie Effinger. Despite missing last weekend’s games with an undisclosed injury, Arena feels his speedy junior forward will be back to jump start the offense in five-on-five play, on the power play, and even a man down, where he has two short-handed goals on the season.

“He really is the guy that makes us go up front,” stated Arena. “We miss him when he is out and definitely need his speed and aggressive play up front that elevates the play of all the forwards. Hopefully, we will have him back for the upcoming weekend.”

This weekend, the Lord Jeffs return home to face Skidmore and nationally-ranked Castleton in what should be a great hockey game with a playoff atmosphere. It is another chance to go in search of consistency and add to last week’s three point weekend and push Bowdoin at the top of the conference standings.

Let’s get it going boys — drop the puck!!!


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