WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Senior Amherst tri-captain Darce Swaggert scored goals in the first and second periods, and first-year forward Mike Kreger added what would prove to be the game-winner 8:25 into the third period, as the Jeffs ended their regular season with a huge 3-2 victory at archrival Williams on Saturday afternoon.
Swaggert’s first goal of the game capped a wild back-and-forth first period, as both teams put together plenty of scoring chances, combining for 23 shots on goal. Amherst senior netminder Nick Rieser turned away all 10 Williams shots he faced in the first 20 minutes, and his counterpart, Williams’ Benjamin Fash, was almost as good, stopping 12 of the 13 shots that came his way. Swaggert, however, broke a scoreless tie with his fourth goal of the season at the 17:26 mark, drilling a dart from the blue line that beat Fash high.
Swaggert’s first goal stood up as the game’s only score until midway through the second period. After the senior defenseman was whistled for an interference penalty at 10:24, Williams’ Timothy Albrecht was sent to the penalty box just over one minute later for a slashing penalty, setting the stage for Swaggert’s second strike of the afternoon.
With Williams holding the puck in the Amherst end in a four-on-four situation, Swaggert slipped behind the Eph defense after coming out of the box, and put back the rebound of his own missed shot on a breakaway. Swaggert’s second goal, which came off a feed from classmate Jim Smith just 10 seconds after his penalty ended, gave the Jeffs a two-goal cushion heading to the third period.
There, the Ephs began to rally, spurred on by the raucous home crowd of over 1,500 that packed Lansing Chapman Rink. Just 2:37 into the final period, the hosts got on the board, thanks to a goal from Eph freshman Josh Truitt. After an Albrecht steal at the Amherst blue line, the senior dumped the puck into the Amherst end, where rookie Brian Teixeira recovered it, firing a shot at Rieser. The Amherst senior made a nifty save, but Truitt pounced on the rebound, tapping it past Rieser to cut the Amherst lead in half.
Six minutes of back-and-forth action later, the Jeffs once again extended their lead, this time thanks to Kreger, who one-timed a perfect feed from sophomore defenseman Erich Schram past Fash for his ninth goal of the season.
Kreger’s goal would stand up, as the Amherst defense, despite a Teixeira goal with just over five minutes remaining, held off Williams’ late charge. The Jeffs finished with a 16-9 shot margin in the third period, outshooting their rivals 42-29 on the afternoon, and Rieser finished with 27 saves to pick up the critical victory.
With the win, the Jeffs improve to 16-4-3, including 12-2-3 in conference play, and lock up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming NESCAC tournament. As fate would have it, the Jeffs did not even need a win, thanks to losses on Saturday by both Colby and Trinity, which finished tied for third in the NESCAC.
Thus, Amherst will host a home game next weekend, probably against the same Williams team, currently seventh in the conference, in the conference tournament quarterfinals. Middlebury, which finished with a 16-1 record in league play, earned the top seed, and the first-round bye that accompanies it.