This Week in D-III Women’s Hockey: Dec 4, 2008

An Early Statement in the NESCAC

This past weekend while everyone was recovering from the turkey, mashed potatoes and grandma�s homemade stuffing, the Amherst Lady Jeffs made an impressive statement against previously tenth ranked Trinity. Amherst shut out the Bantams 3-0 at home at Orr Rink on Saturday night and then followed up the next night with a 3-1 win in Hartford, CT.

On Saturday night, Amherst got off to a quick start when Kate Dennett lit the lamp just under five minutes into the game off an assist from Michelle McGann. That was all Amherst would need as they went on to preserve the shutout backed by Krystyn Elek�s 25 saves in net for the Lady Jeffs.

However, Amherst did add two insurance markers both scored by Courtney Hanlon with one coming in the second period and then another in the third period off an assist from Lindsey Harrington to cap the scoring on the night.

Amherst out shot Trinity 33-25 and for the most part had the majority of the game�s better scoring chances. Trinity�s Isabelle Iwachiw stopped 30 shots and dropped her first decision of the season, falling to 2-1-0.

The next night was more of the same as Amherst controlled the play and momentum from the opening whistle. The Lady Jeffs were able to jump onto the scoreboard with a 5 on 3 power play goal from Molly Malloy, a little over six minutes into the opening frame. Kate Dennett added what would end up being the game-winning goal late in the first period with assists from Michelle McGann and CC Wyshnytzky.

Amherst added another goal early in the second period when Emily Vitale lit the lamp 5:46 into the period. Trinity was able to salvage one goal on the weekend when Kim Weiss tallied her third goal of the season. However, that�s as close as the Bantams would get as the Lady Jeffs walked out of the Koeppel Community Sports Center with a four-point weekend against one of their chief challengers for the NESCAC crown.

Krystyn Elek once again stood strong between the pipes for Amherst making 27 saves and improving her season record to a perfect 3-0-0. Isabelle Iwachiw was once again saddled with the loss dropping to 2-2 on the year while stopping 36 shots.

Amherst head coach Jim Plumer cited solid team play as one of the biggest factors for the sweep.

�We�ve been pretty solid in all three aspects of the game,� Plumer said. �We�ve limited other team�s scoring chances five on five, Krystyn [Elek] has been great in net, and we�ve been able to score early in games and be very opportunistic on offense.�

Not only has Amherst has been playing solid in all three aspects of the game; their team depth continues to be one of their biggest assets this season.

�It�s nice when you know proven scorers haven�t broken out yet,� Plumer said. �Different kids can contribute on different nights and we haven�t had to rely on one or two lines.�

However, don�t be fooled, in my opinion the backbone of this team lies between the pipes in sensational junior goaltender Krystyn Elek.

�She�s excellent,� Plumer said. �When we make mistakes we can count on her. She was able to gain confidence from two big wins this past weekend and when she�s on it allows us to play with a lot of confidence in front of her.�

Trinity head coach Andrew McPhee pointed to slow starts in both of the games as big factors in the losses.

�Both games we started off slow and allowed quick first period goals,� McPhee said. �We can�t allow a team of their quality to do that. We got better and better and the third period was by far our best both nights. We competed hard each night and never gave up.�

McPhee didn�t believe anything really �went wrong� per se but he did note that Amherst pounced on second chance goal opportunities all weekend.

�Amherst is a very good team with many good players that can hurt you when you make a mistake,� McPhee said. �Four of their six goals were scored on rebounds. We�ve got to work on picking up sticks in front of Isabelle {Iwachiw] and help her out.�

Trinity had their chances in both games as they had 11 power plays but were only able to convert on one of them.

�We had a lot of shots on the power play,� McPhee said. �But, Elek is one of the best goalies in the nation for a reason and we couldn�t get anything by her. Their defensemen also tied us up a lot better around the net.�

McPhee was very complimentary of the Lady Jeffs, especially their defense

�They�re an extremely deep team with no weaknesses,� McPhee said. �They have the best defense in our league. Julie Radziewicz and Kirsten Dier are going to make it very hard on Jim [Plumer] to nominate someone for all-NESCAC.�

Amherst will now face arguably their toughest stretch of the season in their four games as they go on the road for four straight including playing at top-ranked Middlebury on Saturday. Then to start off the second half of the season, the Lady Jeffs will fly out to Minnesota to take on the MIAC�s best in St. Thomas and Gustvaus Adolphus.

�We�re excited but we�re trying not to get to caught up in who we�re playing,� Plumer said. �We�re trying to control the things we can control like being mentally ready to play well and that gives us confidence especially when we�ve been playing well from the start of games, which has been an improvement on what we�ve done in the past.

We need to peak at the end of the season but we�re excited to play meaningful games. We�ve always had a good rivalry with Middlebury and we�ve had some success playing there. Then we�ll head out west to start off the second half of the season. It�ll almost be like a second training camp as we�re spending the whole week out there and it will be fun to play two more ranked teams and see how we measure up to them.�

Trinity will look to move on and improve on their 2-2 record as they head into a two game conference series with Hamilton.

�We�re looking to get better obviously and we�ll tweak some things,� McPhee said. �We need to take every game one game at a time as we have a lot of back to back games because of our league schedule.�

The Weekend Ahead

Once again this weekend I see three big match-ups that you should pay particular attention to. The first I�ve already mentioned with the Amherst traveling to Middlebury on Saturday. Middlebury will be chomping at the bit to get a chance at Amherst after missing out on the highly anticipated NESCAC Championship game last year when the Panthers fell to Colby in the semi-finals.

The Panthers have turned in impressive results so far this season even with a pretty banged up roster. Last year�s freshman sensation Anna McNally and team leading goal scorer has yet to suit up for Middlebury but the Panthers have still been putting up lots of goals.

Middlebury has seven players with two or more goals already in just five games. Leading the way is senior Annmarie Cellino with three goals and six assists for nine points. Freshmen Maggie Melberg and Grace Waters are off to impressive starts in their young Panther careers with seven and four points respectively.

In goal, Lani Wright and Lexi Bloom have continued to form a terrific tandem for head coach Bill Mandigo�s Panthers. They have both have goals against averages under 1.50 and save percentages better than .940.

Also in the East, second-ranked Plattsburgh will travel to Aston, PA to take on the upstart Neumann Knights. Neumann is coming off an impressive sweep of Utica, who has a win over Plattsburgh. The ECAC West has been an absolute train wreck so far this season standings wise but we might start to see some separation this weekend with all ten teams in action.

However, this match-up will certainly be the center of attention in the ECAC West. Neumann will need to be on their toes and have an excellent performance from Mel Brunet in goal if they are going to be able to be successful against the Cardinals. Plattsburgh certainly has one of the most talented offenses in the country and they�ve done it this year without a lot of contribution from Danielle Blanchard so far.

Junior Steph Moberg has been the team MVP so far with six goals and six assists to lead the Cardinals with 12 points on the season. Plattsburgh is coming off winning the Cardinal Classic after topping Williams in the semifinals and then winning in a shootout over Middlebury.

Lastly, out West, Stevens Point and Superior will meet in a clash of NCHA super powers. Superior has had an up and down season so far this year coming into Saturday�s match-up with a 5-3 record. The Yellow Jackets have won their last three games after dropping games to St. Benedict, Adrian, and Concordia-Moorhead. The Yellow Jackets have been showing signs of missing their top two scorers from last year in Gina Baranzelli and Stacey Anderson. However, Superior will have a chance to redeem themselves and get back on track this weekend with the Stevens Point showdown.

Stevens Point has also had a bit of a slower start than they had last year when they had their long unbeaten streak. The Pointers are 4-1-1 and could use a win to assert their position atop the NCHA standings as well.

Nicole Grossmann and Dana Carothers will be at the head of things if the Pointers are going to be successful. Grossmann is the team leader in points with four goals and five assists. Carothers leads the team in goals with seven as well as two game winning goals and four power play goals.