AMHERST, Mass. – Brian Safstrom broke a 3-3 tie just 32 seconds into overtime to lift No. 14 Amherst to a hard-fought win against No.8 Middlebury at Orr Rink.
Improving to 7-1-0 on the season, the Jeffs remain the conference’s only remaining unbeaten, moving to 5-0-0 in NESCAC play. Middlebury dropped to 4-3-1 overall and 4-2-0 in league action with the loss. Notching its second victory against a nationally ranked opponent in as many days, the Amherst senior class improved to 3-1-1 against the Panthers over the last three seasons.
Wanting to stake Amherst to an early lead, senior forward Mark Colp evaded a pair of Panthers outside the left circle before moving toward goal and testing Middlebury goalkeeper John Yanchek with a backhanded shot just minutes into the first period.
Breaking out of the defensive zone, Middlebury senior Charles Nerbak ripped a shot from the left side that found the pads of Amherst goaltender Jonathan La Rose. With the Lord Jeff senior unable to control the rebound, a hustling Trevor Pollock tracked down the loose puck before slotting his first goal of the season inside the right post to put the visitors on top 5:04 into the period.
Looking to respond, Amherst sophomore Erik Hansen carried the puck into the left side of the Middlebury zone with a defenseman on his hip. Turning the corner and coming across the face of the goal Hansen beat Yanchek, sneaking a shot between the goaltender’s left pad the right pipe 11:36 into the frame.
Minutes later, first-year Aaron Deutsch skated toward the front of the Middlebury cage before finding the stick of a trailing Dylan Trumble, who one-timed his second score in as many games into the back of the Panther net at 13:32.
Trying to set the tone at the start of the second period, Middlebury sophomore forward Michael Longo fired a shot from point-blank range that prompted a La Rose save. Again finding his way to a loose puck in front, Pollock buried his second tally of the afternoon just 1:35 into the stanza, knotting the game at 2-2.
Carrying it into the neutral zone in hopes of regaining momentum, Amherst junior forward Johnny Van Siclen found Colp, who flicked a backhand toward net from the left circle that trickled past the goal line for the Jeffs’ third goal 8:09 into the stanza.
With Amherst on the doorstep of adding to their tally while on a power play in the closing minutes of the second, Yanchek made a pair of big stops in the waning moments of a Lord Jeffs’ man-up advantage, keeping Middlebury within one heading into the final frame.
Getting outshot by a slim 19-18 margin over the course of the first two periods, Middlebury started the third with a two-man advantage by virtue of a pair of late Amherst penalties, but the Lord Jeffs bore down, surrendering just one shot on goal during that span to preserve their 3-2 lead.
Continuing to stay aggressive shortly after their power play expired, the Panthers suddenly pulled even when Nerbak slipped the equalizer just inside the left post 1:53 into the third period.
On the power play with under eight to play, Amherst nearly pulled back out in front when junior forward Nick Brunette rattled a hard wrist shot off the left post. A couple minutes later, Longo looked to be in alone on goal but Amherst junior Jamie Hawkrigg made a nice poke-check from behind to disrupt the play before the Middlebury forward could put a shot on goal.
Still knotted at 3-3 at the end of regulation, both teams headed into a five-minute extra session with hopes of notching the game winner. Panther senior Martin Drolet registered the overtime’s first try with a hard, rising slap shot from the left side.
Undaunted, Amherst came right back down the ice, with sophomore forward Andrew Kurlandski ripping a shot at the Middlebury cage. After Yanchek made the initial stop, a persistent and opportunistic Safstrom hammered home the clincher, stuffing it inside the left post for his third goal of the season.
The Lord Jeffs finished with a 30-27 shot advantage finishing 0-for-2 on the power play while holding the Panthers to 0-for-5 with the man-up advantage. La Rose tallied 27 saves en route to his sixth victory while Yanchek made 23 stops in the loss.