March 19, 2012

Small College Journal: End of the line for Norwich, Amherst

By Mike Zhe

A pair of spirited runs in Division 3 hit the wall on Friday night, within a few hours of each other in historic Lake Placid, N.Y.

Amherst goalie Jonathan La Rose (photo: Amherst College Athletics)

Amherst fell to Oswego State, 2-1 in overtime, in the late national semifinal after tying the game and forcing extra minutes with 22.1 seconds left in regulation.

Earlier, Norwich saw its season end in the national semifinals for the second year in a row, again to eventual champion St. Norbert, 4-1.

“The worst game we played all year,” Norwich coach Mike McShane (Wakefield, Mass.) termed it afterward.

St. Norbert captured its second consecutive Division 3 championship when it defeated Oswego in the final on Saturday, 4-1.

Amherst came the closest of the local teams to advance to the final, which would have been the first for a program playing in a Frozen Four for the first time.

A game that was scoreless for more than 50 minutes saw Lord Jeffs — who’d carried play for stretches — fall behind 1-0 when Ian Boots capitalized on a turnover and beat goalie Jonathan La Rose with a wrister at 10:26 of the third.

Showing a flair for the dramatic, Amherst tied it with 22.1 seconds remaining in regulation when Eddie Effinger whacked in a loose puck, his team having pulled La Rose for the extra attacker.

But Paul Rodrigues ended things a little over seven minutes into sudden death, taking advantage of a neutral-zone turnover, skating in and beating La Rose with a backhand to end it.

The Lord Jeffs finished with a 44-27 edge in shots.

“Over the past four or five years we’ve begun to believe we belong at this level,” said Amherst coach Jack Arena. “Playing Oswego like we did … I think if there was any doubt about whether we belong here, there isn’t any more.”

The Jeffs will graduate six seniors, including La Rose, forwards Effinger and Mark Colp (Wareham, Mass.), and standout defenseman Mike Baran (Duxbury, Mass.).

La Rose was named AHCA Player of the Year after a season that saw him lead the nation in save percentage (.943) and shutouts (five), and finish second in goals-against average (1.55). He joins Jeff Landers (Class of 2009) as the only Lord Jeffs to ever receive that honor.

Arena (Randolph, Mass.) was named Division 3 Coach of the Year after guiding the Jeffs to a program-record 24 wins and first trip to the Frozen Four.

No doubt that Norwich annually belongs in the discussion of Division 3’s best. But facing the program responsible for their national semifinal ouster last winter, the Cadets fell behind 3-0 and couldn’t get one past the Green Knights’ standout David Jacobson, who led Division 3 in goals-against average.

“We had a lot of chances early but they had a great game,” said McShane.

It was the third straight 20-win season for the Cadets, who beat St. Norbert to win the national championship in 2010, 2-1.

Ketts wins Concannon Award

Senior forward Jeremiah Ketts of Johnson & Wales has been selected as the winner of the 12th annual Joe Concannon Award, which recognizes New England’s best American-born hockey player in Division 2 or 3, the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston announced this weekend.

Ketts led the Wildcats in scoring with 20 goals and 33 assists for 53 points as a senior, and finishes his career with 165 points. He recently signed a contract to play with the Reading Royals of the ECHL.

“This is a really great recognition and an important award not only for Jeremiah, but for the team and the program,” Johnson and Wales coach Erik Noack said in a statement. “To win such a prestigious award really puts both him and our program on the map. I can’t think of a more talented and competitive player who deserves this recognition more.

“Jeremiah truly had a rare combination of talent and competitiveness that put him above a lot of players. His work ethic in the weight room and on the ice was extraordinary.”

The three other finalists for the award were Baran (Duxbury, Mass.), senior goalie Ryan Purdy of Williams and senior defenseman Ryan Barlock of Curry.

New England Division 3 final power rankings

1. Amherst (24-4-1, 17-1-0 NESCAC)

It took overtime to end the Lord Jeffs’ historic season, as well as their 12-game win streak. The outgoing seniors helped compile a four-year best record of 74-23-10, which included two NESCAC titles and two trips to the NCAAs.

2. Norwich (24-3-2, 15-2-1 ECAC East)

Blake Forkey will go down as the players who scored the last goal of the Cadets’ season. Juniors Pier-Olivier Cotnoir (21-21-42) and Kyle Thomas of Waltham, Mass. (16-21-37), and sophomore Travis Janke (1128-39) all finished among the top 20 in Division 3 in scoring.

3. Wentworth (21-7-1, 11-2-1 ECAC Northeast)

4. Plymouth State (17-7-3, 12-3-3 MASCAC)

5. Bowdoin (16-6-3, 12-3-3 NESCAC)

6. Middlebury (14-10-3, 11-6-1 NESCAC)

7. Salem State (15-9-3, 11-4-3 MASCAC)

8. Castleton State (19-7-2, 12-4-2 ECAC East)

9. UMass-Dartmouth (16-9-2, 10-6-2 MASCAC)

10. Southern Maine (10-11-6, 7-7-4 ECAC East)

Mike Zhe can be reached at mzhe@hockeyjournal.com.