Men's hockey beats Amherst, advances to NESCAC Final Four

AMHERST, Mass. -- The Colby College men's hockey team exploded for five unanswered goals and will play in the New England Small College Athletic Conference Final Four after a 5-1 road win at third-seeded Amherst College on Saturday at Orr Rink.

After a wild day of NESCAC hockey, the sixth-seeded Mules (13-10-2 overall) will play No. 5 Wesleyan next Saturday at 1 p.m. at Trinity College in a semifinal game. Colby will have some revenge on its mind after falling to Wesleyan in last year's NESCAC quarterfinal round at Alfond Rink. 
 
"Great effort by the guys and in particular our seniors. Mario Benicky and Sean Lawrence led the way," said Blaise MacDonald, the Jack Kelley Head Coach of Men's Hockey. "We got what we earned and handed a very good Amherst team their first home loss of the season. To have so many Colby fans and alums there supporting us provided extra inspiration for the guys."
 
Three of the four lower seeds won quarterfinal games. Williams, the seventh seed, took a 4-2 win over second-seeded Connecticut College. Wesleyan was a 2-1 winner against fourth-seeded Hamilton, while top-seeded Trinity won 2-0 over No. 8 Tufts. Trinity and Williams will play in the other semifinal game at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
 
Colby advances to the NESCAC Final Four for the eighth time since the league started a playoff system for the 2000-2001 season. However, the Mules have never advanced to the title game. Colby's last appearance in a semifinal game came in 2011.
 
Game highlights
* Colby scored three times in the second period after Amherst led 1-0 after the first intermission. Benicky (pictured) scored the first of his two goals on a wrist shot just 1:57 into the second period.
Phil Klitirinos and Spencer Hewson had assists on the score.
 
* With the momentum of that key goal, Michael Rudolf scored the game-winning goal after winning a face-off. His shot from the left dot went between the legs of Amherst goalkeeper Connor Girard at 6:18 of the second. 
 
* The Mules picked up the big third goal on Benicky's breakaway goal. His wrister over Girard's glove came with 5:54 left in the period.
 
* An Amherst miscue on its own blue line led to a breakaway goal by Klitirinos with 7:48 left in the game. 
 
* Justin Grillo scored an empty net goal off an assist from Thomas Stahlhuth with 1:29 to play to make it 5-1. Colby fell 5-1 to the Mammoths in the regular season game at Amherst, but took a 4-1 victory at Alfond Rink to split the season series.
 
By the numbers
* Colby goalie Sean Lawrence came ready to play and finished with 36 saves. He made 19 saves in the final period.
 
* The Mammoths had a 37-24 advantage in shots.
 
Box
 
NESCAC Men's Hockey Championships
Quarterfinals - Saturday, Feb. 24
at Higher Seeds
No. 1 Trinity def. No. 8 Tufts, 2-0
No. 7 Williams def. No. 2 Connecticut College, 4-2 
No. 6 Colby def. No. 3 Amherst, 5-1
No. 5 Wesleyan def. No. 4 Hamilton, 2-1
 
Semifinals - Saturday, March 3

at Trinity

No. 6 Colby vs. No. 5 Wesleyan, 1 p.m.

No. 7 Williams at No. 1 Trinity, 4:30 p.m.

 
Championship - Sunday, March 4
at Trinity
Semifinal Winners - 2 p.m.