As many Amherst students trekked home for Thanksgiving Break, eager to enjoy a brief reprieve from their coursework — and the opportunity to feast on pumpkin pie — men’s hockey put their skates to competitive ice for the first time in nearly two years. The Mammoths played a slate of four games over their week-long initial return to action: Nov. 19 at Hamilton College, Nov. 23 vs. Saint Michael’s College, Nov. 26 at Utica College, and Nov. 27 vs. UMass Boston (hosted by Utica). Despite consistent effort from the team, results were mixed, as the Mammoths stumbled to a 1-3 record to begin their season.
The hockey team’s season opener, a NESCAC matchup against dire foe Hamilton College, started smoothly for the Mammoths. After the initial face off, the teams battled back and forth, exchanging several shots on goal — and the corresponding saves. But in the 12th minute, Amherst landed the first solid blow. On a power play, defenseman Connor McGinnis ’24, propelled the puck to forward Matteo Mangiardi ’22, who managed to place it past the Continentals’ goalkeeper for the Mammoths’ first goal of the season.
Amherst’s elation was short-lived, however. Hamilton, on a power play of its own, was able to find the net in the 19th minute — then twice more in the second period, and another two times in the third. At the end of the bout, the scoreboard read 5-1 in favor of Hamilton, and the Mammoths were presumably only thankful for the fact that they could now head back to their home campus.
The Mammoths made their return to Orr Rink in a Tuesday afternoon matchup against Saint Michael’s College. And Amherst again got off to a quick start. Forward Sean Wrenn ’22 offered a spark, scoring a power-play goal halfway through the first period. The rink was set ablaze, however, when forward Nick Bondra ’22 sunk a pair of strikes for the Mammoths — the second of which succeeded even though Amherst was short-handed at the time. Defenseman Pieter von Steinbergs ’22, who also tallied three assists in the game, merely fanned the flames with his power-play goal two minutes later. And the shot netted by forward Bobby Luca ’25 in the game’s final minutes: the pat of butter atop a perfectly executed performance. Once again, the final scoreboard displayed 5-1 for the home team — but this time Amherst had far more to be thankful for.
On Friday, men’s hockey journeyed to Utica, N.Y. to participate in the Utica College Thanksgiving Tournament. The Mammoths faced off against tournament host Utica College in their first matchup. While the team hoped to ride the momentum of its decisive victory over Saint Michael’s, the gravy train had already made its final stop. The Mammoths couldn’t catch a break on offense, failing to capitalize on any of their 16 shots or four power plays. Although Amherst did keep a lid on Utica’s offense through the first period, the Pioneers broke through with a second-period strike, followed up by two more goals in the third. The Mammoth defense, anchored by goalie Alex Wisco ’24, did limit the potent Pioneer offense to three goals, the team’s lowest scoring output of the year, but it was not enough to prevent the 0-3 shutout loss.
In their final game of the break, which was also the consolation game of the Utica Tournament, the Mammoths looked to cap off their initial slate of games with a victory. However, Amherst soon faced an uphill battle. UMass Boston found the net in the first 10 minutes, getting on a roll that the Mammoths were unable to stomach. The Beacons then scored a pair of power-play goals within three minutes of each other, before capping off their electric day on offense with a finishing blow halfway through the second period. Amherst forward Mitchell Shults ’22 did sneak a shot past the stout Beacons defense early in the third, but it would have taken a Thanksgiving miracle to turn the tides at that point — and it so happened that the Mammoths had not torn off the big side of the wishbone. Amherst fell 1-4 in its fourth game of the season.
Although Amherst’s Thanksgiving Break return to the ice did not go exactly as the team might have hoped, there were still positives to take away — not least of all, an obvious no-quit attitude that will serve the team well in games to come. Men’s hockey will look to start fresh in a NESCAC matchup at Trinity College on Dec. 3.