Hockey: Amherst can’t solve Chicopee, suffers 1st Fay loss


Staff Writer 

Published: 01-16-2023 8:20 PM

HOLYOKE – Call it whatever you want – bad puck luck, an identity crisis or road woes – but whatever it is, the Amherst hockey team has been struggling to play its own game lately.

The Hurricanes and Chicopee played a tight matchup on Monday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Rink, and despite dressing just 13 players, it was the Pacers that skated away with a 3-0 win. Chicopee goaltender Zach Canavan picked up the shutout victory, making key saves for the home team throughout the contest.

It was the third consecutive loss for a Hurricanes team that dominated the beginning of each period and pushed hard late to look for an equalizer.

“For the past three games we've been setting the tone, we’ve been putting our foot on the gas, we’ve been forechecking hard, we've been hitting them… and then all of a sudden we ease up on the gas,” Amherst’s Yuuki Ishida said. “We let other teams come back.”

It was a closer game than the score indicated – Chicopee held onto a slim 1-0 lead until there was just 5 minutes, 21 seconds left in the third period. The Pacers scored twice in a 40-second span to build up a seemingly insurmountable lead late, one that the ‘Canes just couldn’t overcome. 

Both teams got early power play opportunities, starting with Chicopee just 1:32 into the contest when Amherst’s Skyler Ferro was sent to the box for roughing. There was some early chaos in front of Amherst goalie Charlie May’s crease, but the team’s PK successfully killed off the penalty and both teams played on. They were called to task again a few minutes and again kept the Chicopee PP off the board. 

Despite their power play struggles, it was Chicopee that struck first at the 7:23 mark of the opening frame when Anthony Bartolo sent a shot from the right point that beat May.

Amherst had a chance to equalize it immediately on the power play, but Chicopee killed off the PP and held on to the 1-0 lead into the first intermission. 

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Amherst came out flying in the second period, controlling the pace and peppering Canavan, but the Pacers managed to stave them off. The Hurricanes got a couple more power play opportunities, once with 5:10 to go in the second and then again with just over a minute remaining in the period, but the Pacers PK held them off the board. 

“We came out slow, didn't play with any real urgency. I think we're a little bit stuck. We had a real good start and for now, we're kind of stuck,” Amherst head coach Michael Rousseau said. “We’re thinking other people should be doing a job and not everybody's doing it… but it's all fixable.” 

Amherst put pressure on Chicopee in the third period but Canavan stood strong. The game derailed for the Hurricanes when Kraig Geissler and Tyler Bielecki scored back-to-back goals 40 seconds apart late in the period to put the game out of reach for the Pacers.

It’s been a trend for the Hurricanes lately – they come out hard in the third period and do the little things, but the problem isn’t their effort, rather needing a consistent effort throughout the game. 

“We’ve gotta play harder, more physical. Definitely not wait till the third period to play physical. Our last three games... against Longmeadow, the third period we dominated. We had a good, hard third period and same with Westfield,” Ishida said. “We didn't score either of those periods, but we still dominated and had possession of the puck most of the time. In this third and second periods, I'd say we probably had 60 percent of possession to them, but we really just couldn't get shots through and couldn’t execute to get any goals.”

Despite the loss, the Hurricanes are still on track for a .500 season with a 4-5 record, and they’re currently leading the way in the Fay Division with a 4-1 record after suffering just their first league loss on Monday. They’ll have just a few days to bounce back from this game before Taconic on Thursday. Until that game, they’ll keep searching for what kind of team they want to be. 

“We just don't know who we want to be. Do we all want to be this fancy team, making all these pretty plays, or do we want to be this lunch pail, come to work everyday type team?” Rousseau said. “Hopefully we'll be able to figure this out, and I think we will.”