WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- The Williams Ephs (14-8-3, 11-5-3 NESCAC) defeated Amherst College (14-7-3, 9-7-3 NESCAC) 2-1 at the Lansing Chapman Rink this afternoon in the NESCAC Quarterfinals. This game marks the end of Amherst's season, and the Ephs will look to play in the conference semifinals next weekend against Trinity.
"I thought today the guys were really engaged in play," noted Williams head coach Bill Kangas. "From start to finish I thought we played some good hockey, we recovered well, when we made a mistake I also thought we supported each other really well, too. The energy was good from the bench to the play to the locker room. All in all just a good game by the guys."
In net for Amherst was junior Connor Girard, who came into this match with a .929 save percentage. In net for Williams was sophomore Michael Pinios. Pinios came into this match with a save percentage of .884. Pinios and Girard were the starting goalies in both Williams vs. Amherst games this season.
The Ephs came into this match with an overall season record of 13-8-3, with a NESCAC record of 10-5-3. Amherst came into this match with an overall record of 14-6-3, with a conference record of 9-6-3. This slotted the two teams in at fourth and fifth in the NESCAC standings after the regular season, respectively.
The two teams split their season series. On December 9, the two teams faced off in Williamstown, and the Ephs came away with a 4-3 victory. More recently, on January 17 the two teams faced off in Amherst, and Williams was shutout 1-0 on the road.
Amherst entered this match coming off of a four point weekend last week, defeating both Williams and Middlebury at home. Contrastingly, the Ephs were unable to produce any wins last weekend, losing to Amherst and Hamilton.
Williams got the first man advantage opportunity of the game. At 3:48, Amherst's freshman A.J. Klein was called to the box on account of cross checking. The Ephs came into this match with a 25.8% conversion rate on the power play, but were unable to generate a goal on this opportunity.
Amherst got their first power play opportunity of the game at 10:35 of the first period, after Williams junior Colby Cretella was called to the box for hooking. Amherst special teams was successful on the power play 27% of the time this season, and were able to convert on this opportunity to take the lead early in this NESCAC Quarterfinals match.
At 11:35, right at the halfway mark of the man advantage, Amherst's junior Tyler Granara fired one off from the left point, over Pinios's glove to give Amherst the early 1-0 lead. This was Granara's second goal of the season. Granara was assisted on the play by freshman Noah Gilreath (11th assist) and junior David White (12th assist). This brought the game to 1-0 for Amherst headed into the second period.
At 16:28, concurrent penalties were called on Williams senior Tyler Young and Amherst's A.J. Klein for holding, allowing for two minutes of 4-4 play.
Shots on goal after the first period of play were 7-6 just in favor of the Ephs.
At 3:53 of the second period, the Ephs were able to get the equalizer, after junior Joe Welch (second assist) passed the puck from the lower left circle into the crease, where senior Marcus Mollica (fourth goal) was able to get one over Girard on the second rebound opportunity. Senior Sam Gray (12th assist) also earned an assist on the play to bring the score to 1-1.
"This was a hard fought game from both ends of the rink, both teams had chances," observed Kangas. "We had some good chances at point blank range and we couldn't capitalize, their goalie made some nice saves; when they came down to our end we did a good job clearing the front, I thought Michael made some good saves."
"But it was a great college hockey game. We got a nice bounce on the second one where it deflected off of a stick and went in the air and behind the goalie, and those things happen. It's nice that the break went our way."
At 18:59 of the second period, senior Luke Stickel (third goal) scored the game winning goal on an unassisted play, where the puck was deflected and the puck was elevated over Girard.
Shots in the second period were an even 12-12.
The Ephs had three power play opportunities in the third period to keep Amherst on their toes. At 19:20, Amherst pulled Girard to gain the extra man, however the game ended with a score of 2-1.
Shots in the third period were 9-5 in favor of Williams, game totals coming to 28-23.
This game marks the end of Amherst's season, with seniors Chris Roll, Austin Ho, and Adam Ellison capping off their Amherst hockey careers.
"This was a good, hard fought hockey game. Great game for a spectator, and as a coach it was fun because we played well," commented Kangas. "I thought we played all three zones really well, but you know we have a lot to work on. We'll deal with our opponent come Monday, but to get through today was a big, big plus. We're going to enjoy this and get ready for our next opponent. Whoever we play, we must be prepared."
The Ephs will look to compete in the conference semifinals next weekend against Trinity, the game taking place at Hamilton, time TBD.