Williamstown, MA -- The Williams College men's hockey team is gearing up for what is expected to be another hard fought season in the NESCAC, as they look to improve upon last year's overall record of 14-9-3. Last season, the Ephs made a run in the NESCAC Tournament, ultimately losing to Trinity 4-2 in the NESCAC Semifinals.
In the past five seasons, the Ephs have reached the conference semifinals twice, and have advanced to the conference finals twice. The most recent title match went to Trinity, while the previous two in which Williams contested went to Amherst (2015) and Bowdoin (2013), respectively.
This season, Mike Monti is leading the charge for the program, assuming the role of interim head coach, as Bill Kangas is on sabbatical for the academic year. Coach Monti spoke to his leading role on the team this year: "Being named the interim head coach is an honor that humbles me every time I think about it."
"I've been fortunate to spend four seasons as an assistant coach at this remarkable institution, under the guidance of an incredible coach, mentor, and friend in Bill Kangas," said Monti. "This is an opportunity that I will cherish, and be forever grateful for."
Coach Monti is joined by first-year assistant coach Dana Borges, rounding out the team's coaching staff.
"Coach Monti has done an excellent job so far assuming the role as the head coach," commented senior, and team captain, Colby Cretella. "He brings a ton of energy to the rink each day and is a great motivator. It has been a very smooth transition because of the familiarity the guys have developed with him over the years."
The Ephs are returning 17 players from last year's squad, and adding eight freshmen to the roster. In between the posts, the team returns three goaltenders: senior Stephen Morrissey who boasted a 93.5% save percentage in his seven games played last season, junior Michael Pinios who sported an 89% save percentage in his 20 games played last year, and sophomore Jake Pelton.
In front of the netminders, the defensive unit is lead by juniors Connor Meike and Keanu Hilaire. New members to the young defensive crew include: Mike Armstrong (Belmont, MA), Myles Cunningham (Minneapolis, MN), Jack McCool (West Roxbury, MA), and Daniel Woolfenden (Mill Creek, WA).
On the offensive side, seniors David Italiano, C.J. Shugart, Colby Cretella, and Joe Welch return, and will be leading the offense in their final season as Ephs. Last year, Italiano led the team in assists (19) and points (31), and was second on the team in goals, with 12. Shugart had an impressive 11-goal season (18 points overall). Cretella has been named the team's captain, a testament to his previous three years of consistent leadership and contributions to the program, including a 41-point career thus far.
In addition to returning senior forwards, other notable offensive returners include junior Roberto Cellini (second on the team last year in points with 26, first on the team in goals with 14), and junior Marcus Mollica (five points last season).
On the team's composition this year, Coach Monti offered: "I admire the work of Colby and the senior class to this point. Coach Borges and I are really fortunate to have a group of committed seniors. They've been leaders in a multitude of ways that go beyond the ice. We're thankful that they have set the tone for our team in terms of culture and expectations."
"We have 8 first-years that we are excited about joining our team," continued Monti. "Each one of them brings a different element to our team, and we feel that they will only continue to improve and get better. Our team has a nice blend of skill, speed, and strength that gives us the opportunity to play an up-tempo style. We have depth in all positions. We have a lot of great pieces to the puzzle, but the greatest piece of all is how unified our team is with common goals."
With regards to goals, the team's motto this season is "Details Deliver", a slogan that has been carefully selected to encompass the identity the coaching staff and team leaders wish to embody as a unit this season.
Cretella illuminated how he sees the focus on details relating to an ultimately successful season: "Coach Monti and Coach Borges have preached the importance of habit and details, and the guys have really bought into this mindset."
"We are confident that if we continue to take a day by day approach, we will have success on the ice throughout the year," said Cretella. "While the focus is on getting better each day, the long term goals for this year's team are to win the NESCAC regular season & playoffs, and the NCAA tournament."
For the 2017-2018 Eph squad, this journey begins this Saturday, November 18th, at home ice against Bowdoin, 7:00 PM EST. They follow that game up with a Saturday (Nov. 18th) day game at home against Colby at 3:00 PM EST.
Last year, the Ephs had incredible success on home ice, with an overall home record of 7-1-3.
Six of the first seven games before the winter break for the team will be NESCAC encounters, a reality which necessitates a quick start for the team. The first non-conference opponent will be a home game, November 25th, against Babson.
On looking to the start of this season, Monti noted: "We had a great team last year, but no two seasons are alike. We're encouraging our team to stay in the now, focusing on us, and getting better on a day-to-day, sometimes moment-to-moment basis."
7:00 PM puck drop at the Lansing Chapman Rink this Saturday will kick off what is sure to be another exciting year for Eph men's hockey in the NESCAC.