MIDDLEBURY, VERMONT -- Down by three goals at half time, the Williams College Ephs (9-6/ 6-4 NESCAC) came back to defeat the Middlebury College Panthers (8-7/ 6-4 NESCAC) 9-7 in their last regularly scheduled game of the season. Steven Kiesel was among several Ephs to have contributed to today's major win, scoring three points, including the first and last goals of the contest.
Captain Stephen Upton also played an important role in the win, with several forced turnovers and his consistently strong midfield presence.
Williams held Middlebury to just one goal in the second half.
Kiesel was on the offensive early in the game, firing off the first shot, which was saved by Middlebury keeper Nate Gaudio. A few teammates followed Kiesel's lead but Gaudio remained strong. Possession switched hands several times before Williams assumed control.
Several forced turnovers and ground balls in the defensive end eventually led to Kiesel's first goal with 7:18 remaining in the first quarter.
The lead was brief, as Panther Jon Broome answered back in a matter of minutes.
Eric Kelley regained the lead for Williams, assisted by Peter Crane, toward the end of the quarter. However, the Panthers netted a last-minute goal to keep the score tied at the close of the first quarter.
Panther Brian Ayers scored the goal that would put his team in the lead for the first time. Down 2-3, Williams went into attack mode and resumed control. Bryson Gilbert-Bono scored on a man-up situation to tie it at 3-3. However, it would be the last of the Ephs' goals for the rest of the half.
Middlebury went on a three-goal run for the final eight minutes of the second quarter. In this time period Williams experienced a few defensive breakdowns, including a penalty that put them in a man-down situation. The Panthers called two consecutive time outs that contributed to their sequence of effective plays.
In the final moments before halftime, Williams reassumed control offensively, though they could not find the back of the net before the clock expired. Still, this would serve as a warning of what would come in the second half.
The third quarter was pivotal, with Williams scoring four goals to their opponent's one and thus bridging the scoring gap.
Thomas Fowler and Gilbert-Bono took charge offensively, aiming to catch up to the Panthers in the third quarter. Together they scored three goals to Jon Broome's one. Finally, Williams was only one goal from a tied game.
The Ephs fired off ten unsuccessful shots before Kiesel would net their seventh goal with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter. They were all tied up.
At 7-7, the Ephs entered the final quarter with all momentum on their side.
A few minor setbacks early in the fourth quarter did not stop the Ephs. After losing the initial face off and experiencing a man-down situation moments later, they stepped up to embrace the pressure head-on.
After a lot of back and forth, the Ephs assumed offensive control. Andy Grabowski scored the go-ahead goal with 10:50 remaining, and then it was up to his team to maintain this narrow lead.
Tensions were high as each squad watched time running low. Middlebury called another time out, hoping to turn the tides. Williams then followed suit, calling a time out as they strategized. The Panthers were hungry, and the final minutes of the game would test both teams.
Kiesel scored his third, and the team's ninth, with less than a minute remaining. After a close battle, victory was sealed.
Eph head coach George McCormack commended the Panthers, a team Williams has not defeated since 2007: "Middlebury was clicking early in the game. They're a strong team. Outscoring them 6-1 in the second half was big for us."
Kiesel was the leading scorer of either team. Four of his teammates contributed with goals, including two apiece for Bryson Gilbert-Bono and Thomas Fowler. Gilbert-Bono also tallied two assists.
The victory can be attributed to a number of factors, including strong midfield and defensive play. The Ephs also outshot their opponents 38 to 25. David Lee won 14 of the total 20 face offs, a statistic we've come to expect.
Coach McCormack praised Lee and Kiesel on their contributions today. He also observed that Gilbert-Bono played "one of his best games yet." Today was yet another team win.
The Ephs' grace under extreme pressure has been consistent throughout the season, and should serve to help them as they face postseason play this weekend.
Williams is currently ranked #4 in the league. They will host #5 Middlebury this Saturday, April 26 at 1 PM for the first round of the NESCAC tournament.