The Williams College men's ice hockey team is looking to build upon their 15-8-3 overall record last season. Last year the Ephs had a NESCAC record of 10-5-3, but lost to Amherst in the NESCAC semifinals 3-1.
In the past four seasons, the Ephs have made it to the NESCAC semifinals twice, and the NESCAC championship twice. Williams lost both of those conference title matchups (2011, 2013) to Bowdoin.
The Ephs are returning 19 players from last season, including 14 players that played in at least 24 of the 26 games. With all its defensemen and its starting goalie returning from a season ago, Williams will rely upon a defensive unit that ranked 8th nationally in scoring defense last year.
Senior goaltender Sean Dougherty has been a standout player during his Williams career. Starting 24 of 26 games last season, Dougherty had an overall save percentage of .938, good for fourth in the nation. Dougherty has five career shutouts, two of them claimed last season. Last winter Dougherty's goals against average was a stellar 1.65 overall. His 1,479:25 total minutes played ranked 8th nationally. A First-Team All NESCAC honoree a year ago, Dougherty will be counted on as a leader for this Williams squad. Eph head coach Bill Kangas lauded his dependability and consistency: "Sean had a very strong showing for us last year, and we're confident that the level of play he brought last year will continue into this season as well."
In front of Dougherty will be an experienced and talented corps of defenseman led by returning seniors Brian McNamara and David Jarrett, juniors Greg Johnson and Zander Masucci, and sophomores Frankie Mork and James McNamara (brother of Brian McNamara).
Last season the defensive group led the NESCAC in scoring defense, allowing a meager 1.83 goals/game. In addition to holding down the defensive zone, Williams got offensive contributions from the blue line crew. Frankie Mork posted an impressive freshman debut in which he led Eph defensemen with 7 goals and 8 assists. Johnson and Jarrett were the other two Eph d-men who had double-digit point totals last season with 10 apiece.
The Ephs are returning three of their top six scorers, including their top two scorers in senior Craig Kitto and sophomore George Hunkele. They both recorded 11 goals in 24 and 26 games played, respectively. Kitto and Hunkele also recorded an impressive 21 points each last season, to lead the Ephs.
In addition to Kitto and Hunkele, Williams also returns senior Alex DeBaere, junior Matt Werner, and sophomores Tyler Young and Sam Gray. Last year, Young had 5 goals and 15 points in his initial collegiate campaign. This unit graduated key contributors from last season in Nick Anderson (16 points), Paul Steinig (12 points), and Matt Doyle (11 points), presenting opportunities for younger players to step up and contribute offensively in 2014-15.
Kangas admits that offensive prowess is something that the team is working towards improving upon this season, "We've got to be disciplined, get more special team opportunities. We know we have to be more efficient on the power play, we need to be scoring more goals."
Williams scored 2.44 goals/game in the NESCAC last year, which placed the Ephs in the bottom half of the conference (8th). Trinity was over a goal and a half better; the Bantams led the NESCAC with 4.28 goals/game in 2013-14.
The Ephs were a very disciplined team a season ago, as they limited their penalty minutes in the conference to just 152, the lowest in the NESCAC. Kangas stressed the importance of carrying that style of play into this season: "A big strength of ours is that we work hard and we do not take many penalties. We have to continue to be disciplined in this sense this season."
The conference once again expects to be highly competitive, with no team being an unworthy opponent. In the first two weeks the Ephs will be tested with four consecutive conference matches, beginning with the first two games away in Maine against Colby and Bowdoin. November 15 the Ephs will open the season versus the Colby Mules at 7:00 PM before visiting Bowdoin on November 16 for a 3:00 PM contest. "We will have a good benchmark after the first couple weekends to see where we are," said Kangas. "Obviously it would be great to be in midseason form right away, but we have to be and will be ready to adjust on the fly."
The Ephs play eight times before Christmas break, including two non-conference games. During the Thanksgiving weekend, the first non-conference game will be played on November 29 versus Johnson and Wales in the Skidmore Tournament. On November 30, their JWU game result and the Skidmore versus SUNY-Morrisville contest will determine the Williams opponent.
Playing into December, the Ephs will complete their first semester of games with a home stand versus Hamilton on December 5 and Amherst on December 6.
After the holidays, the Ephs will open the New Year with two games in Minnesota, where they will face Gustavus Adolphus on January 2 and St. Olaf on January 3.