Williams Beats Amherst 4-3 in Rivalry Match

Greg Johnson '16 by Bob Ewell
Greg Johnson '16 by Bob Ewell

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- Junior Greg Johnson scored the game winning goal on the power play for the Ephs (5-2-1) in the third period,  allowing Williams to defeat Amherst (6-2-0) 4-3. Senior Craig Kitto scored a hattrick for Williams, and Stephen Morrissey earned his first win in net in his debut performance, as the Ephs won this hard-fought battle between rivals.

Last season, Amherst beat Williams in the NESCAC semifinals 3-1, however Williams led the the all-time series against the Jeffs 89-36-3 going into this contest.

Dave Cunningham started in net for the Jeffs, coming into the match with a .916 overall save percentage. For the Ephs, freshman Stephen Morrissey started in his first game of his Williams career. Head coach Bill Kangas spoke on Morrissey's debut performance: "I thought Stephen played really well in his first game for us. He has been great in practice, he earned this. The opportunity presented itself, and it was both good for the team and good for Stephen."

Williams came into this match with a  4-2-1 overall record and 3-1-1 conference record, while Amherst came in with an overall record of 6-1-0 and a conference record of 3-1-0 this season.

The first period was defined with strong play coming from both sides, with a very back and forth, fast paced style of play. The score reflected the evenly matched play, with the score after one period being tied 1-1.

At 7:05 into the first, sophomore Tyler Young for the Ephs and Andrew Fenwick for the Jeffs both went to the box for hitting after the whistle after a scramble ensued once the play was blown dead in Williams' offensive zone.  The resulting four on four play was fruitless for both teams, however.

At 14:13, sophomore James McNamara was called for slashing, giving Amherst an opportunity on the power play. Coming into this game, Amherst was eleven for thirty-three on power plays this season. The Jeffs converted on the man advantage, as David White got one past goaltender Stephen Morrissey who had come out of the crease, challenging the Amherst offense. Andrew Fenwick and Connor Brown earned assists on the play. This goal came at 15:00 minutes into the period, marking just the third first period goal Williams has allowed this season.

Shortly thereafter, Mike Cashman for the Jeffs went to the box for elbowing. This gave Williams their first power play opportunity of the game. Williams came into this match with a thirty-eight conversion percentage on the power play thus far in the season. The Jeffs effectively killed this first penalty.

Another penalty was called against Amherst's David White at 18:10. Subsequently, eleven seconds later Craig Kitto converted on the Ephs' second power play opportunity of the game, getting one past goaltender Dave Cunningham off of a loose rebound in front of the net. This marked Kitto's second goal of the weekend, and brought the game to 1-1. James McNamara was awarded an assist on the play.

After the first, Williams led in shots thirteen to seven.

"We switched some lines in yesterday's match late in the game. We put the trio of Colby Cretella centering for Craig Kitto and Alex Goyne together last night in the third, and we liked it," said Kangas on the effectiveness of the line manipulation. "They were pretty connected all weekend, especially for us today. All of the lines had some flow to their game today."

The second period began with a Williams goal at 1:18. Craig Kitto sniped one quickly off of the transition through the neutral zone, scoring his second of the game. Kitto beat Cunningham on his blocker side, and was assisted on the play by sophomore Alex Gonye. This goal gave Williams the lead 2-1 through just over one period of play.

Amherst tied the game at 9:34, after Patrick Arena converted on a shot that resulted from a puck that deflected off of a Williams skate in front of the crease. Arena was assisted on the play by David White and Aaron Deutsch.

Williams took the lead again at 12:20, as Craig Kitto fired one off of a rebound to complete his hattrick. Kitto's third of the game brought the score to 3-2 in favor of the Ephs. Alex Gonye received his second assist of the game, and freshman Colby Cretella cashed in for his first.

Amherst was given the man advantage shortly thereafter, as Williams was called for too many men on the ice, however the penalty was effectively killed. The Ephs went into the third period ahead 3-2, with shots heavily in their favor twenty-five to fourteen.

Amherst made a goalie change coming into the third period, with Danny Vitale taking over in net. Vitale comes into this match with a .867 save percentage so far this season.

Amherst tied the game at 10:25 into the third period, after a Williams defenseman passed the puck blindly up the boards, and the puck was subsequently turned over to the Jeffs. Connor Brown fired one essentially undefended in front of the net, and beat Morrissey on his glove side. This was Brown's fifth of the year, and he was assisted on this play by teammates Brendan Burke and Jake Turrin.

Williams was able to respond when Theo Hanna for Amherst went to the box for holding at 12:21. The Ephs capitalized on this power play opportunity at 13:24, when Tyler Young passed the puck from the corner to Greg Johnson, who was streaking through the middle and fired one past Vitale. Sophomores Young and Sam Gray earned assists on the play. This goal gave the Ephs the lead once again, bringing the score to 4-3. This marked Johnson's third goal of the year for the Ephs.

A penalty was called against Amherst for too many men on the ice at 15:18. Although killed, this penalty forced the Jeffs to continue to play defensively late in the game, as they still needed a goal to tie. Amherst was unable to even up the score, however, and Williams went on to win the match 4-3. Williams outshot Amherst thirty-two to twenty-three.

"Yesterday we got ahead of ourselves a bit, I thought we were much more in the moment tonight," said Kangas. "The fact that we were able to turn that mentality around in a span of twenty-four hours can only mean good things for our team going forward."

This was the last match of the year for both teams. Williams next takes on Gustavus Adolphus on January 2nd at 6:05 pm. Amherst's next match is against Utica in the Plattsburgh State tournament January 2nd at 4:00 pm.