WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- The Williams Ephs (15-8-2 overall), ranked fourth in the NESCAC, defeated the Bowdoin Polar Bears (14-8-3 overall), ranked fifth in the NESCAC, 4-3 in the NESCAC Championship quarterfinals today at the Lansing Chapman Rink in Williamstown. The Polar Bears came into this contest as two-time defending champions of the conference. Freshmen Colby Cretella and David Italiano gave the Ephs a 2-0 lead through twenty-six minutes of play. Ephs' senior Alex DeBaere scored Williams' third goal of the afternoon, however Bowdoin goals from freshman Matthew Lison, senior Connor Quinn, and sophomore Brendan Conroy sent the game into overtime. Williams' senior Craig Kitto scored the game-winner to decide this contest. Williams' goaltender Sean Dougherty made forty-four saves in the game to lead his team to a victory.
"We had to be resilient in a game like this," commented Williams head coach Bill Kangas. "We went up early, and had to come back after giving up the lead. Bowdoin is a very good team, defending NESCAC champions. They've come out of the five seed a couple different times. We knew we had to play a full game, we thought sixty minutes, but obviously it ended up being more."
Williams came into the match today with a 14-8-2 overall record this season, with a NESCAC record of 10-7-1. Bowdoin sported a similar overall record of 14-7-3, with a 8-7-3 conference record.
While the teams had similar regular season records, the end of these two teams' seasons went quite differently; Williams winning just one of their last five games, Bowdoin winning five of their last seven.
The first time these two teams faced each other was back in November, when the result was a 3-3 tie in Brunswick. The two teams next faced one another here in Williamstown in late January, and the Ephs came away with decisive 5-2 victory. The last two times these teams have met in the postseason (2011 and 2013), Bowdoin has come away victorious.
Senior goaltender Sean Dougherty started in net for the Ephs this afternoon. In net for the Polar Bears was freshman Peter Cronin. While Cronin and Dougherty certainly differ in playing experience, both netminders had an overall save percentage of .911.
The Ephs got off to a quick start, getting on the board at just :33, giving Williams the early 1-0 lead. On the opening shift after the puck drop, Colby Cretella (fourth goal) was able to force one past Cronin on the backhand side. Cretella was assisted on the play by Alex DeBaere (fourth assist).
The Ephs were given the first power play opportunity of the game at 17:03, when Matthew Lison was called for tripping. Coming into this power play, Williams was 25.5% on the man advantage. Bowdoin, with a 84.7% penalty kill, had the second ranked penalty kill statistic in the conference.
The period ended with a score of 1-0, the sole goal coming from Colby Cretella for the Ephs. After one, the shot count was in Williams' favor 16-10.
At :26 into the second period, Ephs' junior captain Zander Masucci was called to the penalty box for cross checking. Just thirty seconds later, at :56, Ephs' junior Greg Johnson was also called to the box for tripping, giving the Polar Bears ninety seconds on the 5-3. Bowdoin came into this man advantage having been 32.6% on the power play in the regular season. The Ephs' penalty kill was 78.3% in the regular season. Williams effectively killed these two penalties.
Williams made the game 2-0 at 5:56 into the period. Sophomore Frankie Mork (fifth assist) kept the puck in the zone for the Ephs, and gave freshman David Italiano (eleventh goal) the opportunity to fire one top shelf past Peter Cronin off of the rebound.
Bowdoin responded and made the game 2-1 at 15:57 into the second period. Freshman Spencer Antunez (sixth assist) attempted a backhanded shot off of the wrap around, allowing classmate Matthew Lison (ninth goal) to tap the puck in past Dougherty, as he was positioned well on the opposite side of the crease.
The second period ended with a score of 2-1, Williams still in the lead. The shot count in the second period was in Bowdoin's favor 19-11, with game totals of 31-27 for the Polar Bears.
At 11:40 into the third period, Alex DeBaere used his speed to get a breakaway opportunity. As DeBaere was tripped on the play, he was awarded a penalty shot. On the resulting penalty shot, DeBaere (sixth goal) faked his forehand and went backhand on Cronin, slipping the puck through the five hole. DeBaere's efforts extended his team's lead to two goals.
Just thirty-nine seconds later, Bowdoin's senior Connor Quinn (eleventh goal) brought the game back to within one. Quinn got one past Dougherty at 12:19 into the final period of play, bringing the game's score to 3-2. Quinn was assisted on the play by seniors Tim Coffey (third assist) and John McGinnis (fifteenth assist).
Bowdoin tied the game at 18:23, after sophomore Brendan Conroy (fifth goal) fired a wrist shot through traffic from the right wing. Conroy was assisted on the play by sophomore Zach Kokosa. This goal made the game 3-3, sending the match into sudden death overtime.
In the third period, Bowdoin outshot the Ephs 12-7, and after three periods of play, the shot count was in Bowdoin's advantage, 43-34.
"They just kept coming, they threw everything at us. We expected Bowdoin to be really aggressive offensively, and they were. We would expect nothing less, they brought everything they had, and we had to respond," said Kangas. "I'm really happy for the guys, we get to play next weekend in the NESCAC final fours so it should be a lot of fun."
At 9:26 into the third period, Williams senior Craig Kitto (twelfth goal) scored his third game winning goal of the year, bringing this game to have a final score of 4-3. Kitto was on a 1-1, defeated his defender and fired one over Cronin's right shoulder. Ephs' sophomore Sam Gray (seventh assist) earned an assist on the game-winner.
"I'm real proud of the fact that they scored two goals on us late, and that we were able to come back, to find a way. I thought Sean [Dougherty] played really well, too," noted Kangas. "He made some big saves for us, especially in over time. There were two to three point blank chances that he stopped-that boosts your confidence on the bench, too, when Sean is playing like that."
The shot count at the end of the match was 47-39 for Bowdoin.
With this overtime goal, Williams effectively eliminated Bowdoin from the NESCAC Championships, and advance to the semifinals next weekend, playing the winner of the Hamilton vs. Connecticut College match.