AMHERST, MA -- The Williams College Ephs (16-9-2) got shutout by Amherst College (21-4-2) 1-0 today in the NESCAC Championship game at the Orr Rink in Amherst. The Ephs were unable to get one past the Amherst defense, while senior netminder Sean Dougherty stopped twenty-five shots. Amherst's senior Andrew Fenwick scored the lone goal of the game part way through the third period, and goaltender senior Danny Vitale made twenty-three saves to lead his team to a conference title.
Williams' overall record was 16-8-2 coming into today's contest, while Amherst's overall record this season was 20-4-2. The Ephs came out of the conference ranked fourth after regular season play, while the Jeffs came out of the regular season ranked second in the NESCAC.
The Ephs beat Bowdoin College in the quarterfinals 4-3 in overtime, and Connecticut College 4-2 Saturday at Amherst in the semifinals to send Williams into the NESCAC Championships for the third time in five years.
Amherst's path to the finals started with shutting Middlebury out 3-0 in the quarterfinals, followed by a 3-2 victory Saturday in the semifinals against Tufts.
While this is the first time these two teams have met in the conference finals, Amherst and Williams have met in the semifinals multiple times in recent history. The most recent having been last year, when Amherst defeated Williams 3-1. In 2012, these teams also faced one another in the semifinals, Amherst again edging out the Ephs 2-1.
Senior Sean Dougherty started in net for the Ephs. Coming into this match, Dougherty had amassed a .914 save percentage. In net for the Jeffs was Danny Vitale, who boasted a .942 save percentage coming into today's conference championship contest.
"It was two good teams, two good teams that played really good team defense," commented Williams head coach Bill Kangas. "We had chances, they were able to convert, to score one, we weren't. That's hockey. Their goalie played well, made some key saves from point blank shots a couple times. I thought Sean played really well, too."
At 14:02 into the first period, matching penalties were called. Jeffs' senior Aaron Deutsch and Ephs' freshman David Italiano were sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. 4-4 play ensued for two minutes, but neither team was able to capitalize on the open ice.
With just three seconds remaining in the first period, Amherst's freshman Thomas Lindstrom was called for a penalty on account of interference, sending the Ephs into the start of the second period with the man advantage. Up until this point, the Ephs had been 26% on the power play this season, while Amherst had been 85.6% on the penalty kill.
After the first period, there was no score, and shots on goal were in Amherst's favor 8-3.
The power play proved to be fruitless for the Ephs at the start of the second period.
At 9:01 into the second period of play, junior Kevin Ryder was called to the box for tripping Ephs' senior Alex DeBaere. DeBaere was consequently called for embellishment, evening play to 4-4 for two minutes.
There were no goals scored in the second period. Shots remained in Amherst's advantage 20-15 overall, and the second period totals were tied 12-12.
Amherst got the first goal of the game at 3:08 into the third period, after Andrew Fenwick got one past Dougherty from the left side. This was Fenwick's eighth goal of the year, and he was assisted by sophomore Austin Ho (sixth assist). This goal made the game 1-0 in favor of the Jeffs.
"Both teams had a couple opportunities, but there really weren't a lot of them. It was a pretty tight checking game, we thought it would be," noted Kangas. "When Kitto came down the middle on the 2-1 at the end of the game, I thought he got a good shot off, created a good opportunity; we had another quality chance in the second period as well, but that's the game."
The Ephs were given an opportunity to respond at 6:37 when junior Brendan Burke was called for charging. Williams was unable to convert on this power play opportunity, leaving them with over half the period to tie the game.
With three seconds left in regulation, Ephs' sophomore Tyler Young took a major penalty and game misconduct for roughing, as did Ephs' sophomore Frankie Mork, his game misconduct for boarding. The game ended with a final score of 1-0, the Amherst Jeffs claiming the 2015 NESCAC Championship title over Williams. The game shot count ended up being 26-23 in favor of the Jeffs.
Williams' season ends with an overall record of 16-9-2. Amherst's record moves to 21-4-2, and the Jeffs will get an automatic bid in the NCAA Championships competing for the Division III title.
"It's unfortunate that it ended the way it did, but these were two really good teams. It's hard when you end a season, when the season ends this way," admitted coach Kangas. "But I thought we played our best hockey in these last two weeks. That's what is hard too, I think the guys realized they played pretty well. So to see it end, that is tough."