WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- The Williams Ephs (18-4-2, 14-2-2 NESCAC) tied the Hamilton Continentals (13-7-4, 8-6-4 NESCAC) 2-2 this afternoon at the Lansing Chapman Rink. After garnering a 2-1 lead, the Ephs let one through in the third period to finish their regular season with a tie.
The last time these two teams played against one another was December 12th, in Hamilton, a game where the Ephs came away with a 1-0 loss. This was one of their two conference losses this season (the other one against Bowdoin, also a 1-0 defeat).
Yesterday, the Ephs secured their place as the first seed in the conference headed into the playoffs after a 2-0 win over Amherst College. Hamilton played at Middlebury yesterday, coming away with a 1-1 tie. Coming into this match, Hamilton was seeded fourth in the conference.
Williams head coach Bill Kangas spoke to yet another tight conference match-up game: "It just goes to show how good everybody is, and that is the way it has been. There are just so many overtime games, one goal games, tie games; clearly we get a lot from a game like this. Heading into playoffs, we have to be prepared for anything."
Starting in net for Hamilton this afternoon was sophomore Evan Buitenhuis. This was Buitenhuis' 22nd game played of the season, coming into this match up with a .944 save percentage. In net for the Ephs was freshman standout Michael Pinios. Hailing from Montreal, Quebec, Pinios comes into his 14th start of the season with a .943 save percentage and an impressive .857 win percentage.
The Continentals got on the board first in the match. At 10:24 of the first period, after multiple shifts of extensive offensive zone pressure, Hamilton's squad was able to regain control of the puck off of a rebound, and created a two on one advantage in front of the crease. As a result, junior Robbie Murden was able to sweep one past Pinios on the play. Murden, with his 16th of the season, was assisted on the play by sophomores Brandon Willett (12th assist) and Neil Conway (16th assist). This brought the game to 1-0.
The Ephs responded just minutes later to bring the game to 1-1. At 14:58 of the second period, junior Frankie Mork (seventh assist) came flying down along the left boards, beating two Continental defenders on the way, and went for the wrap around on Buitenhuis. The goal was ultimately awarded to Mork's classmate Sam Gray (third goal). Freshman Roberto Cellini (tenth assist) also earned an assist on the play.
After the first period, the Continentals led in shots 13-6.
"I thought Hamilton played well in the first period, set us back a bit. We give them credit, they played well in the first," noted Kangas. "I thought we played well in the second, got it back a bit. But I think we realized we have a lot to work on going into next week. Playoffs start now, so our guys will take a lot from this weekend, this game in particular, and try to figure out how this will help us going into next week."
At 1:32 of the second period, Hamilton senior captain Kenny Matheson was called to the box on account of hooking, giving the Ephs the first power play opportunity of the match. Coming into this man advantage, Williams had been 20.3% with the extra man this season. At 2:16, after controlled puck movement around the perimeter, senior captain Zander Masucci, positioned at the left point, found an open lane and fired a wrist shot past Buitenhuis, bringing the game to 2-1 for the Ephs. This was Masucci's seventh goal of the season, and he was assisted on the play by juniors George Hunkele (ninth assist) and Sam Gray (sixth assist).
After two periods, shot count was 17-16 for Hamilton, with the second period totals alone in the Ephs' favor 10-4.
At 10:19 of the third period, Hamilton's constant pressure paid off to tie the game at two. Junior Seamus O'Neill received a pass from low down in the zone, and was able to beat Pinios through the five hole off of a shot taken in the slot. This was O'Neill's first goal of the season, and he was assisted on the play by freshman Richard Court (third assist) and sophomore T.J. Daigler (third assist).
Regulation ended with a 2-2 score. Shots after 60 minutes of play were just in the Ephs' favor, 29-28. The five minute overtime period proved fruitless for both teams, the final score resting at 2-2.
"All parts of our game, we need to improve on everything," claimed Kangas. "The guys know that, too. I'm sure we will be pretty motivated. I think games like this, our guys realize that truly every play matters. It just goes to show how good our league is, so I think our guys will be ready to have a great week, to regroup and be ready."
Heading into next weekend, Williams will host Tufts College at the Lansing Chapman Rink in the first round of the NESCAC playoffs. Hamilton will host Middlebury in the first round.