WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – A remarkable regular season has rewarded Bill Kangas' Williams College men's ice hockey team (18-4-2/14-2-2 NESCAC) with its first regular season first place finish in NESCAC and the top seed in the NESCAC Tournament.
Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Williams will faceoff against eighth seeded Tufts (9-9-6/5-8-5 NESCAC).
The Ephs clinched first place in NESCAC with a 2-0 win over archrival Amherst last Saturday in Lansing Chapman Rink.
Williams is unbeaten in 14 of their last 15 games (13-1-1) dating back to January 2 and in that skein the Ephs tied their NCAA Division III school record for in-season consecutive wins with eight.
The lone Eph loss in the last 15 contests was a 1-0 defeat on the road at Bowdoin on January 22.
Tufts enters having gone 3-2-2 in their last seven games. In their last two regular season games, both at home, Tufts tied Bowdoin 4-4 and then lost 4-1 to Colby.
Williams defeated Amherst 2-0 and tied Hamilton 2-2 in its final two games both at home.
In the two regular season contests between the Ephs and the Jumbos this season Williams came out on top in both. At Tufts on December 4 Williams prevailed 2-0 and in the Ephs' Lansing Chapman Rink Williams won 4-0 on January 29. Eph senior goalie Noah Klag authored both shutouts.
A year ago Tufts notched a big upset in the NESCAC First Round by downing top seeded Trinity 3-2 in Hartford. That was the Jumbos' first NESCAC Tournament win. The Jumbos then gave Amherst all they could handle in the semifinals before falling, 3-2.
This will be the second time in NESCAC Tournament play the Ephs and Jumbos have met. Williams needed overtime back in 2012 to get past Tufts, 4-3, in a NESCAC First Round game.
In conference play Williams is averaging 2.72 goals a game (3rd), while the Jumbos are scoring at a rate of 2.39 (6th). Williams leads NESCAC in scoring defense allowing just 1.5 goals a game. Tufts is ranked tied for sixth with Bowdoin at 2.33.
Power play opportunities could be a key in the game with Tufts leading NESCAC with an average of 15.2 minutes in penalties per contest. Williams ranks 10th in penalty minutes averaging just 6.6 per game.
The Ephs own the conference's most successful power play scoring on 19.2% of their man advantage chances. Tufts is tied for second with Trinity in power play success at 18.5%.
Williams also leads NESCAC in penalty killing, having registered a success rate of 88.7%. The Jumbos are fifth in NESCAC at 84.4%.
In NESCAC play Roberto Cellini and David Italiano lead the Ephs in points. Both have 13 points. Cellini has five goals and Italiano has four. The Jumbos are led in scoring by Stewart Bell who has recorded nine points on three goals and six assists.
The Eph defense is bolstered by having the two top goalies in NESCAC in goals against in Noah Klag and Michael Pinios. Klag in 365:00 has allowed seven goals and has a goals against average of 1.15. Pinios in 724:16 has allowed 20 goals and has posted a goals against average of 1.66.
Tufts' goalie Mason Pulde in 670:11 is ranked ninth in goals against average at 2.15.
Klag is the conference leader in save percentage at .961 and Tufts' Pulde is second at .946. Eph first year Michael Pinios is sixth at .938.
If the Ephs defeat Tufts they will host the NESCAC semifinals and finals the following weekend. If Tufts defeats Williams the Jumbos will advance to the semifinals and finals to be hosted by the highest remaining seed.