GENESEO, NY -- The Williams Ephs (19-6-2, 14-2-2 NESCAC) fell to the SUNY Geneseo Knights (21-4-6, 9-2-5 SUNYAC) 2-1 tonight at the Ira S. Wilson Arena. Geneseo got out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, and sophomore Colby Cretella scored the lone Williams goal in the third. Geneseo advances to the final four next weekend in Lake Placid, N.Y., where they will compete in the national semifinals for the second time in three years and they will be riding a five-game win streak.
Williams, a part of the NESCAC, earned an at large bid after finishing with the best regular season record in their conference (14-2-2), making program history in making this NCAA Tournament for the first time. Last weekend, Williams defeated Salem State 7-1 at home, with goals coming from six different teammates. Williams is coached by Bill Kangas (his 27th season as head coach), who took home the NESCAC Coach of the Year accolade.
SUNY Geneseo received an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament after winning their conference tournament (SUNYAC). This year marks the Knights' fifth NCAA Tournament appearance, bringing with them an overall tournament record of 3-3-2. The Knights finished 9-2-5 for their conference play. SUNY Geneseo came into this game riding a four-game win streak, including their first round 7-1 victory against Salve Regina. SUNY Geneseo head coach Chris Schultz is in his 10th season as head coach at Geneseo and he was named the SUNYAC Coach of the Year.
These two teams met on November 28th, the Ephs third game of the season. SUNY Geneseo came away with a 3-0 shutout in Williamstown.
In the past 14 games, Williams went 11-2-1, while SUNY Geneseo compiled a 9-1-4 record. D3hockey has SUNY Geneseo ranked seventh and Williams just behind them at eighth.
In net for the Ephs was freshman Michael Pinios. Pinios came into this match with a .940 save percentage. In the opposite crease was freshman Devin McDonald, who came into this match with a .923 save percentage.
The Knights got on the board first in the contest. At 10:11 in the first period, freshman Brodie Tutton (sixth assist) got caught up in the near side corner, and threw the puck to junior RJ Burns (fifth assist) who was behind the net. Burns made a centering pass to freshman Arthur Gordon, who fired a one-timer over the glove of Pinios. This was Gordon's 10th goal of the season and gave the Knights the early 1-0 lead.
The Knights extended their lead to two before the end of the first 20 minutes of play. At 17:57, Gordon (11th goal), getting past his defender, moved through the zone from far to near side, which made Pinios vulnerable in the five-hole, where Gordon was ultimately able to slide one through, to record his second goal of the game. The second Gordon tally was also assisted by Tutton (seventh assist).
Shots after the first period were 9-8 in favor of Geneseo.
"Geneseo in their last four games out scored their opponents 24-4 so being down two at the end of the first period was not where we wanted to be," said Eph head coach Bill Kangas. "We've been down two goals before in a game this season against good team so the guys were able to maintain their confidence and keep battling."
Williams got the first power play of the game. Gordon went to the box on account of tripping at 9:55 of the second period. Coming into this power play, the Ephs had been successful 20.5% of the time while on the man advantage. Geneseo was able to kill the power play.
At 17:52, Williams was called for a team penalty of too many men on the ice. The Knights came into this opportunity having a 25% conversion rate on the man advantage, but this power play was fruitless for the Knights.
The score remained 2-0 after the second period of play. The shot totals heading into the third period were 20-17 in favor of the Knights.
Early in the third period, Eph junior Alex Hagerty had a near breakaway, and drew a penalty on the play at 2:17. This power play was killed. Then at 4:34, Williams' junior Sam Gray was called to the box for charging, while Geneseo's junior Cam Hampson was also called to the box for hitting after the whistle. Four on four play ensued.
Geneseo was called to the box again at 8:32, after junior Jack Ceglarski was called for slashing on a faceoff.
Williams got on the board right after the Ceglarski penalty expired, at 10:46 of the third period. Sophomore Colby Cretella was in the slot and received a pass from junior Luke Stickel (fourth assist) from the lower left boards. Cretella (ninth goal) went top shelf past McDonald, and cut the Knights' lead in half. Freshman Michael Lata (fourth assist) was also awarded an assist on the play.
"It took us a while to get on the scoreboard, but I thought we played well throughout and got better as the game went on," added Kangas. " We created a lot of good chances, but Geneseo is a really good team and they were able to keep us to one goal. We just ran out of time."
The game ended with the final score remaining at 2-1, the Knights defeating the Ephs for the second time this season, despite a valiant effort from Williams. Williams outshot the Knights 15-6 in the third period, with overall shot count also in Williams' favor 32-26.
This game marks the end of Williams' season. The Ephs made program history this season in making their first NCAA Tournament appearance and setting a single season record for most wins (19) in NCAA Division III play. Williams ends their season with an overall record of 19-6-2. Seniors Noah Klag, Matt Werner, Greg Johnson, and captain Zander Masucci played in their last game as Ephs tonight, their play and leadership contributing heavily to the program's legacy.
"It's hard right now to put this season into perspective and how much we grew and developed as a team from November to now, but I can tell you I'm just really proud of this team and how hard they worked," stated Kangas. "It was a special season."
"It was not the result we were looking for but the team worked really hard tonight and I am very proud of the season," noted Eph senior captain Zander Masucci. "Hats off to Geneseo for a great game and good luck in the Frozen Four."
Asked after the game for his comments Eph first year goalie Michael Pinios said, "I'm so proud of this team and what we did this year. Despite the loss we played our hearts out. This season was magical. I have never been a part of such a close group of guys and I can say that I made the best decision of my life coming to Williams."
"The community really rallied around our team this year and it pushed us to play at our best," added Pinios. "This is only the beginning of my journey and I am so excited to be a part of this program. There are so many positives to look back on. We leave Geneseo with our heads held high. I love this team. I love this school."