Williamstown, MA- After scoring two goals in under a minute to beat Trinity on Friday night, the Williams College men's hockey team (11-6-3, 8-2-3 NESCAC) found themselves on the other side of that storyline in their 3-2 loss to Wesleyan University (11-5-4, 6-4-4 NESCAC) on Saturday. Wesleyan sophomore Chris White scored the game-winning goal with 5:16 left in the third quarter to improve his team's chances of getting a first round home game in the NESCAC tournament.
Williams outshot Wesleyan 9-0 during the first nine minutes of the game, their aggressive forecheck allowing them to sustain attacking zone time. The Ephs forced the Cardinals into several mistakes in their defensive zone. On one such occasion, the forecheck produced a turnover and shot from sophomore Roberto Cellini right in front of George Blinick's net. Blinick was able to fight that attempt off, but he was not able to keep Williams out of the net forever. Just about nine minutes into the game, Williams junior David Italiano threw the puck towards the net from the left point. Blinick stopped the initial shot but coughed up the rebound right to Tyler Young, who buried his chance and opened up a 1-0 lead for the Ephs.
The goal woke up the Wesleyan attack, and forced Williams goaltender Michael Pinios to wake up as well after not taking a shot on net for the first 11:18 of the period. A combination play from Wesleyan's Spencer Fox and Luke Babcock led to Babcock getting in alone on Pinios, forcing a sharp save from the sophomore. Wesleyan continued to apply greater pressure until sophomore Chad Malinowski found the equalizer with his team leading 8th goal of the year at the 17:21 mark
One of the biggest questions heading into the game was could Wesleyan's power play (ranked 3rd in the NESCAC) take advantage of the Williams penalty kill, which sits at the very bottom of that NESCAC statistical category. The Williams penalty kill had its first test early in the second period when Joe Welch went to the box for tripping.
Pinios and the post helped effectively kill the penalty and keep the score tied at 1-1. Williams (ranked 2nd in power play) had a chance to combat the best penalty kill unit in the NESCAC when Chad Malinowski cross-checked a Williams player at the 12:37 mark in the period, but that chance was nullified when C.J. Shugart committed an infraction 15 seconds later. Both teams failed to score in the 4-on-4 and in the period overall, though Williams continued to dominate in shots, entering the third period with a 23-9 edge.
Williams came out of the second intermission with intensity and were immediately rewarded after extended attacking zone time led to a slap shot by first year Max Fuld, who went five-hole on Blinick to break the tie just 55 seconds into the period. Fuld almost made a critical mistake seven minutes later when he committed a turnover behind his own net. The puck was picked up by a Wesleyan skater, flung in front, and deflected off a Williams stick before it wound up under Pinios, prompting shouts from the Wesleyan bench but no signal from the referee.
Wesleyan had another clean look at a game tying attempt when James Kline unloaded on a slap shot that barely caught the stick of Pinios, flying harmlessly over the net. The Cardinals continued to ramp up the pressure against an increasingly sloppy defensive effort on the part of Williams, culminating in the game tying goal from Theo Tydingco at 14:20 in the third. All of a sudden it was Williams trailing just 24 seconds later when Wesleyan sophomore Chris White beat Pinios low on the glove side, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead with 5:16 to play in the game.
Eph head coach Bill Kangas pulled Pinios with a minute to play in the game, sending an extra skater onto the ice for the Ephs. Seconds later, the Ephs found themselves with a 6-on-4 opportunity when Malinowski went to the penalty box for the second time. Williams could not convert, ending the weekend 1-1 after the loss.
Williams will play a home and away series with Middlebury next weekend while Wesleyan will play two home games against Bowdoin and Colby.