WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- The Williams Ephs (1-0-0, 1-0-0 NESCAC) defeated the Bowdoin Polar Bears (0-1-0, 0-1-0 NESCAC) 4-3 in the season opener tonight at the Lansing Chapman Rink. All four goals from Williams came from different players, two of these goals scored by members of the freshman class.
This was the first game and win for Mike Monti under the title of interim head coach. "The first thing we did when we found out I was going to be interim head coach was speak with every guy," Monti said. "And I told them that we are going to be the most prepared team out there. That means starting in the summer, leading into pre-season, leading into our first game. Looking back and reflecting on that now, I think we were very well prepared and that made it very easy for guys to be ready to compete and be hungry for action tonight."
It was senior night here for the Ephs, the team honoring the five members of the senior class along with their parents. The five seniors being captain Colby Cretella, goaltender Stephen Morrissey, and forwards Joe Welch, David Italiano, and C.J. Shugart.
Williams and Bowdoin faced each other two times last season, Williams taking the victory in both cases.
Starting in net for the Ephs' home opener was senior Stephen Morrissey. The netminder for Bowdoin College was senior Peter Cronin.
Williams scored their first goal of the season just 5:07 into the first period. The Polar Bears attempted to clear the puck out of their zone, and possession was subsequently turned over to Williams in the neutral zone. A nice cross pass was set up for freshman Nick VanBelle, who scored the first goal of his Williams career. VanBelle was assisted on the play by freshman Bobby Beniers (first point of his Eph career) and junior Marcus Mollica, bringing the score to 1-0 early on.
At 18:16, the Polar Bears were given their first opportunity on the man advantage, after Eph freshman Myles Cunningham was sent to the box on account of cross-checking. Bowdoin was able to convert on this power play opportunity, as senior Daniel McMullan from the right wing sent a cross pass down low to classmate Matthew Lison, who was able to slide one past the crease before Morrissey had a chance to reposition himself. The equalizing goal came at 19:42, the game tied at 1-1 after the first period of play. Shots after the first 20 minutes were in the Ephs' favor 9-3.
At 2:35 of the second period, Eph freshman Daniel Woolfenden was sent to the box for hooking, giving the Polar Bears another power play opportunity. The Ephs took the lead at 2:53 of the second period, though. On a short-handed play, junior Roberto Cellini entered the offensive zone with speed and fired off a perfectly placed shot from the center of the zone, the puck going over Cronin's stick side shoulder. Cellini was assisted on the play by classmate Keanu Hilaire and sophomore Peter Christie. This brought the score to 2-1.
At 3:41 of the second period, Williams had a second man sent to the penalty box, Myles Cunningham, for cross-checking. This gave the Polar Bears a chance on the 5-3, which they capitalized on at 4:25, when Thomas Dunleavy had a crisp pass sent his way, and he was able to get one past Morrissey from the left crease. Dunleavy was assisted by sophomore Sam Topham and freshman Keenan Murray, to bring the game to 2-2. This was the Polar Bears' second power play goal of the night.
At 6:34, the Ephs recaptured the lead after Myles Cunningham was able to get one through the Polar Bear defensive unit, firing one off from the right point. This marked Cunningham's first goal of his Williams career. Sophomore Will Somers earned an assist on the play, the score now 3-2.
The Ephs were given another power play opportunity at 11:00 of the second period. At 11:59, the Ephs extended their lead to two goals, capitalizing on the man advantage. Junior Marcus Mollica, positioned at the left post, was fed a pass from senior Joe Welch who was in the left pocket. Mollica was able to slide the puck between Cronin's skate and the post, bringing the score to 4-2. Welch and Peter Christie were awarded assists on the play.
The teams went to the locker rooms after the second with a score of 4-2, the Ephs headed into the third period on the man advantage, as a penalty was called against Bowdoin's Sam Tophan late in the second period.
On the prominence of special teams play in the second period, Monti commented: "In this league, power plays are too good and goals are just too precious to give up. I thought our power play was excellent."
"One thing that we will work on will be trying to stay out of the box more," said Monti. "Obviously our penalty kill will be a focus moving forward. The guys that had to play on the penalty kill responded really well and did a nice job, this is just indicative of this time of the year. It's game one, it's a little bit of a learning curve for everybody, including myself."
At 16:09 of the third period, the Polar Bears cut their goal deficit in half, bringing the game to its final score of 4-3. Bowdoin freshman Bradley Ingersoll made a nifty play in front of the net after receiving a pass from up top via Daniel McMullan, getting one past Morrissey with a backhander.
Shot count at the end of the game was 23-20 for the Ephs, Williams winning their season home opener 4-3.
On looking towards tomorrow's matchup against Colby, Monti stated: "Colby plays a very different style than Bowdoin. They play a hard, heavy, structured style and they're going to want to come in here and dictate the physical play. So for us, we're going to have to match that, continue to use our pace and speed, and rely on our strengths."
The Polar Bears face off against Middlebury on the road tomorrow at 4:00 PM EST. The Ephs continue their season opening weekend at home tomorrow, taking on Colby at 3:00 PM EST.