Brunswick, ME–In their season opener, the Williams men's hockey team (1-0-0, 1-0-0 NESCAC) dominated the Bowdoin Polar Bears(0-1-0, 0-1-0 NESCAC) 4-1. Senior Marcus Mollica scored a hat trick in the first game of the season.
"This was a great team win for us," head coach Bill Kangas said. "You never know what to expect going into the first game of the season but we really came together as a cohesive team tonight."
Historically a young team, the Ephs starting line consisted of five seniors and one junior. Junior Max Fuld was the lone starting junior among senior defensemen Keanu Hilaire and Connor Meike, netminder Michael Pinios, and forwards Marcus Mollica and Roberto Cellini. In the opening game last season, the Ephs faced Bowdoin. The Ephs pulled out the 4-3 win with help from Mollica's goal and assist.
The Eph dominance over the Polar Bears carried over from the previous season into the first period of tonight's game. In the first half of the period, the Ephs went one up on Bowdoin with a full strength goal coming at 8:38. Junior Max Fuld practiced some masterful puck handling around Bowdoin goaltender, sophomore Kyle St. Denis. Fuld maintained patience and held off on taking a shot on St. Denis and, instead, chose to pass to teammate Mollica who was able to finish the shot.
After the Ephs showed their presence on the board, they maintained pressure and kept the puck largely in Bowdoin's zone. A Bowdoin penalty at 15:12, called on sophomore Collin Van der Veen, gave the Ephs a solid opportunity to extend their lead. The Polar Bears finished last season with a 74% penalty kill rate, last in the NESCAC conference. The Ephs converted on 19.4% of their power plays last season, second in the conference, so the odds were in the Ephs' favor. Unfortunately, the Polar Bears were able to hold off Van der Veen's penalty.
The Polar Bears got a man advantage of their own when junior Eph Peter Christie was called for boarding 18:43.The tables were turned when the Ephs beat the odds and scored a short-handed goal with just four seconds left in the period. Mollica picked up his second goal of the game with a trick shot through the legs of St. Denis.
The play went back and forth through the second period. Bowdoin tried to score the equalizer goals and started to gain momentum as the period moved forward. The strong defense lineup of the Eph team, however, was too strong for even the best Bowdoin line.
The third period saw a little more action in front of the net by both teams. Bowdoin started off the scoring for the goal, which brought it to a one goal game. Just four minutes into the third, sophomore Jack Bliss nestled the puck past Pinios off of a pass from junior teammate Sam Topham.
The one goal deficit was short-lived when the Ephs match the Bowdoin third period goal with one of their own. Coming at 5:57, Mollica completed his hat trick. Cellini pulled the Polar Bear goaltender, St. Denis off of his post, which left Mollica a wide-open net and an easy shot to bring the game back to a two goal difference.
With less than a period left to play and a two goal lead, one would think the Ephs were in a comfortable position. Regardless, the team kept pushing. They extended their lead to three goals late in the third period at 15:15. This time, Mollica and Fuld assisted Cellini and, thus, the starting line-up of the game scored all four goals.
"We were working on playing with pace and being the first to touch on every loose puck in practice," Kangas said. "I thought we did both of these things very well and we were able to capitalize on the opportunities we created. Tomorrow is a new day but we will try to bring tonight's energy to the game against Colby."
The Ephs will try to extend their win streak with another conference game against Colby, at Colby. The game will commence at 3pm.