WATERVILLE, ME – In an exciting, back-and-forth affair, the Williams Ephs (2-0, 2-0 NESCAC) overcame a two-goal deficit to top the Colby Mules (0-2, 0-2 NESCAC), 4-3.
Senior forward Marcus Mollica, coming off a hat trick in the season-opening victory over Bowdoin, scored his fifth goal of the young season – his second power-play goal of the game – on a laser of a slap shot right down the middle, giving the Ephs a 4-3 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"You win in different ways," remarked Eph head coach Bill Kangas after the comeback win. Yesterday, we had the lead and held the lead, even though Bowdoin came back. But today is different – you know you're behind, and it's a good testament to the team's character, especially early in the year."
The Ephs scored first for the second straight game. After an elbowing penalty against Colby, Mollica scored his first power-play goal on a rebound off of Colby goalie Andrew Tucci's left pad to put Williams up 1-0.
Colby gained momentum, however, when defenseman Michael Thomas buried a slap shot in the back-left corner of the net to tie the game at 1.
In the second period, Williams quickly started off with a power play, but the Mules able to outrace the Ephs down the ice after a turnover and scored a shorthanded goal less than two minutes into the period, taking their first lead of the game. The Mules built on their lead 9:54 into the period when forward Logan Clarke scored on a one-timer off his own rebound to make it 3-1.
It's a common saying in ice hockey that the hardest lead to defend is the two-goal lead. Undeterred by their two-goal deficit, the Ephs stormed right back.
About five minutes after Colby's third goal, sophomore defenseman Jack McCool stole the puck at center ice, quickly skated ahead and launched a shot right through the five-hole to bring the Ephs within one at the second intermission.
For the second consecutive game, the Ephs scored two goals in the third period. Less than a minute into the period, the Ephs set the tone. Senior forward Roberto Cellini deftly avoided a Colby defender near the boards, skated to his left and placed the puck perfectly in the back-left corner of the net to tie the game at 3-3.
Mollica's power-play goal with nine minutes to go proved to make the difference in the gritty 4-3 win for the Ephs.
Colby took the game's last six shots, but the first three were saved by senior goalkeeper Michael Pinios, the fourth sailed wide of the net, and the last two were blocked by McCool, sealing the nail-biting, hard-fought victory for the Ephs.
The Ephs outshot the Mules 29-23, including a 13-7 margin in the second period. Williams was also the more disciplined team, as they incurred only one penalty compared to Colby's six. The Ephs took advantage, as despite allowing a shorthanded goal, they scored on two of six power plays (33.3%).
Mollica, who has had a terrific start to the season, scored two goals, including the game-winner, and registered an impressive +/- rating of 4. Cellini led the Ephs with two points – one goal and one assist. Pinios saved 20 of 23 shot attempts (87.0%) and didn't allow a goal in the decisive third period.
"I think that Fuld, Cellini and Mollica line has really been clicking," said Kangas following the game. It's clear from the results of the first two games that Kangas' faith in his senior-led first line has paid off.
Next Saturday at 7:00PM, the Ephs will look to continue their strong start on the road against Babson. The game will be Williams' first out-of-league contest of the year.