WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- The #1 seed Williams College Ephs fell to the #5 Wesleyan University Cardinals by a score of 3-2 this afternoon in the 2020 NESCAC Men's Hockey Tournament Semifinal at Lansing Chapman Rink.
The Ephs withstood a fast-paced, high-pressure start by the Cardinals in the first few minutes of the game backed by strong play from Cosimo Lazzarino '22, and then took control for most of the rest of the period after several prolonged offensive zone shifts and big hits by Wyatt Glover '20 and Will Somers '20.
Despite the Ephs controlling the momentum throughout most of the period, the Cardinals scored the first goal of the game with 2:17 remaining. Tyler Kobryn scored off a rebound from a shot by Cam Peritz. The Ephs importantly killed off an important penalty at the end of the period to keep the Cardinals' lead at one. Shots for the first period ended 14-6 in favor of the Ephs.
The second was a back-and-forth affair with both teams getting quality chances and both goalies battling hard to keep the puck out of the net. In the middle of the period, the game went without a whistle for nearly five minutes. While both teams got chances, the Cardinals once again were the lone team to score in the frame when Kobryn scored his second of the game from the slot after a misfired one-timer by Liam Donelan. The second assist on the goal with 2:46 left went to Drew Pitcher. For the period, the Ephs outshot the Cardinals by a 13-7 margin.
Head Coach Bill Kangas was happy with how his team adapted after they went down 2-0 late in the second period. "I just said that there were a couple of little things that we could do better. I thought as the game went on we started playing our game, we started spreading the zone offensively, and we really were hard on pucks. When we got to the end of the second, we wanted to play for the next shift, play for the next goal. The guys stayed with it."
In the third period, the Ephs cut the gap to one when Bobby Beniers '21 shot the puck from the top of the left circle with 4:53 left. Beniers got the puck after Myles Cunningham '21 entered the zone on the right side and skated his way through two Wesleyan defensemen and around the net. Cunningham passed Beniers the puck and he shot it immediately through a field of players to give the Ephs some hope with a few minutes remaining.
The Cardinals looked like they would hold on for the win, but with just 31 seconds to play, the Ephs capitalized on the momentum they built throughout the game to level the score at two. On the goal, Jack McCool '20 fired the puck from the right point through a sea of bodies, with the puck eventually falling to Niko Karamanis '22. Karamanis tipped the puck to Mac Carso '23, who got his stick to it and backhanded the puck into the vacated net, the Cardinals' goalie scrambling on the play. Carso was somehow able to find the puck through a crowd of Cardinals and Ephs to give Williams another shot at playing in the final. Following the crucial goal, the Ephs celebrated in front of the crowd that grew bigger and louder as the Ephs pushed for the tying goal. Shots for the period ended 10-4 in favor of Williams. Regulation shot totals finished at 37-17 in the Ephs' favor.
The Ephs' season ended in heartbreaking fashion as the Cardinals won the game 4:40 into the overtime session. Walker Harris got the assist on Jake Lachance's game-winning goal.
Despite the tough loss, Kangas was incredibly proud with the way his team played today. "The guys were very resilient. I told them how proud I was of them. The guys really feed off each other, and I'm real proud of them. It's hard to look at those [positive] moments [from earlier in the year] when you end up on the short end like this.
With today being the senior class's last game in an Ephs' jersey, Kangas was very proud of the valuable contributions they made throughout their careers. "These seniors will leave a great legacy. Your captains do a lot, but your teams go when your seniors go, when your seniors come ready to play, when the seniors are committed to the team and the team concept. It has to be an everyday thing, it can't just be a moment. [The seniors] took the reins, they're very supportive and encouraging. I don't think those guys know what a down day is. I think it's hard for the [younger] players to see it end – they do play for the seniors. I told them to keep their heads held high."
Williams' Lazzarino had 16 saves in net today, while Tim Sestak had 40 saves in net for the Cardinals. On the power play, the Ephs went 0-1 for the day, also going 2-2 on the penalty kill.
The Ephs finish the season with an overall record of 17-8-1.