Ephs Drop Highly Contested Season Opener, 4-3

Ephs Drop Highly Contested Season Opener, 4-3

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Williams College Ephs squared off against Little 3 rival, Wesleyan, tonight in front of a packed crowd at Lansing Chapman Rink. Despite outshooting the Cardinals 36 to 22, the Ephs fell in a hard fought opener, 4-3. Clawing back from a 2-0 deficit, the Ephs couldn't hold off the Cardinals, who sealed the deal with two back-to-back goals coming in the final two minutes of regulation.

The opening minutes of the first frame consisted of back-and-forth play, with both sides getting off a few shots, but no major opportunities. A little over six minutes in, the Ephs found themselves in a man-up situation, but a pass around the perimeter that went awry shifted the offensive momentum. Wesleyan forward Cara Jankowski (Elkins, NH) was left point blank in the slot and sent the puck over the shoulder of Charlie Billadeau (Chaska, MN) to give the Cardinals a 1-0 advantage. The short-handed unassisted goal came with 13:51 remaining in the frame.

Williams saw their best chance to equalize with a two-man advantage shortly after the first Wesleyan strike. While the Eph offense peppered Wesleyan goaltender, Laura Corcoran (Oakville, Ontario), with shots, she turned away everything that came her way and fought off the 5-on-3 situation.

An Eph penalty would kill their powerplay chance and give Wesleyan a man-up opportunity of their own. Williams' penalty kill unit held off the attack and quickly regained the offensive momentum. They would post 13 shots to the Cardinals 7. None of their 13 shots would find the back of the net however, leaving the contest at 1-0 headed into the first intermission.

Looking to even up the game at 1, the Ephs saw one of their best chances a little over three minutes into the frame. Williams earned a 3-on-1 opportunity and tested Corcoran with a series of shots. The puck was lying in the crease when a pre-mature whistle called the play dead.

Williams continued to keep the pressure on, seeing another great opportunity with 12:30 remaining.  With a nice toe drag, Cristina Bravi (Montreal, QC) cut into the center for a break away to get a great shot off, but was denied by Corcoran.

The stop on the break away transitioned into a goal for Wesleyan, killing the momentum for the Ephs. On a 2-on-1, Jessica Brennan (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) sent a pass through the slot to teammate Jordan Schildhaus (Woodbury, NY) who slid it past the short-side blocker of Billadeau. Schidhaus's tally came 7:45 into the period, extending the Cardinals lead to 2-0.

The Ephs would not be deterred by the second Cardinal goal however, and answered just over a minute later. The first Williams goal of the season came 8:50 into the frame from Bravi, who banked it off Corcoran to bring the contest within one. Caitlin Conlon (Sudbury, MA) picked up an assist on the goal. 

In an exciting few closing minutes of the frame, the Ephs saw several offensive chances from a powerplay opportunity. Corcoran and the Cardinals somehow managed to hold off the flurry of attacks to keep their lead.  The Ephs would skate into the locker room with a shot advantage of 24-14 after the first two frames, posting 11 to Wesleyan's 7 in the second.

The Eph shot advantage eventually paid dividends with 8:25 to go in the game. On a powerplay opportunity, Gwen Schultz (Wallingford, CT) took a wrist shot from the top of the point that made its way through traffic and was tapped in by freshman Chelsey Stevenson (Tilbury, Ontario). Stevenson's first career goal knotted up the contest at 2 apiece.

With three minutes to go, an Eph penalty gave the Cardinals a chance to regain their lead. In a critical two minutes of the game, Wesleyan capitalized. With 1:38 remaining, Abigail Rutt took a shot from the left point, which was tipped in the high slot by Jessica Brennan past a screened Billadeau. Jankowski was also credited an assist on the play. 

In an attempt to tie up the game, Billadeau skated out of the net with 1:10 to go. Wesleyan would extend their lead by two however, thanks to a tally from Glenn Hartman-Mattson. The empty net goal came with 37 seconds left in the final frame. 

Despite the two-goal deficit, the Ephs continued to battle and tacked on a third goal with one second remaining. Schultz was set up by the pair of Stevenson and Emily Krueger (Manasquan, NJ). It would be too little too late however, and Wesleyan took the win, 4-3.

Head coach Meghan Gillis was pleased with her team's first performance of the year, reflecting, "We worked hard and some first years had to step in the regular shift and they did a great job of that. We were just focused on getting to know each other as a team and playing together, and obviously generating a lot of shots, so we did a good job of that, we just weren't able to capitalize on our chances."

The Ephs will have a chance to rebound tomorrow afternoon and earn a split for the in-conference series. They will square off against the Cardinals once again at Lansing Chapman Rink at 3:00pm.

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