WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Looking to avenge last night's 3-2 loss, the Williams College women's hockey team (11-8-3) hosted Middlebury (17-2-4) Saturday evening at Lansing Chapman Rink. Hard-fought play and solid goaltending from both sides resulted in a 1-1 draw.
Williams struck first late in the opening frame, and would hold onto the lead until 2:34 to go in regulation, when the Middlebury offense eventually got on the board.
The score stayed knotted at 1-1 for the remainder of regulation and into the overtime period, as Eph goaltender Charlie Billadeau (Chaska, MN) and Panther netminder Annabelle Jones (Homer, NY) went back and forth making nice saves to keep their teams in the game and force the contest to a draw.
Unlike last night, both sides were plagued by a flurry of penalties to open the game. Each team saw man-up opportunities, including 50 seconds of 5-on-3 play for the Ephs. Despite generating a handful of scoring chances, neither the Ephs nor the Panthers could find the net.
After nearly 19 minutes of scoreless play, Williams drew first blood with just 1:10 remaining in the frame. Senior co-captain Cristina Bravi (Montreal, QC) came off the bench on a line change and kept the puck in. She skated between two defenders and made a nice forehand backhand deke to beat Jones for an unassisted goal. She leads the NESCAC in goal scoring with 18.
The Panthers outshot the Ephs by a slight margin, posting eight shots to Williams' seven after 20 minutes of play, but it was the Ephs with the 1-0 advantage headed into the intermission.
After several minutes of competitive back-and-forth play in the second, Middlebury saw their best chance to equalize during a powerplay with eight minutes in to go in the frame. The Panther offense peppered Billadeau with shots, including a slap shot from Jennifer Krakower (Montreal, QC) that ricocheted off the crossbar. Billadeau stayed strong between the pipes, and the Ephs escaped the tirade to hold onto their 1-0 lead.
The Ephs would keep their lead as the scoreless middle stanza came to a close. Williams got off four shots, while Middlebury tested Billadeau six times.
Headed into the final frame, the Panthers needed to find an offensive stride to stay in the game. The relentless Eph defense gave them few looks, and Billadeau continued to remain unwavering in net.
Middlebury refused to go quietly in the game's final minutes, however. With under three minutes to go, the Panthers turned up their offensive intensity and notched a game-tying goal at 17:26. Set up by the tandem of Katie Mandigo (Cornwall, VT) and Madeline Joyce (Boxborough, MA), freshman forward Pam Schulman (Greenwich, CT) took a shot from the right side that made it's way past Billadeau to even things up.
The Panthers nearly stole the game with just seconds remaining off a shot that hit the crossbar, but the buzzer would sound to send the game into extra minutes.
In a thrilling five minutes of play, both sides saw chances to capture the victory, but Billadeau and Jones denied all attempts, finalizing the score at 1-1.
Jones finished the night with 22 stops, while Billadeau turned away 24 bids.
Head coach Meghan Gillis was pleased with her team's effort against such a strong opponent, commenting, "I thought that we came out and played really well in the first. Midd took it to us for the latter half of the second and for the third period, and eventually they were able to tie the game, but we had some really good chances to win it in overtime. Anytime you tie the number two team in the country, you're happy, so good overall team effort tonight."
Tonight's tie was crucial for Williams headed into post season, in that it clinched a home seed for the Ephs. They will host Connecticut College next weekend for their last two regular season games.
"Conn is going to definitely be a challenging opponent, so we're just looking to get rested and ready to compete for the full 60 or 65 minutes," stated Gillis.