Ephs hosting first NESCAC Semifinals and Finals March 8 & 9
Ephs looking to make first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003
WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Williams College women's hockey team (13-9-3) survived a late flurry from the Trinity Bantams (10-8-7) to hang on for a 3-2 win in Saturday afternoon's quarterfinal matchup.
Trinity struck first and carried a 1-0 lead into the third period, but the Ephs put together an explosive final 20 minutes that proved enough to lift them past the Bantams and earn a spot in the semifinals of the NESCAC tournament.
The Bantams put considerable offensive pressure on the Williams defense late in the third and pulled their goaltender in an effort to send the contest into extra minutes, but Eph netminder Charlie Billadeau (Chaska, MN) and the Eph back line stood their ground to prevent a game-tying goal.
On paper, the Ephs entered the contest as the favorite, having swept the Bantams at Trinity earlier in the season, shutting them out in the first game of the series 2-0 and collecting a 5-3 victory the next day. From the game's early stages however, it was clear that it would be a highly contested match-up.
The Ephs and the Bantams each saw man-up chances to start the first frame, and would string together a few offensive opportunities. Both penalties would be killed however, and the contest remained deadlocked at 0 for the opening 10 minutes of play.
Just under seven minutes left in the period, another Bantam penalty allowed the Ephs to keep the pressure on Kristen Maxwell (Nashville, TN), but they were unable to find the back of the net. After killing the power play, the Bantams stole the momentum and produced the first goal of the afternoon with 2:53 remaining in the period.
The Ephs battled to even things up in the final minutes of the period, peppering Maxwell with shots, but Trinity would hold onto their slight 1-0 advantage throughout the remainder of the frame. Despite outshooting the Bantams 11-7, the Ephs headed into the locker room down a goal.
The middle stanza saw much back-and-forth play, as both defenses refused to budge. Despite power play chances for the Bantams and Ephs, neither end could capitalize, as each back line held strong and did a good job of clearing pucks. The Eph power play struggled in particular, going zero for six with the man advantage through forty minutes.
The Ephs once again out shot Trinity, testing Maxwell 10 more times, while Billadeau turned away the five shots that came her way in the second period.
It would take over 40 minutes of play, but Williams would eventually reap the benefits of their offensive pressure and get on the scoreboard in the final stanza.
The Eph offense came alive at the beginning of the third frame, notching back-to-back goals to take their first lead of the afternoon. Sophomore forward Gwendolyn Schultz (Wallingford, CT) got things started for Williams when she corralled a rebound in front of the net and poked a shot past Maxwell. She was aided by the tandem of Gabby Vukasin (Princeton, NJ) and Chelsey Stevenson (Tilbury, Ontario), who were working the puck in the corner in the scrum. Vukasin went to the net, Stevenson shot it in front and Schultz was there to put it in at the 17:15 mark.
18 seconds later, senior co-captain Cristina Bravi (Montreal, QC) tacked on another one for the Ephs, set up by freshman Hanna Beattie (Whitehouse Station, NJ). Beattie walked in and took a shot that deflected off the goaltender's pads towards Bravi, who collected the rebound and slipped a shot past Maxwell. The Bravi goal would give Williams a 2-1 lead with 16:57 to go.
Trinity nearly knotted things up at 11:30, but Beattie made a great defensive play and cleared the puck before it had a chance to cross the red line and beat Billadeau.
The Bantams would keep the momentum however, and capitalize at the 9:00 minute mark. The equalizer came when Lauren Glynn (Westwood, MA) passed the puck to Tani, who beat an Eph defender and slid the puck past Billadeau.
Undeterred, the Eph offense was quick to respond and stole back their lead 36 seconds after the Tani tally. After making a crucial defensive play a few minutes earlier, Beattie proved versatile, notching the third Eph goal with 8:24 to go. Off the face off, Bravi won it back to Beattie, who faked a shot and then went to the outside and slap shotted it past Maxwell to give her team a 3-2 lead.
With a little over a minute remaining, the Bantams pulled their goalie in attempt to keep their season alive. They fired off a succession of shots, but Billadeau stayed strong between the pipes and the Ephs held on to collect their first NESCAC tournament victory since 2005, when they beat Colby 3-1 at home.
Billadeau was a rock in goal all afternoon, stopping 16 of the Bantam's 18 shots. In the Trinity net, Maxwell made 33 saves.
The Ephs will return to Lansing Chapman Rink to host the NESCAC semifinals and finals Mar. 8 & 9. Williams will square off against Connecticut College (11-11-3), who defeated top seeded Middlebury in overtime to advance to the semifinals, at 1:00 PM on Saturday. Bowdoin and Colby will play at 4:00 PM.
Saturday's winners will faceoff on Sunday at 2:00 PM for the NESCAC title and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament that accompanies the championship win.