WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — The Williams College women's hockey team (10-5-0) defeated conference opponent Connecticut College (7-6-1) in a thriller tonight 5-4. Senior Natalie Bernstein (Kenilworth, IL) broke a three all tie at 6:16 in the third period to put the Ephs up 4-3 against the Camels, her second goal of the night.
Michaela Levine netted a power play goal just under six minutes after Bernstein broke the tie to give the Ephs a two-goal lead. Levine's goal was assisted by Talia Simon and Emily Krieger and turned out to be the game-winner, when the Camels scored at 18:48.
Williams will face off against Connecticut again tomorrow afternoon at home.
Both teams started off the first period with good defensive play. Williams sophomore goalie Christina Cleroux (New Glascow, NS) made two pad saves within the first few minutes, and Connecticut's Katherine Chester (Mendham, NJ) stayed tough between the pipes to fend off a Williams power play starting at 2:38.
Williams took the lead at 6:49 in the first with a goal by junior co-captain Hanna Beattie (Whitehouse Station, NJ). Junior Emily Krueger (Manasquan, NJ) passed the puck from behind Chester's net out to Beattie, who dropped in from the point to one-time the puck top shelf from below the hashmarks.
The Camels kept the pressure on after the goal, but the Ephs maintained good defensive play to fend them off. At the ten minute mark, junior Sara Lehman (Lexington, MA) made a block off a Connecticut slap shot, and Cleroux made a glove save off a shot from the point. Junior Talia Simon (Carlisle, MA) then blocked another Camel slap shot with 5 minutes to go in the period.
Cleroux made a huge kick save with 4 minutes to go in the period to stay up 1-0. Wrapping around the net, freshman Elena Gualtieri (Rome, NY) tried to put the puck through Cleroux's backdoor, but Cleroux slid across the crease to deflect the puck into the corner.
With 12 seconds left in the first period, the Ephs solidified their lead with a goal by sophomore Alex Lovaas (Wayzata, MN). Carrying the puck up the ice from the Williams end, Lovaas took a shot from the high slot, then picked up the rebound to bury the puck for the goal. Lovaas scored her 4th goal of the season to make it a 2-0 lead for Williams.
Connecticut came back re-energized in the second frame, making it a 1 goal game at 4:11. Junior Stephanie Izz (West Cornwall, CT) scored an unassisted goal after a scramble in front of the Williams net.
Two minutes later, the Camels tied it up 2-2 with a goal by freshman Paige Michel (Essex, CT), assisted by junior Michaela Igo (Sandwich, MA) when Cleroux was screened.
The Ephs kept pressuring the Camels after the comeback, but Chester displayed makde two consecutive glove saves off shots by sophomore Candace Lu (Studio City, CA) an freshman Abby Brustad (Mound, MN).
The Camels converted their strong defensive play into offensive play, taking the lead at 10:25 to go up 3-2 in the second period. Igo passed to sophomore Lily Connolly (Duxbury, MA), who skated around the net to bury the puck.
"After going down 3-2, we focused on playing as a team and moving the puck quicker," commented Williams head coach Meghan Gillis, "we needed to create better breakouts to earn better offensive chances."
Renewed focus lead the Ephs to tie up the game 3-3, with a goal by senior Natalie Bernstein (Kenilworth, IL). At 11:35 in the second frame, Bernstein cut into the zone and beat out a defender to score a five-hole from below the hashmarks.
Play went back and forth for the remainder of the period. Williams and Connecticut were tied at 18 shots each going into the final frame.
Williams stayed focused on strong team play going into the third period. Bernstein scored her second goal of the night at 6:16 to give the Ephs a 4-3 lead. Krueger carried the puck around Chester's net and passed the puck to Bernstein, who scored when there was a scramble in front of the net.
The Ephs kept the pressure on the Camels, when senior Michaela Levine (Lititz, PA) scored a power play goal at 12:10 in the third to go up 5-3. Senior co-captain Talia Simon (Carlisle, MA) took a shot from the point, tipped by Krueger to Levine for the goal. Levine leads the Ephs this season with 13 points, while Krueger is in second with 9.
With 2 minutes left in the game, Connecticut earned a penalty shot. Cleroux beat out the Camels player, deflecting a low shot.
The Camels pulled their goalie after the penalty shot. With a one man advantage, junior Julie Beattie (Livonia, MI) scored a top shelf goal at 18:48 to make it a one goal game.
Though Connecticut pulled their goalie with 30 seconds left in the final frame, the Ephs were able to hold them off to take the win 5-4.
"Connecticut did a great job pressuring us at the end of the game with an extra attacker," reflected coach Gillis, "but we did a great job blocking shots and trusting our system to get the win."
Cleroux made 19 saves tonight, while Chester made 28.
The Ephs face off against the Camels tomorrow afternoon at home. The puck drops at 3pm.