Williamstown, MA- The Ephs played host to the Polar Bears of Bowdoin College on what felt like a night in the Arctic in Williamstown. Williams came out on top by a score of 5-2 in the first of the two games the teams will play this weekend, outshooting the Polar Bears 35-22. The Ephs benefitted from solid special teams play, converting on two power plays and adding a short handed score while keeping the Bowdoin power play scoreless. Williams senior defender Candace Lu was the performer of the night, scoring her first two goals of the season in the win.
With the win the Ephs improved to 6-3-2 on the year and collected their first NESCAC win (1-2-2). The loss was Bowdoin's first loss of the year and the Polar Bears are now 6-1-1 on the year and 1-1-1 in NESCAC.
The Ephs got off to a fast start in the first period, establishing their offensive dominance by keeping the puck in the Polar Bears' zone and peppering Bowdoin goaltender Kerri St. Denis with shots. Williams would end up outshooting bowdoin 12-5 in the period, though the game remained scoreless for the first 13 minutes. Williams could not quite find the scoring touch until Lu singlehandedly broke the deadlock. Lu fired a shot that was stopped dead by a bowdoin defender, then picked up the puck and skated in for the unassisted tally with 6:47 remaining in the period. The Ephs added to their lead 90 seconds later when junior Annie Rush put another puck past St. Denis.
Until that time, the only offense that Bowdoin had generated came on two power plays. The Polar Bears seemed to have been invigorated by the second goal, playing with new aggression that eventually yielded results. The Bears were able to climb back to within one going into the second period, stealing a late goal when Brigit Bergen put a shot in from the point that was deflected in front of the net by Julie Dachille.
The Ephs reclaimed the momentum early in the second quarter when they went on the power play. Early into the advantage, Eph goaltender Marissa Anderson was called on to stop a short handed breakaway that would have tied the game. Williams went from almost giving up the lead to expanding upon it when Lu notched her second goal of the evening, a magnificent strike from the left point.
While Bowdoin was generally out-possessed on even strength plays, their power play was formidable. Down 3-1, the Bears had a chance to cut down the lead when Williams junior Abby Brustad committed a holding penalty. Bowdoin furiously sought a second goal, but were denied at every turn by Anderson. The Ephs went into the second intermission with a 3-1 lead and in control of the game.
That feeling of comfort quickly evaporated in the third period when Bowdoin capitalized on a defensive breakdown. A Williams defender lost an edge in her own zone, turning the puck over and onto the waiting stick of Bowdoin first year Nell Fusco, who rattled it off the pipe and in past Anderson with 16:10 remaining in the game. Williams did not sit back on their heels after seeing their lead cut in half, instead looking for the fourth goal that would put the game out of reach. They were rewarded ten minutes later when first year Brynn Puppe scored her third goal of the season.
The Ephs added an insurance goal soon after when first year Meghan Halloran put in a superb solo effort, picking up the puck and gliding past Bowdoin defenders en route to a short handed goal.
Williams head coach Meghan Gillis emphasized the importance of special teams play to the overall performance of the team, noting that the Ephs play their best when the power play and penalty kill are both sharp. Gillis added, "The penalty kill starts with Marissa Anderson, I thought we had some lapses defensively and she kept us in the game by holding off some really good Bowdoin rushes." Gillis was also happy with the way her team responded to Bowdoin's second goal, saying, "Obviously when you go into the third period up 3-1 you want to be the team that gets that next goal instead of them making it 3-2, but I thought we responded well after that and Marissa did a great job of keeping it a 3-2 game giving us a chance to extend the lead."
Williams will face off with Bowdoin again tomorrow at 3:00. Gillis expects her team to come out hungry tomorrow, saying, "We saw what it was like to play close to our potential as well as what it was like to be back on our heels a little bit which will help us get ready to play again tomorrow."