Amherst, Massachusetts - Friday night: Williams vs. Amherst. As a fan of NESCAC matchups, it doesn't get much bigger than this one. The Ephs (9-5-5; 3-3-4 NESCAC) made the drive to Amherst to take on the Mammoths (10-5-3; 6-3-2 NESCAC) in this NESCAC matchup. The Mammoths came into this matchup the winners of 4 of their last 6, so the Ephs looked to break this hot streak for the Mammoths.
In the first period, Amherst struck first. Following a defensive zone interception by the Ephs, they looked to clear the puck. However, the hesitation with the clearance was just enough for Amherst junior Jocelyn Hunyadi to take the puck at the right circle. She skated into the center of the ice and fired one on Ephs senior goaltender Christina Cleroux, who was unable to make the save. This goal by Hunyadi was scored at just 1 minutes and 7 seconds into the game, giving the Mammoths an early one goal advantage.
However, unfortunately for the Ephs, the Mammoths weren't done. Following a penalty by Williams junior Annie Rush for interference, the Mammoths were able to capitalize on the Williams penalty. At around 30 seconds into the powerplay, Amherst senior Alex Toupal was able to swing the puck around the point to her waiting teammate, junior Miriam Eickhoff. Eickhoff ripped a shot from the point, which deflected off the post and into the back of the net. It was shot that Ephs netminder Cleroux had no chance of saving and it unfortunately made the score 2-0 in favor of the Ephs. That score held until the end of the 1st period and the Mammoths ran into the intermission with a 2 goal lead.
In a 2 goal game, the next goal is always the most important, as it can either put a team in the lead with confidence or it can allow a team to hang around, just one shot away from the equalizer. As the Ephs emerged to start the second period, they looked poised to reclaim the game and came out with pressure, putting Amherst in some uncomfortable positions. However, Mammoth senior goaltender Bailey Plaman was able to hold the Ephs out, stopping shot after shot until her team was able to regain their momentum. The 2-0 scoreline held until just under a minute and half left in the second. Following a turnover in the neutral zone for the Ephs, Amherst's Toupal picked up the puck on the left wing. She skated in towards Cleroux and casually slipped a pass over to her teammate sophomore Eliza Laycock, who flicked the pass first time into the back of the net. This gave the Mammoths the 3-0 edge late in the second period and that scoreline carried into the break. If the Ephs looked to gain any ground back in the third period for a comeback, they needed to come out swinging.
Williams did come out swinging to start the third, notching several very good scoring chances early in the period. However, Plaman was a rock in net, stopping all of the chances and keeping the scoreline 3-0. Despite the chances and powerplays for both teams, neither were able to convert for the first 14 minutes of the final period of play. Williams was finally able to break through late in the third period. With 5:31 remaining on the clock, Ephs junior Abby Brustad went into the zone on the forecheck following a dump in by the Ephs. Brustad's effort won the puck along the wall, where she pitched it to her streaking teammate Rush. She skated to the middle of the ice and fired a shot to the left while moving to the right across the ice. This froze the Amherst goaltender and the shot found the back of the net. This made the score 3-1 with five and a half minutes left, which was still enough to net 2 goals and maybe force overtime.
Following the goal, the Ephs were able to sustain heavy pressure on the Mammoths, taking shot after shot and controlling most of the time in the offensive zone. However, despite sustained pressure, they were unable to net a goal and the game finished at 3-1. Although the result is frustrating for the Ephs, the momentum they carried at the end of the game will hopefully propel their game tomorrow night.
"We need to play better in the first," Williams head coach Meghan Gillis commented after the game. "We need to play more disciplined when they pressure us in [our] defensive zone."
In this heated rivalry, the Mammoths were able to jump out to an early lead and the Ephs weren't able to recover until the game was in its waning minutes. However, despite the loss this evening, the Ephs showed an ability to play effective scoring hockey against the Mammoths in the final 5 minutes. This late game momentum will hopefully carry into tomorrow's matchup against Amherst in a home matchup for the Ephs. The puck drops at 7PM in Williamstown at the Lansing Chapman Rink.