Amherst, MA - In the first round of the NESCAC Championships, No. 6 Williams (10-7-7, 4-6-6 NESCAC) lost on No. 3 Amherst (14-6-4, 9-4-3 NESCAC) on Amherst ice.
"The end of the year is always tough. Only one team that makes playoffs finishes their season with a win. What was hard today is that I though we played well. We outshot Amherst 40-19 and had some good chances that we weren't able to put away," head coach Meghan Gillis said.
The Ephs came out firing during the opening minutes of the first. The Mammoths could not get a stick on the puck as the Ephs kept plowing toward Amherst netminder, senior Bailey Plaman. Williams kept the puck on their offensive side despite dominating the Mammoths on the number of shots on net, could not seem to put one away. A chance arose when Amherst senior Brenna Sulllivan served a too many player penalty at 12:33. With a 18.3% power play success rate, the Ephs hoped to take the lead. The two minutes expired with no goal.
Junior Abby Brustad's holding penalty at 16:13 gave the Mammoths a chance to get back into the offensive game, after playing a masterful defense game the first 15 minutes of the period. Amherst has a 22.8% power play success rate, good for first in the conference, while Williams has a 77% penalty kill, last in the conference. The statistics stacked up well for the Mammoths to take the lead and that they did. At exactly 18 minutes into the first, freshman Mia DelRosso shot a stinger from the blue line. Junior Jocelyn Hunyadi was in the right place at the right time and was able to redirect the airbourne puck past Eph goaltender senior Christina Cleroux.
Two early Eph penalties started off the second period. The Ephs were able to kill Brustad's high-sticking penalty at 2:33 but could not defend junior Claire Mancheski's interference call at 4:46. The Mammoths scored an unconventional goal at 5:39 when senior Emma Griese deflected the puck in with her pad. Griese was assisted by Hunyadi and senior Alex Toupel.
Now two goals down, Williams was desperate to get the next goal. Unfortunately at 14:47, Amherst extended their lead to 3-0. After two rebounds and a lot of confusion in front of Cleroux, freshman Rose Mroczka got the point and was assisted by Hunyadi.
Williams head coach Meghan Gillis immediately called a time out after Amherst's third goal to rally her team. The stoppage in time worked as the very next play, Williams was on the board. Mancheski was quick to save a loose puck from leaving the Williams offensive zone and passed it to junior Annie Rush. Rush took the puck out wide and shot the puck over the shoulder of Plaman. The goal came at 15:04 and brought life back to the Williams squad.
The third period was a nailbiter with Williams trailing Amherst by two goals. Cleroux had a huge moment early in the period when three Amherst skaters broke free from the neutral zone with no Williams player in sight. Cleroux was able to save the initial shot and the rebound, keeping her team in the game. Cleroux's big save proved to be a crucial one when down at the other end of the ice, freshman Gabbi Montembeault skated all around the Mammoth net to backhand a shot past Plaman just minutes after at 4:02. The Ephs trailed by just one goal going into the last fifteen minutes of the period.
With the clock ticking down, Gillis pulled Cleroux with two minutes left in the game. The Ephs tried and tried but couldn't get another past Plaman. There were two unfortunate moments with the Mammoths broke free from the six Williams players and, with no Williams goaltender, eased the puck into the empty net. Toupel got the empty net goal at 19:17 and junior Katelyn Pantera scored at 19:45 for a 5-2 finish.
"Even though the score was 5-2 it was really a one goal game where we had them on their heels for the whole third period and we were close to tying it up until the last 45 seconds when they score two empty netters. They are a top 10 team in the country, so I think that shows our potential for next season. I want to thank the seniors and their families for all they did for the program over their four years," Gillis said.