WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Williams Ephs (12-4-1, 7-4-0 NESCAC) scored 2:32 into the first period and didn't let up, defeating the Amherst Mammoths (9-6-2, 5-4-2 NESCAC), 4-0 in the first game of a home-and-home.
In their first win over Amherst at home since 2006, Williams wasted no time getting on the board, as a pinpoint pass to the middle of the ice by senior forward Abby Brustad set up sophomore forward and reigning NESCAC Player of the Week Meghan Halloran's 12th goal of the season, on a one-timer that fit just below the crossbar. The Ephs were able to hold off several Mammoths scoring chances from there, as freshman goalie Chloe Heiting pitched her third shutout of the season in another impressive performance.
"I think [the first-period goal] really set the momentum for when Amherst pushed back," said Eph head Coach Meghan Gillis after the game. "We had that confidence to keep going."
In the first period, the Mammoths actually outshot the Ephs 10-9, but Williams had more consistent scoring opportunities. With 11 minutes to go in the period, a flurry of shots by Williams ended in a slow, floating shot by freshman forward Brianna Hill that sailed right over the crossbar. Amherst went on the offensive for most of the latter part of the period, but freshman goalie Chloe Heiting was able to save all four Amherst shots inside three minutes.
The second period saw each team have two significant scoring opportunities but fail to capitalize on either of them. Four minutes into the period, a Williams turnover inside their own blue line led to a 1-on-1 opportunity for Amherst's Emma Flynn, but Flynn's shot sailed over the net. Three minutes later, Williams had a golden opportunity of their own when Amanda Reisman took a one-timer off a rebound, but Reisman's shot was saved by Amherst goalie Caitlin Walker.
With six minutes to go, Halloran hit a bouncing wrist shot that Walker saved towards the right side of the net, and with just 1:14 left in the period, a slap shot by Amherst forward Jocelyn Hunyadi led to a bouncing puck right in front of the net and a scoring opportunity for Amherst, but before any Mammoth could get to the puck, it bounced harmlessly to the left of the goal.
Just over six minutes into the third, Walker pad saved a Halloran shot, but Brustad found the loose puck in front of the net and tipped it in, extending the Ephs' lead to 2-0. Following an interference penalty by senior defender Claire Mancheski, the Mammoths tried to gain some momentum on the first power play of the day for either team, but were actually outshot, as Halloran managed a shot on goal and no Mammoths were able to get a shot past the stingy Williams defense.
A checking penalty by senior forward Annie Rush gave the Mammoths another 5-on-4 opportunity, but again, Amherst was unable to take advantage. Immediately afterward, the Mammoths went empty net and the Ephs struck again on an empty-netter by Halloran – her second goal and third point of the game. To put an exclamation point on the victory, Rush put a slap shot into the net off a faceoff right as time expired, making the final score of 4-0.
The Ephs outshot the Mammoths 31-16 – including a 22-6 margin in the final two periods. The Mammoths, however, blocked a whopping 17 shots, often diving in front of the puck and playing consistently tough defense despite the final score. But in the end, Williams was the team that was able to convert on their scoring opportunities.
Halloran, Brustad and Rush enjoyed standout performances, each tallying three points and scoring at least one goal. Halloran increased her point total for the season to 29, while Rush's and Brustad's totals increased to 20 and 17, respectively. Heiting saved all 16 of the shots she faced – her first shutout since a 3-0 victory over Bowdoin on January 5th.
"Chloe was amazing stopping that breakaway," remarked Gillis. "She's been a really calming, steadfast presence for us back there, which really helps."
After tonight's win, the Ephs now lead the all-time series 25-22-4.
Tomorrow at 7:00 PM, the Ephs look to not only sweep the home-and-home, but also win their first game at Amherst since 2007 as they take on the Mammoths again.