Hockey in the hunt for ECAC tourney berth

After a mixed month of January, the Williams women’s ice hockey team roared into February hoping to battle for the last at-large ECAC berth. Though Williams still doesn’t control its own destiny when it comes to the berth, the team’s recent four-game unbeaten streak has helped them get back into the race.

The Ephs have played a flurry of games in the last two weeks, losing to Minnesota schools Augsburg and Gustavus Adolphus, but coming back to win over Connecticut College, Amherst, and Vermont. In the midst of those three wins was a tie against Sacred Heart. The team’s four game unbeaten streak was finally broken Sunday at undefeated ECAC North leader Middlebury. The team’s record now stands at 8-9-2.

Little was expected of the women against top-ranked Middlebury, especially after the team lost to Middlebury 7-0 at home last month. Perhaps showing the drastic improvement the team has made over the course of the season, the Ephs battled Middlebury to the end, narrowly losing to the Panthers (now 66-0 in ECAC play since 1995-96) 2-0. Kate Niederhoffer ’99 turned in an impressive performance saving 35 of 37 shots.

Williams had better luck against UVM the day before, sweeping their ECAC North rivals 3-0.

Earlier in the week, the Ephs showed no mercy towards archrival Amherst, destroying the Lord Jeffs 8-3. It was an all around team effort as seven different players combined to score the eight goals. The game began with an Amherst goal early in the first (17:08). That lead would not last for long as Abigail Sayer ’00 put the Ephs on the board with an unassisted goal at the 12:03 mark of the first. Sayer’s goal would be the first of seven unanswered Williams goals. At 2:55 in the first, Caitlin Bowler ’02 scored the team’s second goal from Lee and goalie Niederhoffer, putting Williams up for good. The Ephs crushed the Lord Jeffs in the second, scoring four goals to put the game effectively out of reach for Amherst. Shortsleeve scored twice, Molly Venter ’02 added a goal, and Alexis Scott ’00 capped off the period with her first goal of the game.

Despite being far ahead of Amherst, the Ephs continued to play hard and added to their lead in the third. Rusczek, from Victoria Goldman ’01, got into the act, scoring the Ephs’ seventh goal early in the period (16:59). The Lord Jeffs would score two goals in the third, but it was too little, too late. Finally, to cap off the stellar victory, Pinck, from Sayer, scored the team’s final goal. Goalies Niederhoffer and Becky Sanborn ’01 combined to save 16 of the 19 shots they faced.

The Ephs were not so fortunate against Sacred Heart, a team whom they are battling with for the last ECAC playoff berth. In an emotion-filled game, the Ephs tied the Pioneers 2-2. Williams got off to a 2-0 lead early in the game. Venter, from Shortsleeve and Hillary Weinblatt ’02, scored the team’s first goal with 9:44 in the first. In the second (14:07), the Ephs would add to the their lead on a goal from Bowler. Scott was credited with an assist. Unfortunately, the Williams lead couldn’t withstand the third period. Sacred Heart’s Lauren Wiggins scored the Pioneers’ first goal at the 16:47 mark of the third, and Pioneer Sarah Hanna tied up the game on an empty net score with only 12 seconds left in the game. Neither team scored in overtime, leaving the final score tied at two.

Williams, however, was unable to earn victories over the two visiting Minnesota schools Gustavus Adolphus and Augsburg. The Gustavus Adolphus College Gusties beat Williams 4-0, and Augsburg beat theEphs 3-0. Williams will hope to take control of the ECAC playoff race when they face RIT Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Lansing Chapman Rink. On Sunday, they will play against Colgate at home at 3:00 p.m.

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