Over Thanksgiving Break, the Williams men’s hockey team went on a road trip to Minnesota to play two of the premier western Division III opponents in the country. On that Friday, the 26th, the Ephs faced an undefeated team from St. Thomas and narrowly lost 5-3. St. Thomas capitalized on its power play opportunities, scoring three goals with the man advantage. Williams fought well and produced many offensive opportunities, outshooting St. Thomas 41-29.
In addition to this shot advantage, head coach Bill Kangas noted, “We had about 20 extra quality shots that missed the net. I’m proud of the team for playing hard until the end.” Junior defenseman Eric Demment, who is usually known for his physical play and sound defense, had a great night and scored two for the Ephs before reaggravating a groin pull.
The next night, the Ephs traveled to Collegeville, Minn. to face St. John’s, who made last year’s Division III NCAA Final Four. The Ephs were playing without two of their star players: Demment and goalie David Haimson ’00, who sat to give first-year Mike Aroesty his first collegiate action. The scoring started early as St. John’s put the puck in the net at the 6:38 mark of the first period. A minute later, Joe Butler ’01 evened the score for Williams.
However, from that point till late in the second period, St John’s added four more goals to build a potentially insurmountable lead. Still, the Ephs showed both their resiliency and their balanced scoring charging back in from the deficit. Late in the second, Tim Albrecht brought the score to 5-2 with a shot from the point that eluded the St. John’s goalkeeper.
Williams went on to dominate the third period with goals by Alex Garceau ’02 and Craig Branca ’00, making the score 5-4 in favor of St. John’s with a few minutes to play in the game. Williams found the equalizer off the stick of senior assistant captain David Carrillo with 1:01 to play in the game and the Williams goalie pulled in favor of the extra attacker. Not content with a potential 5-5 tie, Bobby Moss ’01 scored with 19 seconds remaining to catapult Williams past St. John’s and cap a brilliant comeback. In relation to the Ephs pulling together to win despite trailing by four goals, Alex Garceau ’02 commented, “We have good team chemistry. I can’t elaborate on that.”
After the Ephs’ dramatic Thanksgiving road trip they returned to play against NESCAC rival Hamilton on home ice on December third. This was among the most important games for the Ephs all season, as in the preseason coaches poll, Williams was ranked second in NESCAC while Hamilton was voted third. Unfortunately, the Ephs came out flat in the first ten minutes of play. Hamilton scored on their first two shots of the game, the first a wrist shot from the high crease, the second a slap shot from the left wing. Later at 9:45 Hamilton jammed the puck through senior goalie David Haimson to increase the Hamilton lead to 3-0. Hamilton succeeded in aggressively forechecking the Eph defensemen thereby creating Eph defensive zone turnovers that resulted in Hamilton offensive chances. This general strategy is exactly what resulted in Hamilton’s fourth goal. Eph forward Moss was stripped of the puck along the far-side boards as he attempted to skate the puck out of the zone and Hamilton capitalized on this turnover by converting the resulting two on zero in front of the Williams net.
The game fundamentally changed character after the fourth Hamilton goal. Hamilton continued to play aggressively but Williams ceased making mistakes and took to the offensive in the late first and second periods. The best part of the Eph team on that night was their power play. Late in the first period the Eph power play, did an excellent job of blocking Hamilton clearance attempts, maintaining the puck in the zone. This effort culminated in Bobby Moss having time and space at the point to drive a slap shot on net that yielded a rebound in front that Chad Ogiba ’00 banged in. When the first period expired the Ephs trailed 4-1, but had a man advantaged which carried over into the next period. On this man advantage David Carrillo deflected an Ogiba shot to bring the score to 4-2. As the second period progressed, Williams began to pass the puck more crisply and succeeded at forechecking the Hamilton defense. Late in the period, Carrillo made an excellent pass from the boards to Alex Garceau who was in the low slot. Garceau showed his scoring touch, by receiving the pass and patiently moving the puck to his forward and snapping it by the Hamilton goaltender. When the second period expired with the score 4-3 in Hamilton’s favor it appeared as if a Williams comeback win was a foregone conclusion, partly because Haimson’s play improved as the game progressed.
In the third period the Williams offense sputtered as the majority of play was in the Eph defensive end. David Carrillo said, “It was as if we were waiting for a break to go our way.” Unfortunately the break never came, as Hamilton neither committed any third period power plays, nor allowed the odd-man rushes that they frequently gave up in the preceding periods. As time dwindled, the bright spot for Williams, was not its offense but its goalkeeper David Haimson who kept the score at 4-3 until the final minute of play despite an array of Hamilton chances that resulted from Williams attempts to open up the game offensively. In the final minute Hamilton ended the contest with a final goal, making the score 5-3. In the loss, Williams showed it has the ability to play sloppy at times, and very well at others.
The next day Williams routed Skidmore 9-2. “It was nice to win big coming off a tough loss yesterday, said Coach Kangas. Next up for the Ephs is an extradivision game at RIT tomorrow.