Men’s ice hockey riding a five-game winning streak

Playoff time is approaching for the Williams men’s hockey team, which is playing its best and most consistent hockey of the season. Last weekend, the Ephs defeated Trinity and Amherst, respectively, both by the score of 3-2. Over the weekend, the Ephs blew out Salem State 8-3 Friday and held on for a 4-3 victory against Southern Maine Saturday afternoon. Those results improve the team’s overall record to 15-5-2, with a 12-2-1 conference record.

Against Southern Maine, the Eph forward line of Ryan Crisp ’01, Wesley Fox ’03 and Dan Cotuno ’02 accounted for all four goals. Crisp netted a hat trick, Fox had a goal and an assist and Cotuno had three assists. In the first period of the game, both teams were lackluster, but the Cotuno-Crisp-Fox line foreshadowed what was to come when it had a brilliant shift nine minutes into the game.

In the words of Crisp, “We worked the puck down low, cycled well and Cotuno got a shot on goal. I chased the rebound down and from about 10 yards out fired a turnaround wrist shot low which went in off the inside of the post.”

Crisp’s first put Williams ahead 1-0. Later in the period, Maine equalized the score on an odd man rush after an Eph neutral zone turnover. Williams dominated the second period, as the Ephs moved the puck through the neutral zone far better than they did in the first. Crisp scored both goals to put the Ephs up 3-1.

In the third period, Southern Maine remained patient and tried to beat the Ephs with home run passes through the neutral zone. At 7:32 Fox put in a rebound off a dump pass, which took a bizarre carom. The Ephs played sloppily in the last five minutes of play and saw their 4-1 lead diminish to 4-3 as Southern Maine capitalized on an Eph turnover and scored off the faceoff . However, it was too little, too late, and Williams prevailed.

Friday night, the Ephs closed the door on Salem State, making what a rout out of was a reasonably close game towards the end of the first period. Salem State surprised the Ephs by scoring a goal on the first shift of the game to take the lead 1-0. The rest of the first period saw the Ephs score three goals, two of which were by Bobby Moss ’01, who had four on the night, and the other by Jon Duval ’01.

Though Salem State narrowed the gap to 3-2 at the 16:52 mark of the first period, the Ephs dominated the rest of the way. Williams got two goals from Fox, one from Crisp and two more from Moss.

The previous weekend the Ephs faced the Lord Jeffs in Amherst. The stands were packed and the game had playoff implications. A Lord Jeff win would all but guarantee that Williams would not host the ECAC-NESCAC post season tournament. The Ephs jumped ahead 1-0 on the power play at 14:56. But the Lord Jeffs scored one late in the first and another early in the second to earn a 2-1 lead. In the second the Jeffs skated the puck through the neutral zone well and made good individual plays. Eph goaltender David Haimson ’00 made some terrific saves. Williams had difficulty attacking, even on its three power plays. Lack of crisp passing caused the Ephs great difficulty in setting up the power play unit in the Amherst zone. In fact, one of Amherst’s goals was shorthanded. However, the third period saw a different aggresively forechecking Williams team. The Ephs skated and checked hard and won the majority of loose puck battles. They also did an excellent job of converting puck possession into shots as they had 18 in the third. At 8:50 Ryan Crisp elevated the puck on a rebound to level the game at two. A little over a minute later Crisp found himself with the puck slightly in front of the goal line to the left of the net. Rather than attempting a shot at this terrible angle, he made a dazzling move to get a better angle and put the puck on his forehand. Then, he beat the Amherst keeper five hole. With the Ephs up 3-2 they did not relax their attack. There sustained their offensive zone control. While it added no additional goals, Amherst had not chance to get any offensive opportunities until the very last seconds of the game. With under twenty seconds left and the Amherst goalie pulled Haimson preserved the victory with a glove save on Amherst only best scoring chance of the period.

The night before the Amherst game the Ephs had an equally dramatic win over Trinity. The Ephs trailed Trinity throughout and were down 2-0 with only six minutes to play in the third. However, in the last ten minutes of the third, the Eph defensemen joined the offensive rush and pinched well at the points. With 5:10 remaining David Carrillo gave the Ephs a ray of hope make the score 1-2. Next, the Ephs got a goal from defensemen Dan Houck ’02, the first of his career. On the play Houck joined the rush and received the cross ice pass from Carrillo which he buried top corner, to force over time. In OT the Ephs sustained their offensive pressure and Stephen Owen got the game winner after only two minutes.

With all of these Eph victories in the book and their conference record 12-2-1 the Ephs have their two most challenging ECAC games of the season, both of which are on the road, before the start of the NESCAC tournament. Both games will be broadcast on WCFM 91.9, Friday night at 7:00 versus Middlebury, and 4:00 Saturday against Norwich. If the Ephs can win both they can host the NESCAC tournament. If not the NESCAC tournament will most likely be at Middlebury. The NESCAC tournament is scheduled for the weekend after next and its winner, advances to the NCAA tournament, while all other NESCAC teams will not.

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