With a stellar effort from senior tri-captains Alexis Scott and Cara Shortsleeve, the Williams women’s ice hockey team defeated Bowdoin 5-2 to win its first-round ECAC playoff game and catapult itself into the ECAC Final Four. The pair had a hand in every Williams, scoring two goals each while also contributing three assists each. Kristen Lee ’01 also had a hand in the Williams victory, getting a goal and an assist over the course of the game. The win upped the Ephs’ record to 16-7-0.
The game was much closer than the score indicated, with Williams narrowly edging Bowdoin on shots 30-28. The Ephs were actually down 2-1 at the end of the second period but stepped up their play in the third to win the contest.
In the first, Williams dominated control of the puck, outshooting Bowdoin 10-4. However, tight defenses on both sides prevented either team from capitalizing on their scoring opportunities. Toward the end of the first, especially, Williams had good opportunities to score but couldn’t come through.
That, however, would change in the second, as Lee, assisted by Shortsleeve and Scott, scored Williams’ first goal on a power play 1:33 into the period. At 13:27, though, Bowdoin answered Lee’s goal with a power play goal of its own. It would turn out to be a very bad minute for the Ephs as the Polar Bears took the lead and put a damper into the crowd by scoring their second goal 54 seconds later.
Bowdoin dominated control of the puck for the rest of the period and appeared to have the upper hand in the match after going into intermission with a one goal advantage.
Coach Joe Milan described the team’s mood, going into the locker room during intermission, as relaxed, saying it kept its composure despite the one-goal deficit. “The team,” he said, “knew it could play better than this.”
“We knew the last 20 minutes were going to be a lesson in mental toughness,” said Shortsleeve, “ECACs are single elimination, so, as Coach [Milan] told us before the game, we were fighting for the opportunity to play one more week of hockey. And, ultimately, that is what kept us going; we wanted to keep playing, and we had to win to play this week.”
In the third, they proved it. The team dominated control of the puck early in the third, and at 5:59, was able to tie up the score by putting pressure on Bowdoin goalie Emily McKissock. A ring of Ephs surrounded McKissock and wouldn’t let Bowdoin get the puck anywhere past them.
Finally, after surrounding McKissock for nearly 30 seconds, Scott, assisted by Shortsleeve, scored Williams’ second goal to tie things up and bring the crowd back into the game.
Then, at 8:48, Williams took the upper hand in this game. Bowdoin’s Alyson Lizotte got called for hooking and the whole team from the coach on down protested the call.
Despite complaints from the Polar Bears, the refs upheld the penalty call and granted the Ephs a crucial power play opportunity. The Ephs promptly took advantage of it and scored the go-ahead score.
This goal was similar in nature to the last, with a huddle of Ephs surrounding McKissock. After constant pressure on McKissock, Shortsleeve netted one to put Williams on top for good. Katie Gold ’00 and Lee assisted on the goal.
Milan cited the Lizotte penalty as a turning point in the game because he felt that Bowdoin’s arguments over the penalty led the team to lose its composure for the rest of the game. He cited Williams’ ability to keep its composure towards the end as the big difference in the game.
The third score opened the floodgates for two more down the stretch. At 13:09, Scott, with a wide open lane, scored her second. Shortsleeve assisted on the goal.
Finally, to put things away for good, Williams got another from goal from Shortsleeve, assisted by Scott, who capped off her last home game by scoring an empty net goal with just under two minutes remaining in regulation (18:25).
Despite the goals from Shortsleeve and Scott, Williams probably could not have won without the stellar goaltending of Monelle Quevillon ’03 down the stretch. Bowdoin outshot Williams 14-8 during the third and routinely had the puck near the Williams goal. Bowdoin, however, was unable to net any scores because Quevillon, who saved 26 of the 28 shots she faced, made a number of tough stops to keep the Polar Bears from attempting to get back in the game.
“Monelle is the unsung hero of this team,” said Shortsleeve. “She is by far the most integral element of every victory, and yesterday was no different. The shots were even in the third – she just didn’t give any up, and that is the only reason why we were able to score four unanswered goals.”
Williams now faces Colgate, who defeated the Ephs 4-1 last weekend, in the ECAC Final Four next weekend at Middlebury. Game time for the Colgate game is scheduled for 3 p.m. If the team wins, it will face the winner of the Middlebury-RPI game on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the ECAC Division III women’s finals.
Despite having lost that match, the team remains confident heading into this weekend’s rematch.
“If we play the way we played the third period against Bowdoin,” said Scott,“we can come out on top. Colgate has one star and I think we are much more solid down the entire bench. I think having confidence and playing aggressively will be important.”
Gold felt the team made a few “mental errors on defense” during last weekend’s loss. She also felt the team had problems, not in terms of controlling the puck, but with creating high-percentage scoring opportunities. In her mind, in order for the team to win this weekend, “ we need to be more disciplined in the defensive zone and have the confidence to create quality scoring chances on a consistent basis.”
Shortsleeve, for one, feels the team can continue its great season with a win this weekend. “We went into the third period of the Bowdoin game down by a goal, and that enabled us to feel the urgency. The same applies to Colgate – we are entering this game as the underdog, so it will be all the more satisfying when we win.”