Men’s hockey loses four and ties one after opening conference play unbeaten

After starting its conference season 4-0, reality has hit home hard for men’s hockey (4-8-1; 4-3-1 in the NESCAC), which has gone 0-4-1 in the five games since its last conference victory on Dec. 7.

Tormenting the Ephs this week were Colby (9-2; 7-2) and Bowdoin (10-2; 8-1), two of the NESCAC’s top teams, and SUNY Plattsburgh (9-3-3); Williams held its own against Colby and Bowdoin – an impressive, if dubious distinction – but ultimately fell short in each game this week.

Williams and Colby traded goals through the first period and a half on Sunday, running the score up to two apiece before the White Mules reeled off three goals in 14 minutes to make it a 5-2 games.

Two goals from Jake Clapton ’05 put the Ephs one short of the tie with 8:30 to play, but it all proved to be too little too late as Colby held Williams in check from there on out to close out a 5-4 defeat for the Ephmen.

“After five minutes had gone in the third period we picked things up a bit to get the game back within one,” Clapton said. “But we had two penalties within the last eight minutes that kind of killed us; in the last minute with our goalie pulled we had a few decent chances but the puck didn’t bounce our way.

“I think it’s just a matter of playing a complete game,” Clapton said about his team’s recent woes. “Against Colby we came out flat in the first period and played awful and we can’t do that, we need to play a full 60 minutes each time out.”

The day before against Bowdoin the Ephs played what Clapton called the “best game the team has played all year.” In that contest, the Ephs took the conference leaders into just short of the last minute of overtime before Chris Pelltier won the game for the Polar Bears with his 10th goal of the season.

The Ephmen opened up a 1-0 lead with 3:48 gone by in the second period after both teams had gone quietly in the first.

Williams would not hold the lead for long, however, as three minutes after Justin Blanch ’04 scored his third goal of the season off assists from Steve Baldassarri ’05 and Robbie Bergan ’06, the Polar Bears evened the score at 1-1 when Matt Roy sent the puck past Eph goaltender Mike Aroesty ’03.

While the Ephs turned in strong efforts against Colby and Bowdoin and played tight, one-goal games to each of them, the team fared much worse in its Tuesday match-up with SUNY Plattsburgh. In the game, the Cardinals scored early and often, opening up a 3-0 advantage by the close of the first period.

Brian Teixeira ’04 scored the lone Eph goal in the contest in the 12th minute of the second period. Matt Goethals ’04 assisted on the goal, his fifth assist of the season to Teixeira’s fifth goal. The shooting woes that had haunted the Ephs the week before spilled over into Tuesday’s contest, in which Williams converted on only one of the 23 shots it rung off against SUNY Plattsburgh.

Head Coach Bill Kangas used each of his team’s three goaltenders in the match, and all three allowed a goal.

Williams will look to get untracked tonight at Middlebury (9-3; 7-1). The Panthers currently co-occupy third place in the NESCAC and will prove a difficult opponent in all certainty.

The Ephs have their work cut out for them as they look to secure a playoff spot. The top seven teams in the conference make the year-end tournament; the Ephmen currently sit in a two-way tie for sixth along with Tufts.

“We need to start winning again,” Clapton said. “We’re more than halfway through the season and only the top seven teams in the NESCAC make the playoffs, so we can’t afford many more losses.

“I think we can get it done, I think we’re just going to have to put the last few weeks behind us and come out hard each time.”