Three straight wins change momentum for men’s hockey

After a month long hiatus from competition, men’s ice hockey (5-5-1, 3-2-1 in the NESCAC) started the second half of the regular season on a strong note. Despite losing their first match in January to Hobart 6-1, the Ephs rebounded with three straight victories, propelling their winning percentage back up to .500 and instilling confidence for the 2008 campaign.

Last Saturday, the Ephs traveled north to Vermont to take on the Castleton Spartans. The Ephs were riding a wave of two straight victories while the Spartans came into the game on the heels of an agonizing last-minute loss to Middlebury.

The marked difference in momentum was apparent from the start, with Williams scoring early at the 10:28 mark in the first period. Brian Malchoff ’11 supplied the finish to a power play goal assisted by Owen Holm ’10, securing a lead the Ephs would not relinquish.

Williams increased its advantage at 5:52 in the second period when Andrew Lepore ’10 put the team up by two. On a power play at 18:24 in the second, Brandon Jackmuff ’08 knocked home a third goal. One minute later, also on a power play, Castleton pulled back a consolation goal, but it was too little, too late for the Spartans. The Ephs kept a clean sheet in the third period, securing a vital victory.

Statistically, the match was well-balanced, with Castleton having the edge on shots, 33-31, and committing fewer penalties (five to Williams’ seven). However, goaltender Marc Pulde ’10 had an inspired day and stifled any offensive momentum from the Spartans.

The Ephs were also victorious on the road last Friday, this time in Saratoga Springs against the Thoroughbreds. Like the Castleton game, Williams made the most of its man advantage situations, converting three of nine power plays into goals.

Jackmuff fired home the first goal from a feed from William Bruce ’08 after just 24 seconds. However, Skidmore answered with a goal of its own at 17:55 in the first period. The Ephs took little time to retaliate; Greg Schultz ’08 scored 14 seconds later off an assist from Alex Smigelski ’10.

The frenzied end to the first period continued into the second, when Skidmore leveled the score again at 2-2 on the four minute mark. Halfway through the period, Holm put the Ephs up for the rest of the game, with the assist coming from Jackmuff and Schultz. The lead swelled to 4-2 at 14:45 in the second period when Matt Masucci ’11 scored on a power play. Smigelski added another goal in the third with the help of Jackmuff and Ryan Young ’11.

Skidmore scored its final goal of the game shortly after, only to fall further behind as Jackmuff and Young closed out the 7-3 score line. Pulde made 33 saves, consistently stopping 11 in each period.

The three-game win streak began at home against Framingham State after a two-game losing streak during which Williams was outscored 14-2.

Williams signaled its intent early on, with Matt Draheim ’09 scoring after only 41 seconds. Zach Miller ’10 added another two minutes later, propelling the Ephs to a quick 2-0 lead. An emphatic first period was capped off with a third goal by Steve Bruch ’08 from a deflected shot by Jackmuff.

The second period, at least according to the scoreboard, belonged to the Rams, who fought back to score two straight mid-period goals to decrease the Ephs’ advantage to 3-2. The Ephs partially restored their earlier lead when Bruce slotted home after a pass from Bruch. Dominating the shot count in the second quarter 17 to 7, the Ephs took that momentum into the third period.

After slipping up 8:03 into the final period by allowing a goal by the Rams, the Ephs scored twice in the third to put the game well out of reach. Ben Fields ’09 scored high stick side only 1:28 after the Rams’ goal, and Smigelski capped the 6-3 victory with four minutes left on the clock.

The first game after winter break was one to forget for the Ephs. Taking on the Hobart Statesmen at home, the Ephs gave up early goals in every period. Two goals in the first two minutes of the game proved to be a critical blow to the Ephs, and they never recovered. Hobart’s Matthew Wallace added a third goal at the end of the first, but Jackmuff scored after a sublime wrap-around from Draheim to secure the Ephs’ solitary score. The rest of the game was all Statesmen, as they added two more goals in the second and one in the third to drive home their 6-1 victory.

“The season is still young and we have a long way to go,” Head Coach Bill Kangas said. “We just have to stay hungry and continue to build on success.”

Williams played Middlebury at home last night but the results came in too late to be included in this issue.