Home wins revive men’s hockey

In what has been a season of highs and lows for men’s ice hockey (8-9-3, 6-6-3 in the NESCAC), the Ephs are beginning to hit stride at this crucial late stage in the season. After a midseason three-game win streak, Williams suffered a string of three defeats to conference rivals Middlebury, Colby and Bowdoin. Recently, however, mixed results have given way to a three game unbeaten run, a trend that has the team looking optimistically towards the regular season’s final four contests.

On Saturday, the Ephs hosted the St. Michael’s Purple Knights in a game that would prove to be the Ephs’ most dominant performance of the season. Williams got off to a flying start, with Will Bruce ’08 netting the opener just 2:15 into the contest. Eight minutes later David Ramsay ’09 added a second goal, firing a rocket from the blue line on a power play.

The scoring resumed four and a half minutes into the second period, when Ryan Young ’11 slotted home and Octavian Jordan ’09 found the fourth in a shorthanded situation four minutes from the end of the period. With the game effectively finished, the Ephs added a consolation goal with five minutes remaining, this time with Steve Bruch ’08 getting in on the action.

Goaltender Marc Pulde ’10 recorded his first shutout of the season, blocking all 40 shots that came his way.

The night before the Ephs earned their most impressive victory of the season, knocking off nationally fourth-ranked Norwich College, 5-3. The Ephs jumped out to a vital 2-0 lead, with goals from Matt Masucci ’11 and Jordan 21 seconds apart in the first period. Norwich pulled one back on a power play with 6:17 left in the period, but Williams held firm in defense for the rest of the period.

Facing increasing pressure from Norwich in the second, the Ephs scored a dramatic third goal, turning a Norwich power play into a shorthanded goal by Andrew Lepore ’10. Norwich showed resiliency in reducing the deficit to one just 1:37 later, but it was the closest they would come to tying the score. Bruce knocked the puck home after good work from Brian Malchoff ’11.

The Ephs picked up in the third period where they left off in the second, and with 8:19 remaining, Brandon Jackmuff ’08 put the nail in the coffin with a goal assisted by Alex Smigelski ’10. Norwich pulled back a consolation goal, but by then, the Ephs had solidified the upset.

On Feb. 2, the Ephs took on Little Three rival Wesleyan. The start of that game did not bode well for the Ephs, who gave up the opening two goals to the Cardinals and trailed by that deficit deep into the second period.

However, an unfazed Williams team reduced the deficit to one after Smigelski assisted Jackmuff’s opener. The Ephs left it late, but Ramsay leveled the scores halfway into the third. A scoreless overtime period followed, and the Ephs walked away with a morale-boosting draw.

In a season marked by potential but marred by inconsistency, the Ephs only found one victory in six attempts between mid January to the first day of February. Williams’ poor form began against traditional powerhouse Middlebury. The Ephs suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat after the Panthers came from behind to score the winner just 3:23 from time. Malchoff scored the lone goal, after being set up by Smigelski and Greg Schultz ’08.

Three days later, a high-scoring game found the Ephs on the wrong side of the scoreboard, losing 7-5 to Colby. The game was close for the first two periods, with goals from Young, Matt Draheim ’09 and Malchoff keeping the deficit to one. However, in the third period Colby score three unanswered goals to secure the victory.

The low-point of the mid-season drought came against Bowdoin on Jan. 19. The Ephs were humbled by the Polar Bears, 8-1. Brett Haraguchi ’09 leveled the score in the first period after a Bowdoin opener, but the Williams defense fell apart in the second period. Three goals by the Polar Bears in the second period put the game to bed, and three more in the third capped off a disappointing afternoon for the Ephs.

However, this defeat had a galvanizing effect, as the Ephs recorded two straight impressive results after: a 3-3 tie with New England College and a thrilling 4-3 victory over St. Anselm’s. Bruce, Smigelski and Haraguchi tallied goals in the NEC tie, while three unanswered goals from Jackmuff, Lepore and Zach Miller ’10 (all within a 3 minute period) and the winner in overtime from Jackmuff capped a remarkable comeback against St. Anselm’s.

At this important point in the season, the Ephs are finally clicking. With two of their last four regular season games this weekend, the team hopes to continue its strong play. “We have been playing well during the critical times of the game – the third period and overtime,” Head Coach Bill Kangas said. “We just needed to learn to start strong and we definitely did that this weekend. We’re playing great hockey at the right time.”

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