Men’s ice hockey (15-8-2, 12-5-2 in the NESCAC) edged past Bowdoin (11-12-2, 8-9-2) 3-2 in the overtime of a gripping quarterfinal on Saturday. As the first Williams-Bowdoin matchup in NESCAC tournament history, the victory also marked the Ephs’ first quarterfinal win since the inaugural games in 2000.
Williams had high stakes going into Saturday’s game: not only did it enter this game with two straight losses from the previous weekend, but the Polar Bears had handily defeated the Ephs 8-3 in their last matchup at the opening of the Sydney J. Watson rink. The quarterfinal, therefore, represented not only a chance for the Ephs to return the favor but also an opportunity to enter their first semifinals in nine years.
Williams took possession of the puck during faceoff, but Bowdoin quickly dominated the offensive in the first several minutes. The Polar Bears forced the Ephs into defensive mode, in which they whipped the puck away from their side to stop their opponents’ continuous attacking. Bowdoin’s aggression paid off when it scored the first goal at 3:40.
The Ephs immediately launched a counterattack and pushed the puck back to the Polar Bears’ side. But the Polar Bears’ defense prevented the Ephs from scoring and once again, Bowdoin retook the offense. However, forward Brett Haraguchi ’09, seeing a moment of opportunity, stole the puck and drove it all the way down to Bowdoin’s side. He slipped the puck to Justin Troiani ’12, who flicked it to Ryan Young ’11. Young swiftly put the puck into the net, scoring the Ephs’ first goal 13:18 into the period. Though the Polar Bears outshot the Ephs 15-8, Ryan Purdy ’12 took command of the net, making 14 crucial saves. The period ended at a 1-1 standstill.
The men pushed back in the second period and assaulted the Bowdoin net with a relentless stream of shots. The Polar Bears’ defense proved defiant and taking advantage of the Ephs’ offensive position, they captured a loose puck and skated down to the Ephs’ side. Purdy again made several crucial saves, allowing the Ephs to safely resume their attacks. The tide finally turned 13:37 into the second period: Connor Olvany ’11 continued the offensive drive down to the Bowdoin side, and when forced back by Bowdoin’s defense, he slipped the puck to Troiani. Troiani carried the puck across the goal line to escape the defense and completed a pass from behind the net. In a split second, Matt Draheim ’09 caught the puck with his stick and flicked it past Bowdoin’s defense, above the goalie and into the net.
The rest of second period saw more clashes. Williams handed Bowdoin two power plays in the last five minutes, and Bowdoin took every opportunity to attack the net, making four consecutive attempts on goal in a 30-second span. However, Purdy deflected each and every shot to preserve the hard-earned lead. Bowdoin assaulted the Williams net to no avail, and the Ephs successfully killed both power plays to end the period 2-1 in their favor.
In the third period, the momentum shifted back to Bowdoin as the men gave the Polar Bears two early power plays. The Ephs killed the first one successfully, with Purdy delivering again, but at 5:10, Bowdoin scored in the second power play to tie the game. The rest of the third saw fast rates of turnover; both teams tried desperately to score, but the puck changed direction so often that few shots were even attempted.
At 13:27, Williams found an opportunity to seal the game: Bowdoin committed a major penalty and handed the Ephs a five-minute power play. In perhaps the most frustrating moments of the game, the Ephs failed to capitalize. The Polar Bears killed the power play, and both teams scrambled for a final goal, but the period ended and the game entered sudden-death overtime.
Between flying and broken sticks, as well as even more hitting and rough play, each team scrambled to secure the game-winning goal. The men made several decent attempts, but Bowdoin’s defense thwarted each one. Then finally, almost nine minutes into overtime, the Ephs drove deep into Polar Bear territory, and Matt Massucci ’11 swept behind the net with the puck, made a swift turnaround and tried to shoot for the win, but it rebounded off of a Bowdoin defender. At 9:10, Olvany caught the loose puck on the right side of the net, and at an angle clear of Bowdoin defense, shot the puck behind the goalie.
The goal signaled the end of the game. The entire team skated onto the ice to celebrate its first NESCAC tournament win in nine years. Despite injuries, the team pulled through with equally strong offense and defense.
“I thought we played very well,” Head Coach Bill Kangas said. “It was a great playoff atmosphere. We got everything we could ask for in playoff drama. We were behind, we got ahead, they tied it, we go into overtime. It was a run-and-gun game, not a lot of defense, a lot of offense, a lot of shots… It was good hockey.”
This Friday at Amherst, the team has a tough game against second-seeded Middlebury (18-6-1, 14-4-1) for a spot in the championship match. On Sunday, the winning team will play either Amherst or Trinity to claim the NESCAC crown.