Men’s ice hockey leads NESCAC

Ben Contini '12, supported by captain Alex Smigelski '10, corrals the puck in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Southern Maine.
Ben Contini ’12, supported by captain Alex Smigelski ’10, corrals the puck in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Southern Maine.

Men’s hockey (5-0-1, 4-0-0 in the NESCAC) had a perfect weekend, beating Southern Maine 3-1 on Saturday after Friday’s 6-1 domination of University of New England. The two wins rank the Ephs at the top of the NESCAC standings.

Saturday’s win over Southern Maine marks the first Ephs defeat of the Huskies in four years. After a close seven minutes at the onset, Connor Olvany ’11 received a pass from Matt Masucci ’11 and fired the puck in at the 13:11 mark. Olvany’s shot was the only one to hit the back of the net in the first period, and the Ephs entered the first break leading 1-0.

Only 15 seconds into the second period, Steve Maier ’12 connected with Masucci, who rocketed the puck into the back of the net on a breakaway, bringing the Williams lead to 2-0. Strong Eph defense kept the Huskies at bay until the end of the second period, when Zach Joy took on Williams goalkeeper Ryan Purdy ’12, sliding the puck past Purdy to bring the score to 2-1.

Captain Alex Smigelski ’10 finished off the game with a slapshot within the first five minutes of the third period after receiving a pass from Ben Contini ’12 from behind USM’s net.

The Ephs played an extremely aggressive game, outshooting the Huskies 32 to 21, and also committing six penalties to the Huskies’ four. Purdy, Co-NESCAC Player of the Week for his performance, made 20 saves in the win. Purdy has a season save percentage of .950.

On Friday night, the Ephs had another dominant game, outshooting the Nor’easters 31 to 13 in a 6-1 win. Williams controlled play from the beginning, as early goals from Brian Malchoff ’11 and Masucci put Williams ahead 2-1 by the end of the first period.

The Ephs completely dominated the Nor’easters starting in the beginning of the second period as Olvany, Smigelski and Evan Dugdale ’13 all scored in the period to make the score 5-1.

The third period brought more of the same, though the Ephs were only able to score once more when Smigelski fired a pass to Contini midway through the period. Contini’s slapshot then found the back of the net to bring the final score to 6-1.

Marc Pulde ’10 was in goal for the Ephs and made 12 saves to pick up his second win of the season.

The two victories continued the Ephs’ early season success, as Williams remains undefeated after six games. In addition to USM and UNE, the team has beaten Conn. College, Tufts and Manhattanville, who was then the No. 4 ranked team in Div. III.

“The guys have been working hard in practice,” said Head Coach Bill Kangas when asked about the team’s success thus far. “It’s been a full team effort . . . Defensively, we’ve been much sharper especially over the past three games, and I think that’s really helped our team offensively. When you’re sharp defensively and [playing] at home it makes the offense that much easier.”

Smigelski agreed with Kangas’s praise of the team’s efforts recently: “This weekend we played well [because] everyone was committed to winning. Getting to 4-0 in the conference was a huge goal for us so that we would be in first place going into winter break.”

“We realize that we have a long way to go, but just to get off to a great start is really nice,” Kangas added. “Academically the first semester is winding down, and [the team] has done a good job [of balancing] the hockey and the schoolwork . . . We expect the guys toget through exams and then train hard over break, come back and have a good run in January.”

Technically, Williams is looking to capitalize on what they’ve already accomplished: “Special teams and power plays [have been] generating chances . . . We’ve had big goals on power plays and done good things, but again, we need to keep moving forward and being really sharp on special teams,” Kangas said. “We’re going to build up to next weekend and hopefully [play] our best hockey.”

The Ephs will take on the US U-18 Men’s National Team this Saturday at 7 p.m., followed by a 3 p.m. game Sunday against Salve Regina.

Although Friday’s game is only an exhibition contest, Williams is looking forward to the challenge presented by the U-18 National Team. “If [the U-18 team] were in the league, they’d be one of the best teams in the country – they’ve beaten four Div. I teams already,” Kangas said. “It’s an exhibition game but also one where we can really challenge ourselves.”

Smigelski agreed that the Ephs can in no way sit back and relax now. “There is still a lot we need to improve on,” he said. “Going into [this] weekend we need to work on our defensive play and backchecking. We are giving the opposing teams too many opportunities to score right now, and this is something we need to fix to beat the U-18 National team . . . We have a lot of potential with the talent we have, [but] we need to keep improving every day in practice.”