Panthers end men’s ice hockey’s streak

Men’s ice hockey (13-5-3, 11-5-1 in the NESCAC) had a rough week following one of its best weeks of the season, as their seven-game undefeated streak ended in Tuesday’s game against Middlebury. The Ephs fell 4-2 to the Panthers in their last regular season home game. Things looked up after Friday’s 3-2 win at Babson, but Saturday’s game against UMass-Boston tuned out to be another loss for the men, as the Beacons vanquished the Ephs 4-3. Williams fell from sixth to eighth in the country following the week’s play.

On Saturday, UMass took control early on, scoring only 11 seconds into the game en route to what would be its first win over Williams since January 1999. Another quick goal, which slipped by Williams netminder Marc Pulde ’10 at 3:10 into the period, put the Beacons up by two before the Ephs were able to respond. When Cody Skinner ’13 got the puck to Eric Rubino ’13 four minutes later, Rubino fired the puck into the Beacons’ net for his fourth goal of the year. UMass, however, reopened its lead with another goal only 76 seconds later. Ryan Purdy ’12 stepped into net in place of Pulde after the third goal; Pulde had been bombarded by UMass and had been forced to make ten saves in nine minutes.

The score held fast at 3-1 until 15:13 into the second period, when Brian Malchoff ’11 broke free from his defenders and took the puck straight down the right side of the boards. Malchoff found teammate Ben Contini ’11 across the ice, and Contini buried the puck in the back of the net to bring the Ephs to within one. UMass simply would not let up, and pulled ahead again only five minutes later when Beacon first-year Steven Weston scored his first career goal, bringing the score to 4-2. Weston’s goal was the only shot out of 31 taken that made it past Purdy on Saturday.
The Ephs got another goal from Contini with only 1:45 left to play, but the team could not find the net in final minutes of the game and left the ice with a 4-3 loss.

“We … didn’t bring our best game on Saturday, and it showed on the ice,”said Bill Kangas, Eph Head Coach.

The men’s heartbreaking loss in Boston came on the heels of a hard-fought 3-2 win over Babson on Friday. Skinner started the Ephs off with a bang at the 6:31 mark, when captain Alex Smigelski ’10 got the puck to him for a one-time shot that flew directly into the lower right corner.

Williams didn’t relinquish its 1-0 lead until Babson scored a goal within the first two minutes of the second period. However, the tie was short-lived: Justin Troiani ’12, with help from teammates Connor Olvany ’11 and Ryan Scott ’12, brought the Ephs’ tally to two with a goal 8:31 into the period. Babson took advantage of a power play seven minutes later to tie the game back up 2-2, and the teams headed into the second break with the score knotted.

Then, midway through the third period, Olvany won a faceoff in the Ephs’ own end and pushed the puck directly to Matt Masucci ’11, who took the puck all the way to the opposite end of the ice and hit the back of the net for his fifth game-winning goal of the season thus far. A Beaver push in the last minutes of the game challenged the Ephs, but Purdy, who had 26 saves on the game, held strong, and Williams finished the game out to claim a 3-2 road victory.

Williams had started the week off on a sour note, losing to NESCAC rival Middlebury in its last home game of the regular season on Tuesday night. Early goals from Malchoff and Mike Broft ’13 put the Ephs up 2-0, but the Panthers answered the Ephs’ first period attack with three goals in a five-minute span during the second period. Williams couldn’t regain the momentum of the first period, and the game ended 4-2 after a Middlebury empty-net goal in the final minutes of the third.

Kangas retained a positive outlook on the week despite Williams’ two losses. “We played well enough [against] Middlebury on Tuesday, but we responded really well on Friday against Babson,” he said. The coach admitted that the team’s recovery, however, simply wasn’t enough to carry it through the weekend: “[There just wasn’t] the same level of enthusiasm on Saturday,” he said.

With no NESCAC games remaining on the Ephs’ schedule, this week’s performance will prevent the men from taking first place in the NESCAC: They are currently tied with Amherst for third, behind rivals Bowdoin and Middlebury in first and second, respectively.

The men will travel to Castleton and Skidmore this weekend to close out the year’s conference play. Williams plays Castleton at 7 p.m. on Friday, and then travels to Skidmore for a 3 p.m. Saturday game. NESCAC quarterfinals begin the following Saturday.

Success this weekend at Castleton and Skidmore would be a lucky break for the Ephs, who are still struggling to solidify their home advantage in the first round of NESCAC championship play. “[The] guys realize that we still have a lot of work left to do … [We’re] still fighting for a home ice spot,” Kangas commented, when asked about the end of the regular season this weekend and the upcoming NESCAC tournament, which will start in a few weeks. “We’ll hopefully get some success and get to host a first round game,” he said.

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