Women’s ice hockey sweeps weekend

Women’s ice hockey (12-10-2, 9-6-1 in the NESCAC) had a superb final week of the regular season, winning two games to clinch the Ephs’ first winning season and first home playoff game since the 2005-06 season. The team defeated Colby 3-0 on Friday night before outskating Bowdoin 3-2 Saturday afternoon. Saturday’s home showdown with Bowdoin also marked Senior Day for the team.

Although the Ephs seemed to be playing better than the Polar Bears as the game began it was the visitors who opened the scoring. With 16:55 to play in the first period, a Polar Bear slid a pass to a driving teammate who scored the first goal of the game. However, the Ephs were able to counter less than three minutes later when tri-captain Tracey Ferriter ’10 collected a pass from Eliza Foster ’12 and snapped the puck into the back of the net to tie the score at 1-1, a score that would hold through the rest of the period.

The Polar Bears came out strong again from the break, and the Ephs’ opponents managed another goal 10 minutes into the second period. However, the Ephs’ power play unit took advantage of its next opportunity: 11:47 into the second period, Hannah Systrom ’12 found Foster, who pounded the puck past Bowdoin’s netminder to tie the game 2-2. The goal was Foster’s fifth of the season. The score remained tied 2-2 going into the second intermission, setting the foundation for an intense third period, as both teams knew that the outcome of the showdown would decide which team would rise to fourth in the conference and host a NESCAC quarterfinal game.

Neither team could break through in the first eight minutes of the third. Then, at 8:17, Systrom flung the puck into the far corner of the Bowdoin zone, where Ferriter picked it up, powered to net and fired a powerful forehand shot past Bowdoin’s goaltender to score her 11th goal of the year. Tri-captain Sara Plunkett ’10 did the rest, blocking nine shots in the final 20 minutes to keep Williams ahead of its conference rival and give the team a 3-2 win.

Momentum for Saturday’s victory over Bowdoin started building on Friday night, when Williams hosted Colby in one of the team’s most impressive showings of the season.

Close misses, but no goals, marked most of the first 20 minutes for both teams. It was the Ephs who managed to get on the board first: In the final minute of the period, Sam Weinstein ’13 took advantage of a power play opportunity, finding an opening in the Mules’ defense to snap a shot on goal. Her effort was deflected by the Mules’ netminder, but teammate Ferriter regained control of the puck and fired a shot of her own into the mesh of the net with only 37 seconds remaining in the first period.

The Ephs’ next goal came early in the second period. Both teams were down a player five minutes into the period when Torrey Taussig ’10 attempted to force her way to the net. Taussig was blocked by a Colby defender, but the puck found Nicole Perry ’13 after Allison Page ’11 deflected it in the right direction. Perry’s ensuing wrist-shot found the back of the net 5:56 into the second period.

Midway through the final period of the game, Taussig and Page used quick passes to take advantage of a Williams power play. Their stick handling opened up a lane for Weinstein, who collected the puck from her teammates at the 12:33 minute mark to score the Ephs’ third and final goal of the night. The women held Colby scoreless through the third 20 minutes.

Head Coach Marissa O’Neil commented on the encouraging nature of the week’s successes, especially after the team’s back-to-back losses to Amherst Feb. 12 and 13. “We had a tough time against Amherst, and we put that behind us looking into the last weekend of [regular season] games,” she said. “We knew that we had a tall order beating both Bowdoin and Colby. We hadn’t seen [either of] them since November … We [just] went out there with a game plan and executed it.”

Thanks to their sweep of the weekend, the women will face off against Bowdoin at 1 p.m. at home in the first round of the NESCAC tournament this Saturday. The Polar Bears have won the teams’ last two playoff matchups; the winner of Saturday’s contest will advance to the semifinals, which will be held the following weekend and will be hosted by the highest remaining seed.

Though the weekend’s success against Bowdoin is encouraging, O’Neil mentioned how competitive this weekend’s game is likely to be, considering how close the teams’ two regular season matchups have been. “We’ve played 125 minutes of hockey against [Bowdoin this season], and there’s only one goal separating us. We’re two evenly matched teams and have a lot of similar strengths,” she said.

“This weekend is going to take a full 60 minutes if not more,” O’Neil added. “We should feel confident after Saturday, [but] they’re going to be out for blood.”