Men’s ice hockey (15-6-3) fell to Hamilton 2-1 in overtime Friday night in the NESCAC quarterfinals. While this loss marks the end of Williams’ NESCAC run, the men could still receive an at-large bid to NCAAs to redeem themselves.
Both teams came out ready to play in the first period: The Ephs took seven shots on the Continentals’ netminder Calvin Bartel, while Hamilton tested Ryan Purdy ’12 with five in the first 20 minutes. The men’s best chance at a first period lead came in the first 30 seconds, when Eric Rubino ’13 recovered the puck deep in Hamilton’s defensive end and moved to the net for a scoring opportunity. Bartel, however, turned the first-year’s shot away, and a period of evenly matched hockey ended 0-0.
Williams stepped up its game in the second 20 minutes, opening the second period up with a goal just 4:05 in. Ryan Scott ’12 started the play as he fired a shot that was deflected just wide of the net. Evan Dugdale ’13 didn’t let Scott’s shot go to waste, taking control of the rebound in front of the net before flipping it to Mark Lyons ’13, who buried the puck behind Bartel to put the Ephs up 1-0 for what would prove their only lead of the game. While Pat Morrissey ’12 and Matt Masucci ’11 both took shots that nearly made it past Bartel later in the period, neither could get the puck into the net before the Continentals answered Lyons’ goal with one of their own almost six minutes later. Though both teams stepped up their offense during the second period, with 11 Eph shots to just inch out the 10 Continental attempts, neither could notch another goal, and the teams stood tied at 1-1 at the end of the second 20 minutes.
The men came out strong in the third period, and intensity and pressure built as the clock ticked down to the final minutes. Brian Malchoff ’11 almost inched the puck past the Bartel in the first 30 seconds of the period, but the referees waved what appeared to be a goal off after a struggle in front of the net. The Ephs continued to keep up the pressure: Masucci and Rubino followed suit as both came close with shots that barely missed the net. Captain Alex Smigelski ’10 tried to guarantee an extension of his final collegiate season but was turned away twice in the last three minutes of the game, while Cody Skinner ’13 attempted to repeat his heroics of the last Hamilton matchup – on Jan. 9 Skinner scored in overtime to put the Ephs above the Continentals 3-2 – but couldn’t control the puck long enough to set himself up for a shot. Despite a 10-shot effort by the men in the third period, a 1-1 score at the final buzzer forced the teams into sudden-death overtime.
Williams and Hamilton frantically battled it out to determine who would continue on in the NESCAC tournament in the overtime. The game ended 2:47 into overtime, when Hamilton’s Jerome Wallace snuck a shot by Purdy to secure the win for his team.
While disappointed by the loss, Head Coach Bill Kangas was also proud of his team’s play Saturday night and throughout the season. “We knew it was going to be a tough battle,” he said. “[Playoffs] is really a second season … We had some nice wins over the course of the season, but it’s hard to reflect on that when you set your goals beyond getting past the first round.”
“I’m just proud of my guys,” Kangas added. “We competed hard [but] just weren’t able to score.”
With the loss, the Ephs give up their chance to become NESCAC champions, though they could claim an at-large berth to continue their season at NCAAs thanks to strong performances against highly ranked teams throughout the year.
When asked about the possibility of receiving an at-large bid, Kangas seemed simultaneously hopeful and skeptical. “Unfortunately [ice hockey] is not like other sports,” he explained. “There are only three at-large berths in the nation. It’s been a long time since the NESCAC has had more than one team [compete at NCAAs].”
The 2010 NCAA field will be announced when conference championships around the nation wrap up this weekend and the NCAA committee meets to determine who receives the three at-large bids.