Men’s ice hockey (16-8-3, 11-6-2 in the NESCAC) skated to a 5-2 loss against Bowdoin in the NESCAC title game on Sunday. The men topped Wesleyan 3-2 in the semifinals on Saturday to earn the program’s second NESCAC finals appearance in its history.
Bowdoin opened strong on Sunday, notching two goals in the first 6:21 of the game for a 2-0 lead. After a number of penalties in succession, Williams was finally able to get on the board. Eric Rubino ’13 scored 14:04 into the period during a power play off a pass from Mike Brofft ’13, narrowing Bowdoin’s lead to 2-1. The Polar Bears claimed the competitive advantage in the first period, outshooting the Ephs 20-10.
Despite an attempt to ratchet up their intensity, the men remained unable to shut Bowdoin down in the second. Netminder Ryan Purdy ’12 made 17 saves in the second period alone, but the Polar Bears were able to slip two goals past him. Aaron O’Callahan notched a goal at 4:31, and Ollie Koo padded Bowdoin’s lead with another goal at 15:30 for a 4-1 score heading into the third.
It was John Wickman ’13 who made the move to jumpstart the Ephs’ comeback early in the third: Wickman collected the puck from Rubino before rocketing it past Polar Bear netminder Steve Messina 2:55 into the last 20 minutes.
Despite the early-period start, however, Williams remained unable to capitalize on chances throughout the third. One more Bowdoin goal with just over two minutes to play sealed the men’s fate. The Polar Bears walked away with the NESCAC title and the conference’s automatic bid to NCAAs following their 5-2 victory.
“The couple goals they scored early kind of set us back,” Head Coach Bill Kangas said. “But in the last 10 minutes in the third period we played real well … It shows a lot about the character of our team going into the third period to score in the first two minutes and make it 4-2 and then we have a flurry [of shots] for the next three minutes. We weren’t able to get that third goal.”
Williams dropped Wesleyan 3-2 in an overtime thriller on Saturday. Both teams came out ready to play from the beginning of the first period: Despite the 0-0 score, both Williams and Wesleyan were fighting for the puck and scoring chances. The Ephs outshot the Cardinals 17-8 on their first period.
Midway through the second period, Mark Lyons ’13 scored a hard-fought power play goal to give Williams a 1-0 edge. Ben Contini ’11 took a hard shot that rebounded off the Cardinal netminder’s pads. Lyons, however, was at the ready and quickly collected the puck before firing it into the back of the net.
The Ephs’ lead was short-lived, however. After being hit hard by a sliding Wesleyan player midway through the second period, it appeared Purdy was injured. However, Purdy fought through the hit and played out the rest of the game, but the Cardinals took advantage of the situation, sliding two pucks past him in the second period for a 2-1 lead heading into the locker room.
Lyons came up big for Williams again early in the third period. Co-captain Matt Masucci ’11 set the puck up for a shot of his own, but was thwarted by a scuffle in front of the net. Lyons was able to control the puck and slip it past Wesleyan’s Matt Hadge, evening the tally at 2-2.
Shortly afterward, Lyons was ejected from the game after checking a Cardinal player from behind. The Ephs were forced to serve a five-minute penalty but managed to hold the Cardinals off and keep the score tied at 2-2 until the end of the game, forcing the contest into sudden-death overtime.
It looked as though Cody Skinner ’13 had ended the game in the Ephs’ favor just a minute into overtime, but his near-goal was waved off by the officials. Over 13 minutes into overtime, Masucci made good on Skinner’s attempt. A pass from Malchoff to Wickman got the puck into the Ephs’ offensive zone. Wickman found Masucci on the left, and the senior buried the puck in the back of the net to claim his team a spot in the NESCAC finals.
The men did not receive an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament – competition for the league’s three at-large bids is fierce, as only 11 teams in total are invited and eight of those teams are selected via automatic bids.
Kangas emphasized that the team has come a long way under the leadership of its current seniors Masucci, Malchoff, Contini, Chris Liu ’11, Connor Olvany ’11 and Ryan Young ’11, and that the men, while obviously disappointed, are proud of what they’ve managed to accomplish this year.
“The senior class leaves a great legacy,” he said. “Four years ago we probably were in a much different place than we were two years ago … This was a class that was determined as seniors – their goal was to host [the NESCAC tournament] and win the NESCACs at home … they set the bar high. Every player in that senior class was determined, they were great leaders and great role models and left a great legacy for the other classes. I’m proud of the way the seniors carried themselves and really their efforts over the past four years.”