Ephs claim first NESCAC title in program history

Chelsey Stevenson ’17 scored two goals last weekend in the women’s successfull campaign for the NESCAC title.
Chelsey Stevenson ’17 scored two goals last weekend in the women’s successfull campaign for the NESCAC title.

On Saturday, women’s hockey (15-9-3, 9-4-3 in the NESCAC) downed No. 8 Conn. College 2-0 to advance to the NESCAC finals. On Sunday, the women crushed Bowdoin 4-1 to claim the program’s first-ever NESCAC title.

On Saturday, the women faced off against No. 8 Conn. College in the NESCAC semifinals at the women’s home Lansing Chapman Arena. In their previous meeting, the Ephs split two games with the Camels, winning one game 5-2 and losing the other 5-1. Saturday’s game proved to be a battle, but thanks to strong goaltending and a solid team effort, Williams overthrew Conn. College 2-0 to move on to the NESCAC Championship game.

The Ephs took an early lead in the game, getting their first point just six minutes after the drop of the puck. Co-captain Cristina Bravi ’14 got the charge started by getting a shot on Camel’s goaltender Kelsie Fralick. Forward Michaela Levine ’16 leapt on the rebound and slipped the puck into the net. The score remained 1-0 for the remainder of the period.

In the second period, the Camels came out eager to tie the game. They managed to outshoot the Ephs, but goaltender Charlie Billadeau ’15 kept all pucks out of the net, and the Ephs maintained their 1-0 lead into the third period. About six minutes into the third, they extended their lead with a goal from forward Chelsey Stevenson ’17. Despite two power-play opportunities for the Camels, the Ephs managed to protect their advantage due to exceptional goaltending from Billadeau. The Ephs emerged with a 2-0 victory, earning a berth in the NESCAC Championship.

On Sunday, the Ephs looked to clinch their first ever NESCAC championship. Williams took on No. 4 Bowdoin, a team it had swept in the regular season. Coming off an exciting 2-0 win from the day before, the Ephs came out ready to play. After three periods of hard work, they defeated the Polar Bears in a decisive 4-1 win.

The game started off in the Ephs’ favor thanks to a goal just 34 seconds after the drop of the puck. A casual dump from defenseman Hanna Beattie ’17 on net took a strange bounce and slipped past Bowdoin goaltender Lan Crofton. The Ephs extended their lead halfway through the period thanks to efforts from Stevenson and defenseman Caitlin Conlon ’15. Conlon took a shot from the point and Stevenson one-timed the rebound to double the women’s lead. The period ended with the Ephs holding a comfortable 2-0 advantage.

In the second period, the Ephs came out with renewed intensity, scoring yet another goal within the first minute of the drop of the puck. Co-captain Gabby Vukasin ’14 made use of the man-advantage situation the Ephs started the period with to score the Ephs’ third goal of the game. Bowdoin countered with a goal of its own just thirty seconds later to make the score 3-1. However, despite close scoring chances, Billadeau prevented any goals form being scored for the remainder of the period. Williams got its fourth and final goal of the game with just three minutes remaining in the period as Bravi capitalized on a rebound to shoot the puck past Crofton. In the end, the Ephs defeated the Polar Bears 4-1 to capture the NESCAC championship, the first in program history.

“I’m really proud of the team. We’ve all worked so hard for this and it’s great to see it finally pay off,” Bravi said. “We are really honored to be the first hockey team at Williams to win a NESCAC championship and I know it is an accomplishment that we will all remember forever.”

Williams will be the only NESCAC team in the NCAA Div. III tournament and will face off against Plattsburgh State, the No. 1 seed, on the road on Saturday at 3 p.m. In their previous meeting this season, the women lost 4-1 on Jan. 14.

“We are also really thankful to all the fans who have been so supportive from the beginning,” Bravi said. “It was really great to have the support of so many people throughout the season.”