Men’s hockey (19-5-2, 14-2-2 in the NESCAC) defeated Salem State 7-1 Saturday night at Lansing Chapman Rink to advance into the next round of the NCAA Div. III championship tournament. Six different players scored the team’s seven goals, with George Hunkele ’17 leading and scoring with two goals. This game also marked the Ephs’ 19th win of the season, a new school record.
The men earned an at-large bid after accruing the best regular season record (14-2-2) in the conference to place themselves in Pool C for the tournament. The game marked the Ephs’ NCAA tournament debut, with Head Coach Bill Kangas getting his first opportunity for a national title in his 27th year as head of the program. Kangas was also named the 2016 NESCAC Coach of the Year. Williams came into the match ranked ninth in Div. III according to D3hockey.com and 10th according to USCHO.com.
In net for the Ephs was Michael Pinios ’19. Pinios came into this match with a .940 save percentage on the season and was named NESCAC Co-Rookie of the Year.
The men got on the board first in the contest, using the final seconds of the first period to their advantage. After winning a face-off in the lower right circle, Hunkele gained possession of the puck and fired a wrist shot from a bad angle, beating Salem State goalie Marcus Zelzer over his glove shoulder for his eighth goal of the season.
The Ephs carried their momentum into the second period, capitalizing early to extend their lead to two. At 1:30, Joe Welch ’18 used his speed coming into the zone to beat his Viking defenders, ultimately gaining room and converting on a wrap around, bringing the score to 2-0. Welch, with his third goal of the season, was assisted on the play by Colby Cretella ’18.
At 3:06, Roberto Cellini ’19 was on the receiving end of a hard hit by the Vikings’ Derek Makimaa, who received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct on the play for high sticking with contact to the head. Cellini was injured and had to leave the ice to be evaluated, delaying the game.
When play resumed, the Ephs had a five-minute power play. Cretella earned his third point of the game at 6:16, firing one through from the lower right circle to beat Zelzer on the play after receiving a cross pass from Frankie Mork ’17, stationed at the left point. Michael Lata ’19 was also credited with an assist. This marked Cretella’s eighth goal of the season and brought the game to 3-0.
At 15:38, the Ephs extended their lead to 4-0. On a fast-paced play in the offensive zone, Matt Werner ’16 converted on a backhander in the slot after the puck transferred around the circle from Lata to captain Zander Masucci ’16. The men rounded out the period with one more goal to close out the second period at 5-0. At 19:41, David Italiano ’18 deflected a shot fired from Greg Johnson ’16 to get the puck behind Zelzer. Hunkele was ultimately awarded the goal after his tip propelled the puck across the goal line.
After two periods the shot count was 30-10 in the Ephs’ advantage (15-5 in the second period alone) with Sam Gray ’17 accounting for three of them.
The Ephs responded shortly thereafter at 13:12, putting the game completely out of reach. After stripping the puck from the opposition in the neutral zone, Williams outnumbered Salem State on an odd man rush into the offensive zone, and Luke Stickel ’17 made a cross pass to C.J. Shugart ’18, who wristed one past Zelzer. Williams sealed the deal at 16:42, bringing the game to its final score of 7-1. Keanu Hilaire ’19 crossed the puck to the left point, with Masucci on the receiving end. Masucci then made a cross pass down low to Alex Hagerty ’17, who was in the left slot, and Hagerty finished off the play.
“Our forwards played great in general,” Masucci said. “We strive to get better every day and we are facing a great team in Geneseo so we will have to bring our A game.”
The team will continue in the next round of postseason play when they visit SUNY Geneseo next Saturday in at 7 p.m.