WILLIAMSTOWN -- There are only three undefeated men's college hockey teams in the United States. One of them resides in Berkshire County.
Williams College heads into the holiday break with a 5-0-2 record and with wins over a pair of Top-15 teams to its credit.
"What's nice is that the kids have played hard," Williams coach Bill Kangas said. "They've been rewarded for that hard work from the preseason on."
Williams is tied for seventh in the latest USCHO.com national Top 15, along with Babson. Plattsburgh State is the top-ranked team, followed by Adrian (Mich.) and Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The top-ranked New England team is Norwich at No. 5.
The first part of the Williams season included wins over Babson and a 1-0 shutout over 15th-ranked Amherst.
While Kangas' Ephs have scattered to their homes for Christmas, they will return to Lansing Chapman Rink to resume practice on Dec. 30.
"It's definitely a challenge, but the kids are pretty motivated," said Kangas, who is in his 25th season at the Williams helm. "I expect they'll do the right things over the break.
"In some ways, it's kind of nice. They work so hard in school -- that's why they're here -- and hockey is part of the whole experience at Williams. I do think the break away will actually energize them."
The Ephs will need some energy because when they return for practice, they'll be staring at a most difficult section of their schedule.
Williams' first two games of 2014 will be in the Buck Supply Winter Classic at Plattsburgh on Jan. 3 and 4. The Ephs will play Hobart in the first game while the top-ranked Cardinals will play Hamilton in the second game. The winners play in the title game on Jan. 4.
It could be the first of two games Williams and Plattsburgh will play within the first three weeks of January, because the Cardinals are scheduled to make an appearance at Lansing Chapman Rink on Saturday, Jan. 18.
In between those two games, there's the outdoor contest against Trinity in Frozen Fenway at Fenway Park. That game is Tuesday, Jan. 7, at 7:30 p.m.
The biggest key for Williams in this run is that the Ephs have played outstanding defense.
Williams has scored only 20 goals in seven games, but the Ephs have given up only nine. Junior goalie Sean Dougherty has played in every game. He has a 1.26 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage.
The Ephs have a young defense. Senior Paul Steinig and junior Brian McNamara are the veterans, while Kangas also skates two sophomores and two freshmen regularly.
"We have good goalkeeping and we're defending well," said Kangas. "We're also capitalizing on our chances."
To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman