WILLIAMSTOWN >> As the Williams College men's hockey team prepares for its final regular-season weekend, the Ephs will go into the game as the No. 2 team in the East Region.
The NCAA released its regional rankings late Tuesday and Williams (17-4-1) is second only to Hobart (18-4-2). NESCAC rival, and defending NCAA Division III champion Trinity (15-5-1), a team that Williams beat twice this year, is ranked third. Plattsburgh State (19-3-1) is fourth and Buffalo State (13-6-4) is fifth.
This is the first of four sets of regional rankings to be released by the NCAA. Williams coach Bill Kangas is the co-chair of the East Region committe that determines the rankings. There will be two more rankings released to the public, on Feb. 23 and March 1. The final rankings will be done March 6, but will not be released.
After practice on Tuesday, the Williams coach said he could not talk about the rankings because they had not been released. The veteran coach also said that for his team, it's not about their No. 5 national ranking (in the USCHO.com national poll) or their No. 2 slot in the East.
"We haven't talked about results or anything like that. I think what we focus on is tomorrow's practice," said Kangas. "It's been really that simple all year long."
Williams will host Amherst on Saturday afternoon and close out the regular season by hosting Hamilton on Sunday.
There are two things known about the NESCAC conference tournament, either Williams or Trinity will be the top seed, while spots three through eight are all pretty up for grabs.
Going into Saturday, the Ephs are 13-2-1 in NESCAC and have a three-point lead on the Bantams (12-4-0). Trinity will play a season-ending, home-and-home series against Wesleyan. The Cardinals, despite having only two wins, have seven ties and could qualify for the tournament if they sweep the Bantams.
Williams could only lose the top seed if they are swept this weekend and Trinity sweeps Wesleyan.
Williams' Colby Cretella, the reigning NESCAC player of the week, said he and his teammates are feeling pretty confident heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Coming into this weekend, Williams has won seven straight and 12 of its last 13. The Ephs have only lost back-to-back games once. That was Dec. 12 at Hamilton and then Jan. 2 at Adrian (Mich.).
"The roll we've gone on has been good, and I think we've certainly shown that we can come back if we're down," said Cretella, who earned the NESCAC honor by scoring a goal and an assist in both come-from-behind wins last weekend against Middlebury.
"We're really trying to stay focused on each game," Cretella said. "We have a big four points coming up this weekend.
"We know we want to secure home ice and secure the No. 1 seed this weekend."