WILLIAMSTOWN >> The Williams College hockey team is in the NCAA Division III Elite Eight.
George Hunkele scored twice and goalie Michael Pinios took a shutout into the third period for the Ephs, who beat Salem State 7-1 Saturday night, for their first-ever tournament win.
"It's exciting. I think everyone in the locker room was feeling it," said Eph defenseman Zander Masucci, who had two assists. "We were definitely rested and ready to go. We knew Salem State was a great team. They were the hottest team coming into the tournament with 13 straight wins and had a pretty dominating win over Plymouth State.
"It was a great game and great to see the boys work hard."
With the win, the Ephs advance to play SUNY Geneseo Saturday night. Geneseo scored a 7-1 win over Salve Regina. It will be a rematch of the third game of the season, a contest Geneseo won 3-0 here.
Saturday's game was not without its down point though, as first-line center Roberto Cellini was injured when he was checked by Salem's Derek Makimaa three minutes into the second period. Cellini was on the ice for several minutes before being removed on a stretcher. He gave a thumbs-up to the crowd as he was wheeled off the ice.
"All I've heard is he's doing well," Williams coach Bill Kangas said in a post-game press conference. "He actually didn't want to leave, but the right thing was to take him for some observation. We don't know where he's at right now. We don't know what his status is yet. Things are pretty positive right now."
The penalty led to a power-play goal by Colby Cretella that made the score 3-0.
It took Williams almost the entire first period to get on the board. Cretella won the draw and got the puck to Hunkele at the bottom of the right faceoff circle. From there, the junior wing shot the puck over the right shoulder of Salem goalie Marcus Zelzer at 19:27.
It took Williams only 1:30 to make it 2-0, and Joe Welch got what proved to be the game-winning goal. Cretella blocked a shot at the top of the slot in the Eph defensive zone and sprung Welch down the right side. The right winger from Belmont flew into the Salem zone, circled the net and stuffed the puck past Zelzer.
"Coach is always telling us the last two minutes of the period and the first two minutes of the [next] period are big, so getting a goal in the last two minutes is huge as far as momentum is concerned," said Hunkele. "They were both pretty big. It's easy after such a high after the first period to come out in the next period on a lull. To get a goal really early was really good to not give them a chance to breathe."
Welch's goal was the first of four Eph tallies in the second period. It was 5-0 before Salem's Michael Casale scored at 11:19 of the third period, ending Pinios' bid for his third shutout. Williams responded with two more goals to win going away.
"Their speed is problematic," Salem State coach Bill O'Neill said of Williams. "We didn't adjust to it. Their transition game was surgical."
Williams outshot Salem State 38-19.
In addition to Hunkele's two goals, Cretella had a goal and two assists, while Masucci and Michael Lata each recorded two assists.
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.