WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Williams men’s hockey team won’t claim it entered the NESCAC tournament with any real momentum. The Ephs could have fooled anyone with the way they took the game to Colby on Saturday afternoon.
Williams scored three second-period goals -- two after coach Bill Kangas called a timely timeout -- to fuel the team’s best offensive output of the season, a 7-3 victory over Colby in a NESCAC quarterfinal.
"It felt good," senior co-captain Nick Anderson said. "We struggled a little bit coming in -- we lost to Amherst, one of our big rivals -- but, I thought, we played well today and just looking forward to the next game."
The Ephs were using speed, crisp passing and solid defending to dominate the Mules. It helped them to a 3-1 lead just 1 minute, 37 seconds into the second period. But a scrum in front of Williams goalie Sean Dougherty led to Colby’s second goal, cutting the Williams lead to one.
The next Williams line got caught on the ice too long and was trapped in its own zone. The icing that ensued kept the Ephs from making a line change. Colby sent its top line to the ice to take advantage.
Kangas opted to use his one and only timeout to get that line change. Unlike the National Hockey League, college teams can make a line change on an icing call if a timeout is called.
"I didn’t know if I’d ever use it again. ... I felt like, you know what? I’m going to take a break here and see if we can get a line change, calm things down, get back going again," he said. "You have a timeout, you have to use it when you think you can. To me, I might need it later, but at that point, to me, it was the most critical point of the game. I didn’t want to give them a free play with a tired group of guys."
The momentum quickly shifted back in Williams’ favor. In the six minutes that followed, the Williams senior co-captains each scored to push the lead to 5-2 and put the Ephs back in the driver’s seat.
Anderson and Paul Steinig scored 2:17 apart on drastically different plays, but both were rewarded with going to the front of the net.
Anderson banged home a rebound with 8:50 remaining in the second period and Steinig completed a nice tic-tac-toe passing series from the low slot for the three-goal cushion.
"We’ve kind of been struggling to score a little bit, and, I think, that’s an easy way to get goals, just cause some havoc in front," Steinig said. "I think we did a good job today of doing that, just putting pucks on net and trying to beat our guys to the net to get the rebounds."
Williams’ 6-2 win over Tufts on the first day of February had been the most goals in a game for the Ephs this season. It was also one of only two wins for the Ephs over the final seven games of the season. The four-goal margin of victory Saturday was also in stark contrast to a typical Ephs game. The average margin of victory in their games this season was exactly two goals (regardless of a win or loss). Eleven of those games were decided by a single goal; Williams also tied three times.
One person that was happy to see the goal count surge was Dougherty.
"That’s not usually our M.O.," he said. "We’re usually a kind of grind-it-out, 2-1, 3-2 kind of team. It was definitely a little bit relieving putting in seven goals tonight."