WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Williams College women’s hockey team isn’t surprised that it’s playing Saturday in the NESCAC semifinals. Hosting the conference’s Final Four is another story entirely.
"I think even if you told me last week that we would be hosting the Final Four this weekend, I would have been surprised," Williams coach and NESCAC coach of the year Meghan Gillis said before practice on Friday afternoon. "We’re definitely really excited for the program and really happy for the women that they get to be here and host.
"Once we get going, it’ll be just like another game, hopefully."
Williams will play eighth-seeded Connecticut College at Lansing Chapman Rink in Saturday’s 1 p.m. opener. No. 4 Bowdoin and No. 7 Colby will play in the second game, with the two winners playing here Sunday at 2.
Williams (13-9-3, 9-4-3) is the No. 3 seed but earned the right to host after beating sixth-seeded Trinity in last week’s quarterfinals. The Ephs will be at Lansing Chapman Rink because the top two seeds in the eight-team tournament were upset in the quarterfinals.
"It hasn’t sunk in really," said Williams forward Cristina Bravi, who was named the NESCAC player of the year. "It was really shocking and surprising to see the way the events ended up turning out. I think, now we’re just trying to go into the game as if it’s any old game. It just happens to be here.
"We’re used to playing here and we’re happy we don’t really have to travel anywhere. We’re not really thinking of it as we’re hosting playoffs. We’re just thinking we have to play Connecticut College."
Conn. College (11-11-3, 4-9-3) pulled the upset of this, or perhaps any other NESCAC season when they beat top-seeded Middlebury 2-1 on Saturday. It was the first time since NESCAC began playing a women’s hockey postseason tournament in 2001 that an eight beat a one in the tournament.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Williams and Conn. College hooked up in a regular-season weekend series. The Ephs and Camels closed the regular season at Lansing Chapman with Williams winning 5-2 on Friday night and the Camels winning 5-1 on Saturday.
"It helped to know we could beat them," Gillis said. "But it also showed that they’re not going to go away easily."
Courtney Dumont, Conn. College’s All-NESCAC first-team pick, was held in check during those two games, picking up only one assist in three contests. Jane Pagano was Conn. College’s top scorer in those two games with 2 goals and an assist.
Freshman defenseman and NESCAC rookie of the year Hanna Beattie, who had 3 goals, led the Ephs in the home-and-home series. Bravi didn’t score a goal, but had four assists in the series.
Bravi and Beattie are No. 1 and 2 in the conference in scoring. Bravi, the senior from Montreal, had a conference best 19 goals to go with 17 assists for a league-leading 36 points. Beattie had 13 goals and 18 assists.
"The last game [against Conn.] was not the way we wanted to end the season. I think we all look back and realize we didn’t play the way we could play," said Bravi. "We didn’t really work hard. We really didn’t work as a team. It was unfortunate in that game.
"I think people are pretty motivated in knowing we can do a lot better than that."
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