WILLIAMSTOWN — Only one team in the NESCAC men's hockey tournament is guaranteed home ice for as long as it plays. That's what Williams has.
"It's such a good feeling," Williams goalie Michael Pinios said. "I'm expecting the same kind of crowds [as last week]. I think the boys really rallied behind that.
"We've been really, really good this year at home, so it's really good to have that."
The Ephs, top seeded in the men's tournament, will play at home Saturday afternoon in what one could call Hockey Day in the Purple Valley. The Williams women, seeded fourth in their NESCAC tournament, will host No. 5 Trinity in the first game of a tourney doubleheader at Lansing Chapman Rink, beginning at 1 p.m..
Then at 4:30 or so, the top-seeded men will host No. 8 Tufts.
The winners advance to the semifinal round next weekend. If the seeds hold, Williams would host the men's semifinals, while the women would play at top-seeded Middlebury.
Williams (18-4-2, 14-2-2 in NESCAC) locked up the top seed when the Ephs beat Amherst 2-0 last Saturday. The Ephs got to the NESCAC final last year, but fell a goal short in a 1-0 loss to Amherst of winning their first-ever title.
For coach Bill Kangas and his crew, it's about getting better every game and every shift. A 13-1-1 record (8-0-1 in the last nine) in the Ephs' last 15 games demonstrate that easily.
Two ties were all that separated the Ephs from second-place finisher, and defending NCAA Division III champion Trinity.
The Jumbos (9-9-6, 5-8-5). will have their hands full with a Williams team that is No. 2 in scoring offense (3.12 goals per game), No. 1 in scoring defense (1.67), No. 1 on the power play (21.3 percent), and No. 2 in penalty killing (88.0).
Tufts played Williams twice this year, as goalie Noah Klag registered shutouts in 4-0 and 2-0 wins.
Klag made 36 saves in the 2-0 win back on Dec. 4 in Medford. George Hunkele got the game-winning goal late in the second period. Then on Jan. 29, Klag made 20 saves in a 4-0 win. Four different Ephs scored goals in that game.
The Tufts goalie who played in both games against Williams was Mason Pulde, whose older brother Marc played goal for the Ephs and graduated in 2010.
The other quarterfinal matchups will have No. 2 Trinity hosting No. 7 Colby, third-seeded Bowdoin hosting No. 6 Amherst, while fourth-seeded Hamilton will host No. 5 Middlebury.
Williams and Trinity both finished with the same number of points (16) in their NESCAC schedule. Williams got the fourth seed by virtue of having won eight games compared to seven for Trinity.
The Ephs (12-11-1, 8-8-0) stagger their way into the tournament as they are 1-6-1 in their last eight games. They will be seeing one of the hottest teams in the conference. The Bantams (14-8-2, 7-7-2) are an impressive 10-1-2 since Jan. 9.
But if there is something positive in that, the only loss Trinity suffered was a 4-0 decision to Williams on Saturday, Feb. 6, at Lansing Chapman Rink.
Four different Ephs scored goals in that game and the Ephs outshot Trinity 32-22 in that game.
The Bantams bring the reigning NESCAC player of the week into the rink in sophomore forward Melissa Maffeo. Maffeo scored two goals and two assists in last weekend's sweep of Bowdoin. She did not, however, score against Williams.
Michaela Levine, with 10 goals and 10 assists, is the leading scorer for the Ephs. Levine is one of nine different Ephs to score game-winning goals.
Trinity is led by Cheeky Herr, who has eight goals and 13 assists. Herr's given name is Julia, and she is the younger sister of former Williams defenseman Sarah Herr. Sarah Herr graduated in 2012.
In other games Saturday, the top-seeded Panthers host No. 8 Colby, No. 2 Amherst hosts No. 7 Bowdoin while third-seeded Connecticut College will play host to No. 6 Hamilton.
Back in 2014, Williams won the NESCAC title as a No. 3 seed, beating No. 4 Bowdoin 4-1. Top-seeded Middlebury and No. 2 Amherst both lost in the quarterfinal round that year.
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.