Williams clinches NESCAC regular-season men's hockey title, top seed in tourney
WILLIAMSTOWN >> It was a tune not usually heard inside Lansing Chapman Rink. But when a team makes a little bit of history, singing is a pretty good thing.
The Williams fight song echoed inside Lansing Chapman Rink as the fifth-ranked Ephs beat Amherst 2-0 Saturday afternoon, clinching their first-ever, regular-season NESCAC title and earning the top seed in the conference tournament. Williams will be at home for as long as it is playing in the NESCAC tourney.
"It was a great crowd today. The community really rallied behind us today, and it was a lot of fun," said Williams goalie Michael Pinios. "The team fed off that and you could see it. The boys were flying out there."
But as to the singing?
"Oh yeah," said defenseman Zander Masucci, when asked if he heard them all singing. "That was great, great support and we loved it.
"We haven't heard it often at least. But it was our Super Fan Day and it was great for us."
With the win, the Ephs also get home ice throughout the tournament for the first time ever. Should Williams win its quarterfinal, it would mark the first time the Ephs hosted the semifinals since 2011. That year, top-seeded Hamilton was upset in the quarterfinal round.
The win was the eighth straight for Williams (18-4-1, 14-2-1). Joe Welch broke a scoreless tie with a goal at 11:55 of the second period. Midway through the third period, Roberto Cellini scored after Tyler Young threw the puck at the net. On the scramble in front of Amherst goalie Dave Cunningham, Cellini scored.
It was the first time in the last four games that Williams did not have to come back from two goals down to eke out a victory. Williams head coach Bill Kangas smiled when asked about that.
"It's unusual, yeah, so it was good to play the way we did," he said. "We competed well. It was a battle right from the start."
Pinios was especially strong throughout. The freshman from Montreal made 32 saves, including a second period where Amherst (9-10-4, 7-7-3) had a 11-9 shot advantage. Pinios, however, saved his best for last.
With 1:37 left in the third period and the Amherst net empty, Amherst's forecheck kept the puck in the Williams zone. The puck went back to Amherst's Phil Johansson at the left point, and the defenseman wristed one on goal. Pinios did the splits and made the stop with his glove.
"The glove was pretty hot today. In the game, the boys were really shutting it down and blocking shots," said Pinios. "You just have to make that key save at a key moment and the boys took care of the rest."
Both teams were 0 for 3 on the power play in the game.
"Tomorrow's a big game," said Kangas. "Hamilton is an excellent team. They beat us back in December. Obviously, we'll be ready for them."