Williams College women's hockey advances to NESCAC title game


WILLIAMSTOWN -- Sixty minutes is all that separates the Williams College women's hockey team from history.

"We're just trying to put this game behind us and start preparing for tomorrow," Williams tri-captain Cristina Bravi said after she and her teammates registered a 2-0 win over Connecticut College in the semifinals of the NESCAC Tournament.

Michaela Levine and Chelsey Stevenson scored goals, and Williams junior goalie Charlie Billadeau stopped 32 shots for her second shutout of the season.

"It's unbelievable, but I totally believe we can beat whatever team we play tomorrow," said Billadeau. "We're very excited and it's in our rink."

Williams will skate at 2 p.m. today against Bowdoin, which beat Colby 4-2 in the other semifinal.

The Ephs haven't been this far in NESCAC tourney play since they lost to Bowdoin in the 2002 title game.

Williams heads into the title game with a 14-9-3 record, marking the first time the Ephs have won 14 games since 2005-06. That year, Williams lost to Bowdoin in the NESCAC semifinals at Middlebury.

"I'm really happy for the girls, obviously. It's quite an accomplishment for them and they played really hard today against a very tough Conn. team," said Williams coach Meghan Gillis, "and they were able to pull out the victory."

Williams was outshot 32-28 in the game and 15-13 in the second period. Billadeau, who recorded her first shutout of the year almost two months ago, was up to the task.

"It was unbelievable. I couldn't be happier. I was smiling on the ice when I made a save or when my teammates blocked a shot," the junior goalie from Chaska, Minn., said. "There were a couple when Andree Heller just kneeled down. She sacrificed her body and made my life easier."

Williams and Conn. College played twice just two weeks ago, splitting a weekend series here. In a 5-1 loss, the Camels scored five unanswered goals -- two in the first period. The Ephs didn't want that to happen again, and got out to a quick start.

Williams had three excellent scoring chances in the first three minutes, as the Ephs put pressure on Conn. College goalie Kelsie Fralick right from the start. The best of those chances came in the second minute. Williams was forechecking with a vengeance when Gwendolyn Schultz centered the puck to Gabrielle Vukasin in the low slot. Vukasin's shot just slid by the left post. Four minutes later, Williams got on the board.

Bravi backhanded the puck off the side of the net from just behind the goal line. The puck came right back to her and the senior from Montreal slid the disc into the slot where Levine got a stick on it and scored her 10th goal of the season. She's the third Eph to get 10 goals this year, joining Bravi and Hanna Beattie. Bravi and Emily Krueger got assists at 6:16.

"I think we just started off the bat coming out strong," said Bravi, "which I don't think we did in the second game.

"The early goal was big for us. I'm just glad it happened."

The Camels were 0-for-5 on the power play all day. Some of that was due to Billadeau and some of that was due to the play of the four penalty killers, who were on their game all afternoon.

"I don't really think it was frustrating. You keep playing the game, you keep working," said Conn. College coach Kristin Steele. "If you are worried about being frustrated, a lot of things can make you frustrated."

Williams got an insurance goal at 6:41 of the third period when Stevenson scored off a scramble in the goal mouth. Hadley DesMeules and Schultz got assists.

"We played really well today so that was definitely a plus for us," said Bravi. "I think we're very realistic. We know tomorrow is going to be a really hard game."

To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.


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