Williams men's hockey headed to NCAA quarterfinal round
WILLIAMSTOWN — In the minutes after Williams won its first-ever NCAA Division III men's hockey tournament game, the players and the coaches could bask in that glow. But that glow was going to fade quickly.
"It's relieving and it's really exciting for the program to get the first win, but that's one hell of a team in Geneseo," Williams captain Zander Masucci said after the Ephs dispatched Salem State 7-1 in Saturday night's first-round game. "They came to this rink over the Thanksgiving break and beat us.
"We're going to have to enjoy the next 24 hours and refocus and regather as a team on Monday and get back to our regular process."
Geneseo beat Williams 3-0 early in the regular season.
Saturday night, it was George Hunkele and his linemates that helped push the Ephs along. Hunkele, who plays left wing with center Colby Cretella and right wing Joe Welch combined for four goals and two assists. Hunkele had two goals, Cretella a goal and two assists while Welch added a goal.
"Something that Coach [Bill Kangas] kept telling us before every practice is that [the rink] is 200 feet, work hard, stick to our game and we should have this one," said Masucci. "It was a great game.
"It was great to see the boys work hard and put some pucks into the net."
With the win, the Ephs advance to the quarterfinal round and they'll be traveling to SUNY-Geneseo for a Saturday night game with a face off at 7. The winner of that game advances to the Division III Final Four March 25-26 at the Herb Brooks Ice Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y.
It was a seven-minute span of game time that really gave Williams the win. It started when Hunkele chipped a shot off the shoulder of Salem goalie Marcus Zelzer at 19:27 of the first period.
Williams made it 2-0 when Hunkele's linemates combined on a pretty goal. Cretella blocked a Salem shot at the blue line and sprung Welch with a tape-to-tape pass on the right wing. Welch curled around the goal and stuffed the puck in at the 1:30 mark of the second period.
Some four minutes later, as the Vikings were serving a five-minute major for contact to the head of Williams' Roberto Cellini by Derek Makimaa, the Ephs scored on the power play. Midway through the five-minute power play, Frankie Mork sent a cross-ice pass from the left point to Cretella, who lit the lamp.
The injury to Cellini, who was carted off on a stretcher, seemed to give the Ephs some spongy legs. The goal by Cretella wiped that away.
"Getting the [power-play] goal, I thought helped. I think the guys refocused on playing. We just kept building from that," said Kangas. "That's something that was really positive taking away from that game. When we got that goal, we were able to start building and gaining some momentum offensively."
The prettiest goal of the night came at 15:38 of the second period. Masucci sent a pass from the left point into the right face-off circle, where Matt Werner one-timed a wrist shot past Zelzer. That made it 4-0 and the Ephs were on their way to the Elite Eight.
Williams had a 38-19 shot advantage in the game. Eph goalie Michael Pinios lost his shutout on a goal by Michael Casale at 11:19 of the third period. That was the only blemish on the Williams side of the scoresheet.
So, now the Ephs travel to upstate New York for Saturday's game against a team that beat them 3-0 back on Nov. 28.
"You better believe we want revenge," said Masucci. "We're going to do everything we can to prepare."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.
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