For the second time in as many games, the Williams College men’s hockey team gave up the first goal of the game. For the second time in as many games, the Ephs rallied for a victory.
Sophomore defenseman Faisal Alsaif’s second-period goal broke a tie and gave the NESCAC-leading Ephs a lead they did not relinquish, and they beat Connecticut College 3-1 in a Tuesday afternoon matinee at Lansing Chapman Rink in Williams.
It ended up being an afternoon where the three Eph goal scorers, Alsaif, Ben Lawrick and Henry Muller, all recorded their first collegiate goals.
“They played hard today, and I thought Conn. played very well,” Williams head coach Bill Kangas said in a postgame phone interview. “They frustrated us at times, I think quite a bit. They’re a good team. It’s the thing about NESCAC, everybody’s good. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, it’s always a battle.
“They played really well, and I’m proud of the way our guys kept competing and battling. All around, it was a good team win today.”
Williams now has 20 points and a seven-point lead on Hamilton in the NESCAC standings. The Continentals, who beat Williams in Williamstown back in December, have four games in hand on the Ephs.
Playing matinees is not unusual for NESCAC teams, who usually play weekend series on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Playing a day game on a Tuesday, even during Williams’ winter session, was a bit unusual.
“I never get too concerned too much about things like that. Obviously, you have to adjust to everything,” Kangas said. “We play a lot of afternoon games, but it’s always on a weekend. We play Friday night, Saturday afternoon or Saturday night, Sunday afternoon. We don’t see this as much during the academic year because our kids are [in class]. During Winter Study, I think it’s a good opportunity to get a game in like this. There was a [women’s] game originally scheduled for tonight, so that was the reason we played so early.”
For the second game in a row, Evan Ruschil backstopped the Ephs to a victory. Ruschil, who had 29 saves in Sunday’s 6-1 win at Wesleyan, had 26 saves. That included 12 in a third period that saw the Ephs at a 6-4 player disadvantage for practically the final two minutes of the game.
The Ephs had been whistled for having too many men on the ice at 18:20 of the third period. With the power play, Conn. College coach Jim Ward pulled goalie Cam Fernandez, giving the Camels a two-man advantage. They could not, however, put one past Ruschil and when the horn sounded, Williams improved to 7-4 and 7-2 in NESCAC.
The Camels, now 1-6 and 0-4 in conference play, struck just 7 minutes, 54 seconds into the game. Conn. College’s number one line of Seth Stadheim centering Anthony Quatieri and Paul Capozzi did the trick.
Capozzi, in the left-wing faceoff circle, pushed the puck to Quatieri in the slot, and his shot beat Ruschil.
Just over six minutes later, the Ephs tied the score when Lawrick’s wrist shot eluded Fernandez and the game was tied.
Williams took the lead for keeps on a power-play goal in the second period. Lukas Uhler was whistled for hooking at 10:13. Twenty-five seconds later, the Eph power play took care of its business. Mac Carso and Niko Karamanis set up Alsaif for his goal, and the Ephs never trailed again.
“I thought our team defense was pretty good. We turned some pucks over, which hasn’t been the way we’ve been playing lately,” Kangas said. “I told the guys, sometimes you have to find a way to win and you have to find a way to play together. Ruschil played well in goal. I thought our D did a good job.
“All around, a good team win.”
It’s a non-conference weekend for Williams, with one home game on the schedule. It is, however, a big one.
Second-ranked SUNY Geneseo, with a 12-1-1 record, will visit Lansing Chapman Rink Saturday. Geneseo holds a 3-1 series lead on the Ephs, but Williams won 6-4 back in December, 2019, which is the last time these squads played.
“We enjoy the challenge,” said Kangas. “It’s only going to help us long term, and that’s the goal too, just to get better by being pushed. We know they’re a team that can capitalize on mistakes, and we will have to play a pretty solid game against them. We know that.”