The Christmas holiday break gives hockey players at Williams College an opportunity to catch their collective breath after the first semester's worth of games, and their final papers and exams.
Coaches Bill Kangas and Meghan Gillis will gather their players for the second semester's games right after the holiday.
It promises to be a tough, but interesting road for both teams.
The Ephs went into the break with a 5-3 record, which was the bad news. The good news is Kangas' team holds a solid, four-point lead in the NESCAC standings.
Williams is 5-1 in NESCAC play, which is good for 14 points. That is important because of how the NESCAC standings are determined.
With five-minute conference overtime games in play, NESCAC has a points system to determine conference leaders. Teams get three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime win, 1.5 points for a tie game and one point for an overtime loss.
Williams had regulation wins over Colby, Bowdoin, Tufts and Middlebury, and a regulation loss at Hamilton. To close out the first semester, Jack Forrest's goal in overtime gave Williams a 3-2 win over Little Three rival Amherst. The OT win gave Williams 14 points.
Hamilton is second with 10 points, followed by Wesleyan at 9 1/2 points.
Williams was due to play this weekend at the 11th Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Tournament at Norwich University. But on New Year's Eve, Norwich announced the cancelation of the tournament.
"Norwich University officials, in conjunction with the Northfield Savings Bank, explored all possibilities to continue to hold some form of competition, but in the end was unable to do so," read a statement from Norwich.
Instead of the tournament, the Ephs remain in practice mode until Friday, Jan. 7. That's when Williams will head to Wesleyan for the first of a weekend series with some Connecticut NESCAC rivals. Williams will play at Wesleyan on Friday, and then at Trinity on Saturday.
The Ephs will head to that tournament with the nation's No. 1 goalie. Evan Ruschil has a 0.99 goals-against average, with two shutouts. The junior goalie has a .965 save percentage.
Williams won't be back at home until Jan. 11, when the Ephs play a 3 p.m. game against Connecticut College.
Other than conference games, one date to circle would be Saturday, Jan. 15, when second-ranked SUNY-Oswego comes to visit Williamstown. The last time these teams played, Williams' Connor Kucharski scored twice in the third period to clinch a 6-4 win. The game was played on Dec. 1, 2019.
It was a solid first semester for Gillis' Ephs, as they bounced back from a season-opening sweep at Colby to win five straight games.
Williams swept a series from Hamilton to counter-balance being swept in Maine and closed the semester with a two-game sweep of William Smith in non-league play.
Williams is tied for fourth in the league, which uses the same 3-2-1 1/2-1 point system to determine where teams fall in the standings.
Middlebury, the unanimous No. 1 team in the most recent USCHO.com Division III Top 10, leads NESCAC with 12 points. Colby has 9 points and is in second, followed by Hamilton (7). Williams and Wesleyan are tied with 5 points each. Bowdoin (4) and Trinity (3) follow Williams and Wesleyan.
That becomes interesting because all seven of those NESCAC schools are inside the Division III PairWise and RPI Top 20s. PairWise is a ranking system that helps the Division III Tournament Committee rank at-large teams.
According to the most recent PairWise, Wesleyan is No. 1 in the country, with Middlebury second and Colby third. Bowdoin and Trinity are 9 and 10, while Williams sits at 11 and Hamilton is 16. Those NESCAC schools sit in the same spots in the RPI.
Williams is scheduled to return to play at Lansing Chapman Rink over New Year's weekend. The Ephs will host Bowdoin in a New Year's Day, 3 p.m. matinee, and will play Stevenson on Sunday at 3. Williams last played Stevenson in the 2019-20 season, in the Codfish Bowl Tournament championship game at UMass Boston. Williams won that game 2-0.
The Ephs open the second half of the season with six consecutive home games. After the Bowdoin-Stevenson weekend, Williams will host Trinity for two games, and then play Manhattanville before starting a home-and-home with Amherst at home on Jan. 14.
The Ephs will head into the second semester with three of the top 10 scorers in NESCAC. Senior Meghan Halloran is tied for sixth with eight points on five goals and three assists. She is tied with Williams teammates Ellia Chiang and Robin Kitazono. Chiang is a first-year and Kitazono is a sophomore, and both have four goals and four assists.