WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williams men's hockey team (6-2, 5-1 NESCAC) struck twice in the second period and held off the Hamilton Continentals (1-5-2, 1-4-1 NESCAC) in the game's final minutes to end the first half of their season with four straight victories.
After a period and a half of scoreless play, Williams scored two goals in under two minutes in the second period off the sticks of co-captain Mark Lyons and Matt Doyle to give them a 2-0 advantage.
The Continentals narrowed the deficit to 2-1 with a goal from forward Pat Curtis but could not score the equalizer as a strong defensive effort from the Ephs sealed the victory.
"I thought in the second period we really played well," said head coach Bill Kangas after the win. "That was probably the best second period we've had. I thought we moved the puck, did some nice thngs, and obviously scoring those two goals were big."
Despite Friday night's spirited win over Amherst, the Ephs could not afford to take a break against the Continentals on Saturday afternoon. Hamilton matched Williams' energy in the early stages, skating fast and challenging Eph goaltender Sean Dougherty with a number of shots on net.
The Ephs had a chance to strike first just two minutes into the game on when Doyle and Peter Mistretta broke free on a 2-on-1 rush. Mistretta skated up the right side and fired a cross-ice pass to Doyle, but Doyle's shot found the chest of Hamilton goaltender Joe Quattrocchi for the save.
Williams would get another chance to score four minutes into the game after a Hamilton penalty, but they were forced to turn to their defense to make a key stop on a shorthanded attempt from the Continentals.
After stealing an Eph pass, a Hamilton attacker fired a wrist shot from the left side that deflected off the pad of Dougherty in front of an open net. Another Continental forward skated toward the loose puck, but Nick Anderson dove in front of the goal mouth to prevent the scoring chance.
The game's fast pace continued throughout the period, as both defenses fought hard to disrupt offensive flow and intercept passes in the neutral zone. The Ephs got another power play chance with five minutes to play in the first period, but the Continental defense held strong to keep the game scoreless heading into the first intermission.
The Hamilton offense put some pressure on the Ephs to start the second and nearly took the lead on the power play off a shot from forward Michael DiMare. DiMare controlled the puck near the left corner of the offensive zone and flipped a wrist shot on net that deflected off the top right crossbar of the goal and out of harm's way.
After several more minutes of scoreless play, the Ephs finally broke the deadlock on a power play goal from Lyons at 9:40 in the second period. The co-captain's first score of the season was set up by Mistretta, who fired wrist shot from the right side. Mistretta's shot was saved by Quattrocchi, but Lyons and John Wickman were waiting in good position in front of the net. Wickman won the puck down low and tapped it to Lyons, who deposited it in net to put his team up 1-0.
Building off their first goal, the Ephs struck again a minute later off a nifty shot from Doyle. After a hard Mike Brofft slap shot deflected off Quattrocchi's pad, Doyle took the puck and flipped a backhand shot with a defender on him and his back turned to the net that snuck inside the left post to extend the Williams lead to 2-0.
On the defensive end, the Eph back line of Brofft and Zander Masucci combined with the forwards to keep pucks away from the net and win possession. In net, Dougherty made four crucial saves in the period to keep the Continentals off the board heading into the final period.
Dougherty finished the afternoon with 17 saves on 18 Continental shots. After giving up just two goals this weekend, the sophomore goaltender ranks third in the New England Small College Athletic Conference with a .939 save percentage. On the other side of the ice, Hamilton netmainder Joe Quattrocchi made 22 saves on 24 shots.
Hamilton refused to go quietly in the game's final 20 minutes. The Continentals turned up their offensive intensity to start the third period, and with ten minutes to go in regulation their efforts finally paid off. Controlling the puck in the offensive end, DiMare found Curtis open near the left circle for a one-time attempt that Curtis banged off the right pipe and in to cut the Eph lead to 2-1.
The Ephs responded capably as time wound down, however, disrupting the Continental offense and limiting shot attempts on Dougherty. Hamilton attempted to pull Quattrocchi to gain an extra attacker with a minute remaining, but a nice pass interception by Cody Skinner forced him back into the crease.
After back-to-back 2-1 victories this weekend, the Ephs have now earned four of their six wins on the year by just one goal.
"When you win a game like this, it really builds team confidence in each other," Kangas said. "It also helps you going forward when you play games like this, that you've been in this situation before and you've experienced getting scored on and being able to handle it in the right way."
The Ephs now move into second place in the NESCAC standings heading into the winter break, trailing only Bowdoin College, who remains undefeated on the year. Williams will get an extended break for the holidays and will not take the ice again until Jan. 4, when they take on Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., at 7:30 pm.