WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Two goals from Peter Mistretta proved to be enough for the Williams men's hockey team (5-2, 4-1 NESCAC), which relied on a strong defensive effort and some timely saves from goaltender Sean Dougherty to down the Lord Jeffs (4-3-1, 3-2 NESCAC).
Mistretta has now scored four goals in the last two games and leads the Ephs with six goals on the season. Adding assists on the night were three young defensemen — David Jarrett, Greg Johnson and Alex DeBaere.
Despite Mistretta's offensive efforts, the story of the game on Friday night was the Williams defense. Clinging to a 2-1 lead heading into the third period, the Ephs withstood Amherst's barrage by blocking a number of shots and winning battles by the boards to get the puck out of the defensive zone.
When the puck did make it through the Williams defense, Dougherty was there to make the key stops. The sophomore goaltender stopped all of Amherst's 17 shots in the third period and finished the night with 32 saves on 33 shots.
For all of the defensive efforts made in the final period, both offenses came out strong to start the game. The two rivals both exhibited strong special teams play in the game's first 10 minutes, taking advantage of power play opportunities to net their first goals of the night. The Lord Jeffs started fast in the game's early minutes and peppered Dougherty with shots, but it would be the Ephs who struck first six minutes into the action.
With just over 14 minutes to play in the first frame, Wickman skated to the right corner of the offensive zone on the power play and slid a pass in front of the net, catching Amherst goalie Nathan Corey out of position. Wickman's pass was unable to find a target, but Jarrett corralled the puck as it skidded to the left side and tapped it over to Mistretta, who buried a wrist shot under the post from the right circle to put the Ephs up 1-0.
The Lord Jeffs were not losing for long, however, as they cashed in on a power play goal of their own at the halfway point of the first period. The Amherst goal was set up by forward Conor Brown, who fired a pass on net from the right corner of the offensive zone. Forward Johnny Van Siclen was waiting on the doorstep and tapped the puck through Dougherty's legs to tie the score at 1-1.
Amherst nearly took the lead later in the first but was denied on a great save by Dougherty. With eight minutes remaining in the period, an Amherst forward fired a wrist shot that deflected off Dougherty's pad and landed right on the stick of another Lord Jeff. The Amherst attacker tried to flick it in, but Dougherty stuck his right leg out out to make a sprawling pad save and keep the score tied heading into the first intermission.
Energized by Dougherty's defense, the Ephs came out fast in the second period and took the lead just four and a half minutes into the frame. The go-ahead goal was set up by DeBaere, who controlled the puck on the left side of the offensive zone and snapped a cross-ice pass to Mistretta. The Ephs' resident sniper quickly fired a wrist shot that beat the out-of-position Amherst goalie for his second goal of the night to put Williams up for good 2-1.
"He's a goal-scorer," head coach Bill Kangas said of Mistretta after the game. "That's his strength... He can shoot it, and he's strong on his stick. At any point [when he's shooting] it can go in, he's got that kind of release too."
The Lord Jeffs fought hard to equalize the score, but Dougherty stepped up his game and made a handful of key saves to keep the Ephs on top.
The Ephs nearly extended the lead as time wound down in the second when Mike Brofft ripped a shot from the center of the zone on a power play opportunity. The puck deflected off an Amherst defender in front of the net but found the body of Corey, who was able to secure it and keep the Williams lead at 2-1 heading into the final frame.
Corey finished the night with 16 saves on 18 shots.
Eph fans began to pack the stands as the two teams took the ice for the final period, and Williams would need all the help it could get from the raucous crowd. The Lord Jeffs put continual offensive pressure on the Ephs throughout most of the period and were able to keep the puck on the Williams side of the ice.
Amherst upped its intensity even more as the game wound down, but Williams' defense once again held firm. The Eph defenders blocked a handful of shots down the stretch and relied on a strong forecheck by seniors Evan Dugdale, John Wickman and the other Eph forwards to kill the clock.
"I thought the seniors played really well across the board," Kangas said. "All of them did little things during the game and made some plays during the game that really helped us."
The Lord Jeffs had some chances in the final minute after they pulled their goalie, but forward Eric Rubino made a great diving effort to poke the puck out of the defensive zone with 45 seconds remaining. After a solid glove save by Dougherty with 10 seconds to go, the Ephs won the faceoff and cleared the puck to seal the victory.
"When guys are crashing the net, and if the shot gets through from up top, it's chaos," said Kangas of his squad's defensive effort. "Guys were selling out; they were doing a good job making it tough for [Amherst] to get pucks to the net, and when they did Sean did a great job covering up or putting it away from the net."
The Ephs move into third place in the New England Small College Athletic Conference with the victory and trail just Bowdoin and Middlebury in the standings.