HENNIKER, N.H. — After 55 minutes of scoreless hockey, New England College (3-3-2) notched the late game-winner to pull ahead of the Ephs, 1-0. The Eph shot advantage of 29-13 and their seven man-up opportunities did not prove to be enough Tuesday night on the road.
The first period ended in a scoreless draw, with the Ephs and the Pilgrims providing solid play on both ends of the ice. A NEC penalty early in the opening frame gave the visitors a man-up opportunity and allowed the offense to test netminder Kristen Conners early on. Conners managed to fend off the flurry of shots. She remained steadfast between the pipes and finished the period turning away all eight bids that came her way.
It was NEC who then had a chance to generate some offensive rhythm due to a Williams penalty, but the Eph penalty-kill unit proved unyielding and the Pilgrims were unable to fire off any shots. They would only test Eph goaltender Rachel Nguyen (Hermosa Beach, CA) twice the remainder of the period.
While the first 20 minutes ended tied at 0, the Ephs controlled the pace of the game, posting eight shots to NEC's two.
Headed into the second frame, both offenses looked eager to gain an edge. The contest proved to be a stalemate, with Williams firing eight shots on goal and NEC posting nine shots. Despite seeing much more action than the first, Nguyen was reliable in the net, turning away all nine bids.
A handful of penalties on both teams gave the Ephs and the Pilgrims several powerplay opportunities in the second, all of which ended successfully for the shorthanded squad. Each side gained three man-up chances.
The middle period ended in a similar fashion to the way it began, characterized by back-and-forth play with neither team able to find an opening in the opposing defensive lines. Williams entered the locker room with a slight 16-11 shot advantage, but the contest remained knotted up at 0.
Despite having two more man-up chances in the final frame, the Ephs could not find the back of the net before the home team. NEC recorded the decisive tally with 5:45 remaining in the game, when forward Rachel Vigilano was set up by Aubrey Fischer to notch to game-winner.
The Ephs refused to let up in the final minutes of play. Head coach Meghan Gillis remarked, "I thought the team kept pushing until the last minute and we had a scoring chance on the doorstep to send the game into overtime with five seconds left."
Nguyen finished the night with 12 saves, while Conners finished with 29 stops.
"We had lots of chances, we just weren't able to find the back of the net," Gillis added. "Special teams was definitely the difference maker today. While we didn't get scored on on the penalty kill, we also didn't score any powerplay goals. They took seven penalties and we weren't able to score, so that's what the difference was today."
Looking ahead, Williams will play a stretch of in-conference games and look to jump up the New England Small College Athletic Conference standings starting this Friday against Hamilton. Williams is currently ranked 4th in the NESCAC with a conference record of 3-1-0.
The Ephs will host fifth-ranked (NESCAC standings) Hamilton for a double-header this weekend. Game times are set for 7 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday at Lansing Chapman Rink.