HARTFORD, CT -- The first game of the New Year featured great goaltending and hard-fought play from both squads, as the Williams Men's Hockey Team (6-2-1) battled to a tie with NESCAC foe Trinity College (5-3-2).
After nearly twenty minutes of scoreless play to start the game, defenseman Mike Brofft '13 broke the ice with a sharp wrist shot from the slot to give the Ephs a 1-0 advantage. Forwards Eric Rubino '13 and Evan Dugdale '13 added assists on the goal.
Williams would carry this lead late in to the third period, but forward Samuel Kane finally got the Bantams on the board with 9:12 remaining in the game off a nice pass from linesmate Elie Vered.
The score stayed knotted at 1-1 for the remainder of regulation and into the overtime period, as Eph goaltender Sean Dougherty '15 and Bantam netminder Benjamin Coulthard went back and forth making nice saves to keep their teams in the game and force the contest to a draw.
Dougherty finished the night with 39 saves on 40 shots in 65 minutes of play, while his counterpart stopped 33 of the Ephs' 34 shots in 65 minutes of play. The two netminders sit on top of the NESCAC in save percentage, with Dougherty boasting a .944 save percentage and Coulthard barely trailing him with a .942 save percentage.
"I think both teams defended pretty well overall," remarked Coach Bill Kangas after the game, "but the goalies had to make some big saves, and they both played well."
After nearly a month off from game action over the winter holidays, it came as no surprise that both squads struggled to find a rhythm in the game's early minutes. The Ephs had a number of passes intercepted in the neutral zone, while the Bantams failed to connect on passes in the offensive zone and generate shots.
As the first period progressed, however, Williams generated momentum and settled into an offensive rhythm. With the aid of some timely defensive plays, the Ephs broke free on several two-on-two rushes that resulted in quality shots on Coulthard.
At the twelve-minute mark of the first period, one of these shots off the stick of Nick Anderson '14 appeared to give the Ephs the lead, but the net was dislodged just before the puck crossed the goal mouth and the score was waived off by the officiating crew.
With just under one minute to go in the first period, the Ephs finally broke the ice. After a pair of nice saves by Dougherty in the defensive end, Williams countered with a 3-on-2 rush into the offensive zone. A nifty pass from Rubino placed the puck on the stick of Brofft in the low slot on the left side of the net, and Brofft made the most of his opportunity. The senior defender steadied the puck and ripped a wrist shot past Coulthard to give his team a 1-0 lead heading into the locker room.
The Trinity offense would not stay stagnant for long, however, as the Bantams found their groove and peppered Dougherty with sixteen shots in the second frame. It would be the Ephs, though, who had a golden opportunity to score when Trinity forward Jeffrey Menard received a five-minute major for boarding just 48 seconds into the second period.
The Ephs generated a handful of scoring chances on the man-advantage but could not find the net, as Coulthard made several nice saves to keep the Ephs at bay. A Williams penalty with two minutes left in the Bantam penalty kill negated the rest of the man-advantage, leaving the Ephs empty-handed on the power play.
The Bantams would rely on Coulthard once again at the halfway point of the second period. Forward Peter Mistretta '15 found the puck amidst a crowd in front of the net and flicked a backhand to the right side, but Coulthard reached back to make a sprawling glove save and keep the puck out of the net.
The Trinity offense generated more shots and scoring chances in the latter half of the second period, but the Eph defense held strong. Dougherty was called upon to make a number of saves on point-blank shots, and the Eph defenders did a nice job of steering rebounds clear of the net. After twenty more minutes of hard-fought action, the score remained 1-0 in favor of the Ephs heading into the final period.
The Bantams continued to gain momentum in the third period and posted an increasing number of shots on Dougherty as the game wound down. The Ephs withstood the onslaught, though, thanks in large part to the defense, which blocked several shots early in the frame before they could even reach Dougherty.
Trinity would not be denied for long, however. Just over halfway through the third period, forward Elie Vered made a nifty move near the right circle of the Williams defensive end to split a pair of Eph defenders. Vered then left the puck to Samuel Kane, who flicked a wrist shot over Dougherty's blocker to equalize the score at 1-1.
As time ran out in regulation, Dougherty and the Eph defense held strong to stop several Bantam shots and send the game into overtime. The Ephs had a chance to score in overtime when Dugdale fired a point-blank wrist shot from the right side of the net, but Coulthard made a confident save to deny the chance.
"In the first game back [from winter break], you never know what you're going to get sometimes," added Kangas. "But I thought the guys really competed, stayed together, and worked hard. We also didn't take many penalties, which is a plus."
The Ephs remain in second place in the NESCAC after Friday night's tie with a 5-1-1 conference record. They will have a chance to improve on this record Saturday afternoon, when they travel to Middletown, CT to take on the Wesleyan Cardinals (5-5-1). Game time is 3 pm.