WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- The Williams Men's Hockey team (8-4-2) took a 1-1 tie to the midway point of the second period on Friday night, but the #4-ranked Bowdoin Polar Bears (14-1-1) scored three consecutive goals, two within thirty seconds, to seal a 4-1 victory over the Ephs.
Energized by a lively home crowd in Lansing Chapman Rink, the Ephs played a fast, physical first period against the NESCAC-leading Polar Bears. In the opening minutes, both squads battled back and forth across the neutral zone but failed to generate quality scoring chances.
Near the end of the period, these chances began to open up as a flurry of penalties gave both teams power-play opportunities. Bowdoin got its shot first when back-to-back Eph infractions gave the Polar Bears a 5-on-3 man-advantage. Bowdoin moved the puck well, but Williams called on goaltender Sean Dougherty '15 to make a pair of key stops to deny these scores.
Dougherty stopped 22 of the Polar Bears' 26 shots in 60 minutes of play. On the other end of the ice, Polar Bear goaltender Steve Messina put forth a strong effort with 35 saves on 36 Eph shots in 60 minutes of play.
Less than a minute after Bowdoin's 5-on-3 chance, the Ephs got a 5-on-3 opportunity of their own after two quick Polar Bear penalties. Like Bowdoin, however, Williams controlled possession but could not beat goaltender Steve Messina and the Polar Bear defense.
With one minute remaining in the period, the Ephs almost cashed in when Peter Mistretta '15 found Eric Rubino '13 in front of the net on the left side, but Rubino's backhand attempt sailed just over the crossbar and the two squads entered the first intermission locked at 0-0.
Both offenses came out strong in the second period, but the Polar Bears struck first just four minutes into the frame to take the early lead. The Bowdoin goal was scored on a nifty move from forward John McGinnis, who carried the puck from behind the net to the right circle. McGinnis moved the puck to his backhand and lifted a spinning wrist shot over Dougherty to knot the score at 1-1.
The Ephs responded quickly, however. Lyons started the opportunity seven minutes into the frame by leading a breakout through the neutral zone and finding Dugdale, who carried the puck into the offensive zone and slid a nice pass to Mistretta in the slot. The wide-open Mistretta settled the puck and buried a wrist shot under the cross bar to put Williams up 1-0.
The rest of the period, though, was all Polar Bears, who proved their mettle by scoring two more unanswered goals in rapid succession. The first came at the halfway point of the second, when forward Tim Coffey took a pass from Kyle Lockwood and flipped a wrist shot on goal from the right side. Dougherty made the initial stop, but the puck deflected off the stick of an Eph defenseman to put Bowdoin up 2-1.
Just thirty seconds later, the Polar Bears struck again. This time it was forward Ollie Koo, who took a nice feed from forward Robert Toczylowski and tapped the puck in on the right doorstep to extend his team's lead to 3-1 heading into the final period.
"That's a good team," said head coach Bill Kangas after the game. "They're 14-1-1, that's the reason why they're there, but I just didn't think we responded well when they got the second goal, and that's why they got the third."
The Ephs came out in the third period looking to cut into the two-goal deficit, but it would be the Polar Bears who would deliver the dagger. After an opening faceoff win, defenseman Colin Downey and forward Harry Matheson slipped behind the Williams defense for a 2-on-1 rush and cashed in when Palumbo found Matheson on the right side for a one-time wrist shot to put the Ephs in a 4-1 hole.
Williams battled hard to dig out of the deficit. Halfway through the third period, forward Alex DeBaere '15 unleashed a slap shot from the left circle that seemed destined for the net, but Messina made an acrobatic play to knock the shot down with his glove. As the seconds ticked away, the Polar Bear defense tightened up in front of Messina and denied the Ephs any chance of a comeback.
"I thought when we really got the puck in the zone and moved it around we had some chances," added Kangas. "But we needed [at least] one goal and we weren't able to get it. But that's a good team, give them a lot of credit."
Despite the loss, Williams (6-2-1 NESCAC) maintains its hold on second place in the conference, just ahead of the Middlebury Panthers (5-2-2 NESCAC). The Ephs will have little time to dwell on Friday night's loss, though, as they turn around to face the Colby Mules (3-12-1) in NESCAC action on Saturday afternoon at Lansing Chapman Rink. The puck drops at 3 PM.