WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Looking to earn a split on the weekend, the Williams College Ephs hosted NESCAC foe Middlebury Sunday afternoon. The Ephs got off to a hot start, netting the first goal of the game. However, plagued by penalties in the latter 40 minutes, the home team could not hold off the Panthers in the end, falling 4-1.
Middlebury re-grouped and was able to find their offensive groove as they registered two goals in both the second and third period to sweep the in-conference series.
Undeterred by last night's 4-1 loss, the Ephs came out firing. Just 4:15 into the contest, Cristina Bravi (Montreal, QC) registered an unassisted goal, her 5th tally of the season. Bravi got control of the puck and skated up the right side to generate a scoring chance. She turned her defender inside out and made a slick deke to beat Middlebury keeper Anabelle Jones and give the home team an early 1-0 lead.
Head coach Meghan Gillis commented on the quick start, "We had worked on that in practice all week, and we did that in the first five minutes of the game yesterday, but we were able to do that for the first 20 minutes today, which was great. We carried that momentum into the second, and then got into penalty trouble for the remainder of the game." The Ephs would be plagued by 10 penalties on the afternoon.
The remainder of the period proved to be a physical battle, and both offenses saw solid scoring chances. Neither side would find the back of the net however, and the score would remain 1-0 in favor of the Ephs headed into the locker room.
The Panthers out shot the Ephs in the first 20 minutes of play by four, 13-9.
6:22 into the middle frame, Heather Marrison notched a goal for the Panthers to knot up the contest, 1-1. Marrison's shot from the point made its way through traffic past Eph keeper Chloe Billadeau (Chaska, MN), who never saw the puck. Lauren Greer and Jennifer Krakower were credited with assists on the equalizer.
At 13:33, Middlebury registered their first powerplay goal after numerous man-up opportunities. The Panthers won the face off, and Molly Downey found teammate Katie Sullivan, who sent a high shot over Billadeau's right shoulder. Sullivan's tally would extend the visitor's lead to 2-1.
Headed into the final frame, Williams saw a man-up chance of their own due to a Panther penalty 2:54 in. Bravi nearly evened up the contest with a shot that deflected off the post.
Middlebury would steal back the momentum shortly after and capitalize on another man-up chance. Greer set up Madison Styrbicki for the Panther's second powerplay goal.
With the benefit of the Styrbicki goal, Middlebury took a 3-1 lead with 13:12 remaining.
A pair of Eph penalties coming within four seconds of each other gave Middlebury a golden opportunity with just over five minutes to play. Impressive play by the Eph penalty kill unit and Billadeau between the pipes held off Middlebury's offensive onslaught and kept Williams within reach.
Looking to slice the Panthers lead in half and create a comeback effort, Williams pulled Billadeau from the net with 1:55 to go.
However, a shorthanded empty netter from Emily Fluke at the 18:37 mark would put the game out of reach for Williams and finalize the score at 4-1.
Shots on the night favored Middlebury 49 to 32. Billadeau made 45 saves, while Jones made 31 in collecting the win.
Despite the loss, the Ephs had much to be proud of, including an assertive first period start and a solid effort from the penalty kill unit. "We did a great job of killing off that 5-on-3 in the third. It rarely happens that you have a full, two minute 5-on-3, so it shows the strength of the four people out there on the penalty kill," stated Gillis.
The Ephs hit the road next weekend for their last two regular season games, which will be important in determining seeding for post season play. Gillis looks forward to facing NESCAC opponent Connecticut College, adding, "Conn. is always a tough opponent. We know that we have to build all week to be ready to play them."