By Mike Zhe
It was one of those early-season December games that felt like so much more.
To close out the first semester portion of their respective schedules, a couple of Division 3’s stingiest teams — Williams and Amherst – met at Amherst’s Orr Rink on Dec. 7.
Both teams brought in defenses ranked among the nation’s best and both brought in hot goalies, junior veteran Sean Dougherty for Williams and sophomore Dave Cunningham (Arlington, Mass.), the former Belmont Hill star who’d grabbed the Lord Jeffs’ starting job at the beginning of the season and run with it.
Despite chances — especially for the Ephs, who went on the game’s first four power plays — the game remained scoreless headed to the third period.
“The way it was going, 0-0 after two (periods), whoever got the first one could win it,” said Williams coach Bill Kangas (South Burlington, Vt.). “Two good rivals going at it.”
Ultimately, it was the Ephs who got it, with sophomore defenseman Greg Johnson keeping a puck in at the blue line and firing a shot on net that senior forward Matt Doyle got his stick on for the redirected goal a little more than two minutes into the final frame.
The 1-0 win not only sent Williams into its holiday break with a little extra wind at its back, it also preserved its status as one of just three remaining unbeaten teams in Division 3: Adrian (10-0-1) and Plattsburgh (9-0-2) are the others.
“It was nice to finish the way we did,” said Kangas. “We’re still a young team. We have nine freshmen we’re breaking into the lineup. … It’s always nice to go into the break with a 5-0-2 record.”
It sets up what should be a fun second semester in the NESCAC, where Amherst and Williams have been regular contenders in recent years. But not everything has gone according to plan.
Trinity again looks like a top-tier team. Middlebury has kept punching against a tough schedule. Colby looks much-improved in the second year of the Blaise MacDonald (Billerica, Mass.) regime, tying Williams, 1-1, on opening night and winning at Bowdoin later that month. Last-place Conn. College also owns a win over Bowdoin, the preseason favorite.
“From top to bottom, you can’t predict from night to night who’s going to win,” said Kangas. “That’s what great about the league.”
But only one team made it through the semester unbeaten and that’s Williams. On a team that’s allowed just nine goals in seven games, thanks to Dougherty (1.26 goals-against average, .955 save percentage) and the defense in front of him, junior Craig Kitto (5-5-10) is the leading scorer.
Some new faces. But the same old commitment to keeping the puck out of the net.
“I thought our returners did an unbelievable job of making the freshmen feel they were part of it since Day 1,” said Kangas. “It was seamless, really.”
Player of the Week
Frankie DeAugustine, soph., F, UMass-Boston
DeAugustine scored four goals as the Beacons closed out their semester by ripping Wentworth on Friday, 9-2.
Game of the Week
No games scheduled this week
NEHJ Division 3 Power Rankings
1. Williams (5-0-2, 4-0-2 NESCAC)
Only three teams are allowing fewer goals than the Ephs, who check in it 1.29 a game.
2. Norwich (7-1-2, 6-0-1 ECAC East)
Shane Gorman (13) and Travis Janke (12) are among the national leaders in helpers.
3. Babson (9-2, 5-1 ECAC East)
Senior Nik Tasiopoulos (Norwell, Mass.) leads the Beavers with six goals, with four of them coming on the power play.
4. Amherst (6-2, 5-1
Coach Jack Arena said he needed his sophomores to step up this year. They have.
5. UMass-Boston (6-1-2, 3-1-2 ECAC East)
Everyone got in on the scoring act against Wentworth, with fourth-liners Mark Grinhaus, Connor McStravick and Mike Kuhn (Holbrook, Mass.) each notching a goal.
6. Trinity (6-2,
Bantams are winning without a single senior in their regular lineup, save for goalie Ben Coulthard (South Windsor, Conn.)
(7-1-2, 3-1-1 ECAC
Last year’s Rookie of the Year in the league, Tyler Beasley, leads the Bison in scoring at 6-10-16.
8. Bowdoin (5-3-1,
Senior Colin Downey of East Sandwich, Mass. is among the points leaders in Division 3 with 6-10-16 totals, and needs four more for the career century mark.
& Wales (9-3, 3-2-0 ECAC Northeast)
Goalie Joe Ballmer stopped 54 of 56 shots as the Wildcats swept a non-league series with Buffalo State, both games by 2-1 scores.
State (6-3-1, 4-1-1 MASCAC)
Alaska native Ryan McDonald’s goal late in the second period stood up as the game-winner in 2-1 non-conference win at Assumption last week.