By Mike Zhe
For Williams College, the puck officially drops on the second half of the season Tuesday night when it travels to Westfield State for a non-conference game.
But one could argue that the real fun won’t get started until later this month.
Because the NESCAC adopted a double round-robin scheduling format this year, each of the league’s 10 teams will play every other team in the league twice instead of once. For the Ephmen, the second rotation will begin Jan. 20 and 21, when they travel to Maine for return games against Bowdoin and Colby.
“I think (the challenge) is going to be playing a team for the second time — the payback game,” said Williams coach Bill Kangas. “You’ll have not just video, but also the motivation factor.”
There should be plenty of motivation for Williams’ opponents the second time around. The Ephmen (5-1-2, 4-1-1 NESCAC) have slipped up just once in the league, a 5-4 loss at Amherst right before the break.
The linchpins have been defense and goaltending. With one of the league’s best goalies in senior Ryan Purdy (2.08 goals-against average, .932 save percentage), plus seasoned defensemen in Ryan Scott, Justin Troiani, Stephen Maier (IOrange, Conn.) and Patrick Morrissey, the Ephmen rank 11th in Division 3 in scoring defense (2.12 goals).
“That’s our team,” said Kangas. “When you have good goaltending and four senior defensemen, it calms things down a lot.”
Don’t figure on that formula changing. Purdy may be a senior, but waiting for his time is freshman Sean Dougherty, who backstopped Milton Academy to the New England prep school title last winter.
The Bowdoin-Colby weekend will kick off a stretch of 10 straight NESCAC games for Williams
‘They’re all tough outs,” said Kangas. “Just look at the scores. A penalty here, a power-play goal there … It just comes down to the little things. There’s a lot of balance in the league.”
Game of the Week
Castleton St. at Plattsburgh, Friday
Just six days after battling it out for the title in the Cardinal Classic, these two teams meet again in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
The fourth-ranked Spartans (11-2-0) are trying to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time this season. Meanwhile, No. 3 Plattsburgh (8-2-3) is looking to build some momentum as it chases No. 2 Oswego in the SUNYAC.
New England Division 3 power rankings
1. Norwich (8-0-1, 6-0 ECAC East)
Cadets stay home to host the Norwich Classic this weekend, facing Morrisville on Friday and then either Fitchburg State or No. 11 Elmira the next night.
2. Castleton State (11-2, 7-1 ECAC East)
Big weekend for sophomore goalie Erick Cinotti (Mahwah, N.J.) at the Cardinal Classic. He made 42 saves to backstop a 5-2 win over No. 9 Utica, then made 40 the next night in a 2-1 loss to No. 5 Plattsburgh.
3. Amherst (8-1-0, 5-0-0 NESCAC)
Johnny Van Siclen scored twice and Nathan Corey made 26 saves to highlight a 3-0 win over Lake Forest on Friday.
4. Williams (5-1-2, 4-1-1 NESCAC)
Ephmen get back to action Tuesday when they visit Westfield State, their first game since Dec. 10.
5. Curry (7-2, 5-0 ECAC Northeast)
Colonels’ seven-game win streak was snapped with a 6-5 overtime loss to Hamilton on New Year’s Eve, despite rallying to force OT with two goals in the last 3:12 of regulation.
6. Plymouth State (8-2-0, 5-1-0 MASCAC)
It will be a full month between games when the Panthers host Wentworth for a pair at Hanaway Rink this weekend, starting on Saturday.
7. Middlebury (5-3-2, 4-2-0 NESCAC)
Panthers had to settle for a 2-2 tie with Southern Maine in the final game of the Middlebury Classic despite outshooting their foes 34-20.
8. UMass-Dartmouth (6-3-1, 4-1-1 MASCAC)
Corsairs get back to work Saturday when Babson comes to town. Dartmouth has won four of its last five, with the loss coming in overtime to Plymouth State.
9. Johnson & Wales (7-3-1, 3-0-1 ECAC Northeast)
Wildcats will play Tufts Friday and then Southern New Hampshire or UMass-Boston Saturday in the Codfish Bowl.
10. Bowdoin (5-3-1, 3-2-1 NESCAC)
Polar Bears play their first game since Dec. 10 when they visit Wentworth on Tuesday.
Mike Zhe can be reached at email@example.com.