Most youngsters throughout New England look up to the Bruins. Apparently, so do the region’s small-college coaches.
When discussing the early success of the Williams hockey team, coach Bill Kangas referenced the recipe that’s helped the local NHL team early this season.
“I liked our team on paper at the start,” Kangas said of the Ephs, who head into the final weekend of action before Christmas at 5-0-1. “I think both of our goalies are pretty talented, and you look at the Bruins, with Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, that’s pretty important.”
NESCAC teams can also look to last year’s Amherst team, which featured two dominant goaltenders in Jonathan La Rose and Cole Anderson, to see that the blueprint translates well.
Williams has allowed more than two goals in a game just once, and opponents have scored just seven goals in six games.
While the defense has been steady, Williams has only outshot opponents 215-208, meaning goaltenders Ryan Purdy and Marc Pulde have made the difference.
In four games, Purdy has a save percentage of .950, while Pulde has recorded a .979 mark in his two games.
Unbeaten through their first six games, the Ephs enter the weekend with the possibility of heading home for the Christmas break without a loss and currently sit atop the NESCAC, along with Bowdoin. They have an exhibition with the Under-18 national team on Saturday, followed by a game against Salve Regina on Sunday.
Williams has beaten NESCAC rivals Tufts and Conn. College, and has polished off its past three opponents by a combined score of 14-3. Perhaps Williams’ most impressive effort so far was a 5-1 win over Manhattanville, a Division 3 Frozen Four competitor last year.
Senior Alex Smigelski has led the way with five goals and four assists, while Matt Masucci has contributed big goals, with three of his four going down as game-winners.
Kangas said Smigelski, a left wing, is one of the rare Division 3 players who may have a chance at playing at a higher level someday. He’s 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, and has been picked as a captain by teammates for two straight seasons.
“He was different from the day he got here,” Kangas said. “He not only wanted to be good, he expected to be good. He has real good skills and an unmatched work ethic.”
With six double-digit scorers returning from last year’s third-place finisher, Williams looked in reasonable shape to start the year, but the Ephs have added junior Ben Contini, a transfer from RPI, and freshmen Evan Dugdale and Eric Rubino to their array of forwards. Dugdale and Rubino have already found the net early on, while Contini is third on the team in scoring.
“The thing I like the most is everyone is contributing,” Kangas said. “You look at the two teams that played for the national title last year – Neumann and Gustavus Adolphus – who thought they’d be there? We told the kids at the start of the year, let’s shoot for the moon.”
NEHJ Player of the Week
Scott Barchard, soph., Tufts
We go goaltender for the second consecutive week, but we couldn’t help it after the week the sophomore form Reading, Mass. had. He made a school-record 63 saves in a 4-3 overtime win over St. Anselm. That came on the second game of a back-to-back weekend. In the first he made 52 saves in a 3-1 win over New England College.
Plymouth State at Westfield State, Saturday
There aren’t a lot of marquee matchups this week, but this one has the potential to shape the race in the MASCAC for the rest of the year. Sure the league’s teams meet three times, but the winner of this one takes second position early on while chasing Salem State.
Around the NESCAC
Tufts (4-2-1, 2-1-1) and Barchard have now won four straight and he has a save percentage of .960 in the wins. Unfortunately for the Jumbos, the winning recipe isn’t one likely to last all year. So far, Barchard’s made 45 saves in three of the four wins. … Bowdoin earned its first 1-0 win since 1993 in a victory over Skidmore. Goaltender Richard Nerland made 28 saves in the shutout, then played the next night and beat Castleton State 7-1. The Polar Bears are 5-0 (4-0) and tied for the league lead with Williams. … The big week continued for the league’s goaltenders with Connecticut College’s Greg Parker making 45 saves against St. Anselm and finishing the weekend with a save percentage of .963.
Around the ECAC Northeast
Here’s a shock: A Wentworth player earned the league’s Player of the Week award. Skylur Jameson took the honor for the second time this year. It’s the third time in four weeks a Leopard has earned the award. He had three points in wins over defending champion Nichols and in a comeback win over Suffolk. Wentworth’s 7-0-1 start is the best in team history. Senior Jeff Olitch has 56 goals, placing him fifth on the school’s all-time list. … Here’s déjà vu No. 2: Curry goaltender Steven Jakiel won the league’s Goaltender of the Week award for the third time, the fourth straight week a Colonel has taken that honor. He improved to 4-0 with 23 saves in a 5-1 win over Nichols … Those are the only two teams in the league over .500. … Nichols freshman Zach Kohn has recorded a point in seven straight games.
Around the ECAC East
Norwich (5-0-1, 4-0) goaltender Ryan Klingensmith turned in two more shutouts, running his scoreless streak to 144 minutes and 17 seconds. He made 48 saves while beating Hamilton and Amherst by a combined score of 13-0. As if the Cadets needed any more young scorers, sophomore Emmond Bell debuted with a goal and two assists against Amherst … The league made quite a statement with both of its top teams, Norwich and Babson, sweeping NESCAC teams. Babson’s Chris Wood (Medford, Mass.) won the conference’s Player of the Week award with three goals and an assist in wins over Wesleyan (5-2) and Trinity (3-0). He accounted for all of Babson’s scoring against Trinity with a hat trick. …. UMass-Boston (3-2-1, 1-1-1) ended a 10-game losing streak at Trinity with a 4-4 tie. Freshman forward Michael Crowder had two goals. The last non-loss for the Beacons was a 2-1 win on the road in 1998. … Saint Anselm’s (2-3, 1-3) Coleman Noonan (Norfolk, Mass.) had a seven-point week with four assists against Assumption and a hat trick against Tufts. He scored the three goals against the Jumbos in the game’s final six minutes, forcing overtime before St. Anselm eventually lost. … Southern Maine (1-4-1, 1-1-1) had to be happy with the result of this year’s battle of the Beaney brothers. The Huskies earned a 4-4 tie with Middlebury.
Around the MASCAC
Plymouth State (6-1, 3-1) forward Chris Chambers earned the league’s Player of the Week award with an eight-point week in just two games. He turned in a career-high five-point game in an 8-3 win over Southern New Hampshire. … Salem State (6-1-1, 5-0-1) forward Nick Lampson (Groton, Mass.) kept the Vikings atop the league by scoring with two minutes left to secure a 4-4 tie with Westfield State.
Chris Carlson can be reached at email@example.com.