The Christmas break gives Williams College hockey players a chance to catch their breath after first semester games, homework and final exams.
Coaches Bill Kangas and Meghan Gillis will be rounding up their players for the second half games right after the holidays.
It promises to be a tough but interesting road for both teams.
The Ephs entered the break with a 5-3 record, which was bad news. The good news is that Kangas’ side have a solid four-point lead in the NESCAC rankings.
Williams is 5-1 at NESCAC, which is good for 14 points. This is important because of how the NESCAC rating is determined.
With five-minute conference overtime games in play, NESCAC has a point system to determine conference leaders. Teams get three points for a regulation victory, two points for an overtime victory, 1.5 points for a draw and one point for an overtime loss.
Williams picked up regulation wins over Colby, Bowdoin, Tufts and Middlebury, and a regulation loss to Hamilton. To close the first half, Jack Forrest’s overtime goal gave Williams a 3-2 victory over Little Three rival Amherst. The overtime win gave Williams 14 points.
Hamilton is second with 10 points, followed by Wesleyan with 9 1/2 points.
Williams was due to play this weekend at the 11th Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Tournament at the University of Norwich. But on New Years Eve, Norwich announced the tournament’s cancellation.
“Officials at the University of Norwich, working with the Northfield Savings Bank, have explored all possibilities of continuing to organize some form of competition, but ultimately were unable to do so,” a statement read from Norwich.
Instead of the tournament, the Ephs remain in practice mode until Friday, January 7. That’s when Williams will head to Wesleyan for the first in a weekend series with some Connecticut rivals NESCAC. Williams will play at Wesleyan on Friday and then at Trinity on Saturday.
The Ephs will head to this tournament with the country’s No. 1 goalie. Evan Ruschil has a 0.99 goals against average with two shutouts. The junior goaltender has a .965 save percentage.
Williams won’t be back home until Jan. 11, when the Ephs play a 3 p.m. game against Connecticut College.
Besides the conference games, a date to circle would be Saturday, January 15, when second-ranked SUNY-Oswego comes to visit Williamstown. The last time these teams played, Williams’ Connor Kucharski scored twice in the third period to claim a 6-4 victory. The match was played on December 1, 2019.
It was a solid first half for Gillis’ Ephs, who rebounded from a season-opening sweep at Colby to win five straight games.
Williams swept a Hamilton streak to offset one swept in Maine and closed the semester with a two-game sweep from William Smith out of the league.
Williams is tied for fourth in the league, which uses the same 3-2-1 1 / 2-1 point system to determine where teams stand in the standings.
Middlebury, the unanimous No.1 team of the last USCHO.com Division III Top 10, leads NESCAC with 12 points. Colby has 9 points and is second, followed by Hamilton (7). Williams and Wesleyan are tied with 5 points each. Bowdoin (4) and Trinity (3) follow Williams and Wesleyan.
It gets interesting as these seven NESCAC schools are in the Top 20 Division III PairWise and RPI. PairWise is a ranking system that helps the Division III tournament committee rank general teams.
According to the latest PairWise, Wesleyan is No. 1 in the country, Middlebury second and Colby third. Bowdoin and Trinity are 9 and 10, while Williams is 11 and Hamilton is 16. These NESCAC schools occupy the same places in the RPI.
Williams is expected to return to play Lansing Chapman Rink over the New Years weekend. The Ephs host Bowdoin on a New Years morning at 3 p.m. and face Stevenson on Sunday at 3 a.m. Williams last played against Stevenson in the 2019-20 season, in the Codfish Bowl tournament championship game at UMass Boston. Williams won the game 2-0.
The Ephs open the second half of the season with six straight home games. After the Bowdoin-Stevenson weekend, Williams will host Trinity for two games, then play Manhattanville before starting a home and away game with Amherst on January 14.
The Ephs will enter the second half with three of NESCAC’s top 10 scorers. Senior Meghan Halloran is tied for sixth with eight points from five goals and three assists. She is tied with her Williams teammates Ellia Chiang and Robin Kitazono. Chiang is a freshman and Kitazono is a sophomore, and both have four goals and four assists.