On Saturday, Feb. 26, the Amherst men’s hockey team lost 3-1 to eternal rival Williams in the NESCAC quarterfinals, ending the Mammoths’ season on a sour note. The Saturday matchup was the third meeting between the two teams this season, with Williams emerging victorious in every contest, though the Ephs’ largest margin of victory in any of those games was only two goals.
The Mammoths entered the quarterfinals at Chapman Rink in Williamstown well aware of the stakes: win or go home. They faced a very familiar foe in Williams, with their most recent matchup resulting in a tightly contested 3-1 loss just the weekend before (Feb. 19).
In the lead-up to the game, Evan Lichman ’23 predicted a physical affair, emphasizing the need to finish checks, compete for loose pucks, and commit to the backcheck. This philosophy was on display from the opening faceoff, as the Mammoths came out of the locker room with high-energy play, looking to impose their physical will in the early stages of the contest. The magnitude of the matchup was readily apparent in the Ephs’ play as well — both teams engaged in extracurricular pushing and shoving after early whistles in the first period.
The Mammoths dictated play in the opening minutes of the contest, overwhelming Williams with their aggressive forecheck and backcheck, their quick play in transition, and their physicality, which prevented Williams from generating any early momentum. However, in a sign of things to come, the Mammoths were unable to translate their momentum into scoring chances, and the Ephs struck first, seemingly against the run of play.
After the Mammoths killed off a too-many-men penalty, the Ephs got on the board midway through the opening period on a deflection from a harmless-looking shot from the point. The Mammoths struggled to respond quickly, allowing another prime scoring chance from the high slot in the closing minutes of the period that was saved by goaltender Dan Dachille ’23.
The Mammoths needed a strong start following the first intermission to regain some of their prior momentum, but instead it was Williams who capitalized on their early chances. Four minutes into the second period, the Ephs doubled their lead with a clean wrist shot from the top of the circle on an even three-on-three rush, sending the late-arriving home crowd into a fit of hysteria as Ephs players celebrated in front of them.
The Mammoths did not go quietly, and their effort level never faltered, finally being rewarded on their first power play of the contest, 12:54 into the second period. Twenty seconds after a scramble in front of the net in which they couldn’t finish multiple rebound opportunities, the Mammoths tallied their first goal of the game. Matt Toporowski ’25 circled from the right side boards to the top of the point and fired a shot into a sea of players. Max Thiessen ’25 managed to get his stick on the puck, deflecting it past the Ephs goaltender with just two seconds remaining on the power play. The goal was the first of Thiessen’s collegiate career and cut the Ephs’ lead in half heading into the second intermission.
A back-and-forth third period ensued, with the Mammoths possessing most of the puck but failing to generate genuine scoring chances. The Ephs goaltender stood tall on all Amherst chances, cutting down angles and preventing any threatening second chance opportunities. The Mammoths’ best opportunity to level the contest came early in the period in yet another scramble in front of Williams’ cage, but, once again, they could not find the back of the net.
With their season on the line, the Mammoths pulled their goalie in favor of an extra attacker for the final minute and change of the third period but couldn’t convert any of their shots into legitimate scoring chances. The Ephs withstood the Mammoths’ attack and added an empty-net goal right as the final horn sounded, putting a bow on their 3-1 victory and sending them through to the NESCAC semifinals.
Although the Ephs outshot the Mammoths 23-20, the close tally showed that the final result could have gone either way. The Mammoths conclude their 2021-22 season with a 9-13-2 final record and a sixth-place finish in the NESCAC standings.