Williams men's hockey aiming to wrap up top spot in NESCAC

WILLIAMSTOWN — Three points. In hockey it is a lot and for the Williams College men, those three points could be the difference in being the top seed in the upcoming NESCAC tournament.

"If we get three points [a win and a tie], we clinch" the top seed, Williams coach Bill Kangas said. "Really, we want two wins. Two wins will clinch it, that's a way of looking at it.

"We just don't know what anybody else is going to do."

The Ephs hit the road for their final regular-season games of the 2016-17 season. Williams will be at arch-rival Amherst Friday night and then travel to Hamilton on Saturday.

"We're worried about Amherst," said Kangas, in a phone interview. "You know how I am. I'm day-to-day."

Going into the final weekend, Williams has a 10-3-3 record in NESCAC, followed by Hamilton at 9-3-4, Colby at 9-4-3 and Trinity at 9-5-2. Wesleyan is fifth at 7-5-4 while Amherst and Tufts are tied for sixth. Amherst's record is 7-6-3.

The final weekend starts with a 7 p.m. Friday game at Orr Rink against the Purple and White. The last three times Williams has made the trip to Orr, the Ephs have come home without a win. Last year, the teams battled to a 2-2 draw. In the 2014-15 season, Williams lost there 5-3 in the regular season and 1-0 in the NESCAC tournament championship game.

The last Williams win at Orr Rink came on Dec. 7, 2013, when Williams scored a 1-0 win.

Compared to the two teams right behind them, the Ephs have the toughest road, literally and figuratively, this weekend. They'll be on the road as Hamilton hosts Middlebury and Williams while Colby hosts Connecticut College and Tufts.

Going into the week, Hamilton is ranked ninth in both the D3hockey.com and USCHO.com national polls. Trinity is ranked 14th in the D3hockey.com poll and 12th in the USCHO poll, while Colby is ranked 14th in the USCHO poll.

If Williams is going to get three or four points in the standings this weekend, the Ephs will need a full team effort. But that effort will need to be keyed by the team's first line.

Roberto Cellini centers David Italiano and Tyler Young, and all three are among the top 15 scorers in NESCAC. Italiano leads the conference with 31 points on 12 goals and 19 assists. The 19 assists lead the conference. Cellini is second in the conference with 14 goals and fourth in scoring with 12 assists to go with his goals. Young is 11th with seven goals and 13 assists. Italiano is tied for fourth in NESCAC in goal scoring while second-liner C.J. Shugart is tied for seventh with 11 goals.

Italiano is tied for 19th in scoring in all of Division III.

"With the NESCAC playoffs a week away, we just have to look at getting better. We improved last week on some things that we had to work on," said the Eph coach. "We have more things to work on this week, and the kids are committed to focusing on that.

"It's a long year, but at the same time, if you do it in incremental moments, looking at it in small segments that's how teams get better and stay focused on the task at hand."

Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.


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