Ice Hockey | Jumbos fall twice to conference foes as slump continues
Losses to Colby and Bowdoin drop Jumbos further in the standings
Published: Monday, December 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, December 10, 2012 15:12
After starting out the season strong, the men’s hockey team has sputtered amid numerous injuries and this weekend the Jumbos dropped their second straight pair of NESCAC games, falling to a strong No. 8 Bowdoin squad on Friday evening before losing to Colby on Saturday.
In Saturday’s contest, the Jumbos outshot the Mules 40 to 34 but were unable to finish their opportunities, eventually falling 5−2. On paper, the contest was relatively even, as each team was penalized six times and both capitalized on just one of five power play opportunities.
But two consecutive two−goal periods for Colby were enough for the Mules to dig a hole that the Jumbos could not escape, and despite the Jumbos’ offensive efforts Colby was able to deny Tufts the opportunity to ever seize control.
“On Saturday both teams had a number of opportunities but Colby’s goalie played great and made us work for every goal,” junior forward Cody Armstrong said. “[Senior co−captain forward] Dylan Plimmer did a great job of finishing his chances and scored two big goals for us.”
Colby struck first, notching two early goals to seize a lead 10 minutes into the opening period. Three minutes in, sophomore forward Nate Morgan wristed a shot from the top of the circle, besting junior goalkeeper Brian Phillips whose view was obstructed on the play.
Minutes later, junior forward Ben Chwick found senior forward Nick Kondiles on a three−on−one fastbreak for the Mules’ second goal of the game.
But Tufts immediately got back into the contest. Plimmer got the Jumbos on the board with a strike as he found an opening between two Colby defensemen.
The second period was the real turning point, however, as the Mules seized control and pushed their advantage to three.
At the 12:22 mark, senior co−captain forward Cory McGrath made the score 3−1 and freshman forward Jonathan Sdao added insult to injury with a power−play strike five minutes later.
The Jumbos and Mules traded goals in the closing period, as Plimmer notched his second goal of the game to pull Tufts within two. Two minutes later, however, Colby responded when McGrath finished his second goal of the game, extending the lead back to three. The Colby advantage held as the game closed out, and the Jumbos dropped to 1−4−1 in the NESCAC. Sophomore goalkeeper Sam Parker finished the contest with 38 stops.
“I don’t think Colby put us away in the first two periods,” Armstrong said. “We battled the entire third and got the game within two goals before they scored late in the third. It was a disappointing loss but I think that after break we will have a fresh start to win some games.”
Earlier, on Friday evening, the Jumbos put on a much stronger performance, staying within two goals of the league−leading Polar Bears even after falling behind by two goals in the first four minutes of the opening period.
But again, the second period was the difference. Bowdoin controlled the game with an 18−9 advantage in shots, scoring two minutes into the period to take the lead. At the 9:20 mark, the Polar Bears extended their lead to 4−2, and senior forward Robert Toczylowski finished a goal 40 seconds later to put Bowdoin up 5−2.
“[The] game against Bowdoin was a big test for our young team,” Armstrong said. “[But] in the second Bowdoin just showed their depth and put away a couple of goals within a minute.”
Early in the third period, the Jumbos capitalized on a five−on−three power play when freshman forward Stewart Bell notched a goal three minutes into the closing stanza.
However, the Polar Bears managed to slow the Jumbos’ momentum and a 24−save performance by Messina kept Tufts from pulling closer as time elapsed.
Despite a 38−save performance from Phillips, the Polar Bears emerged victorious with the two−goal margin, and preserved their number one position in the NESCAC standings.
“I think on Friday everyone was contributing and we had a real opportunity to take the lead but couldn’t capitalize,” Armstrong said. “It was a very fast−paced and physical game but we proved to ourselves that we can compete with any nationally ranked opponent like Bowdoin.”
The Jumbos see their next action after the holiday break, when they return in early January for a non−conference game against SUNY Canton. Tufts will not play again at home until Jan. 25, when the Jumbos host Williams and Middlebury in another conference doubleheader.
By then, the team hopes that several injured players will be able to make recoveries, allowing the Jumbos to play in full force after the break. Midway through the season, Tufts sits second from the bottom in NESCAC contention, but the Jumbos’ second−half schedule is bottom−heavy with conference contests, and the team has plenty of opportunity to climb its way back up the ranks.