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Jumbos end NESCAC point drought with win over Hamilton, fall to Lord Jeffs following night

Tufts unable to answer Amherst’s offensive onslaught with one week left in regular season

Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 01:02

At the beginning of the season, the Tufts’ ice hockey team had its eyes set on not only making the NESCAC tournament but on hosting a first−round game for the second straight year.

But now, with one week of regular−season play left, even a spot in the conference tournament is in jeopardy for a Jumbos side currently in last place in the NESCAC. Despite a split this past weekend — a win against Hamilton and a loss to Amherst — Tufts owns a conference record of 2−12−2, three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.

Coming into the weekend, the Jumbos had gone 12 straight conference games without a win, and Winter Storm Nemo threw a wrench in the team’s plans to break the trend, as their Friday night home match against Hamilton was postponed.

The weather forced them to travel to New London, Conn. on Sunday for a neutral rink match at the home of Conn. College. And even after having to travel just under two hours and play a game that was meant to be a break from a road−heavy 2013, Tufts still took care of business, winning 6−4.

“Obviously there was a lot of adversity coming into that game with the snow storm and having to travel to Conn. College,” junior goaltender Brian Phillips said. “We did a good job handling that adversity, coming into the game being able to take the lead early. It gave us momentum and life on the bench. I think we found success with the early lead we built up.”

It was a quick start that spurred the Jumbos, as they went ahead 3−0 by the end of the first period. Sophomore forwards Tyler Voigt and Andrew White and junior forward Tim Mitropoulos led the Jumbos’ attack with one goal apiece in the first, and the whole offense came alive as 11 players earned points for the team.

“I think we came out really hard in the first period,” junior forward Kyle Gallegos said. “Everyone’s feet were moving, and we were really determined to get the win.”

Most impressive was White, who finished with a hat trick in another strong performance from the sophomore, who is tied for second on the team with nine goals.

“Andrew has been one of our best offensive contributors this whole year,” Phillips said.

The Hamilton game is obviously a reflection of that. His breakout performance was a huge boost for the team.”

While Tufts kept it scoreless in the second period and held their three−goal advantage all the way until the beginning of the third, Hamilton fought back, bringing back memories of countless late−game collapses this year for Tufts. Hamilton needed just over eight minutes to eliminate the Jumbos’ three goal advantage.

Tufts showed a resilience it has lacked in recent games, scoring just 28 seconds later. The response came in the form of a goal from Gallegos, and his score gave the Jumbos the lead for good, as White went on to notch his third of the night to end the contest, 6−4.

But the Jumbos were still in dire need of points after the win over the Continentals and stumbled in a Monday matchup against the Amherst Lord Jeffs. Back home at Valley Forum II in a game that was postponed from Saturday, Tufts couldn’t maintain its momentum, falling to Amherst 6−1.

Once again the Jumbos struck first, this time on sophomore forward William Sellers’ first career goal. Phillips was able to make 13 saves that he called “routine,” and the Jumbos went in to the locker room with a 1−0 lead after the first period.

The Amherst barrage, however, quickly followed, as the Lord Jeffs put up three goals in the second period to take a commanding lead. From there on it was all Lord Jeffs, as junior Andrew Kurlandski went on to net two goals for the visiting team in a 6−1 rout of the Jumbos.

“To begin with, we got a little bit unlucky,” Gallegos said. “The three back−to−back−to−back were lucky goals for them. One was a fluke; it bounced off of the glass right in front of our net for an easy finish. The others were bang−bang right off of faceoffs. However, we didn’t respond like we should have—we let it get out of hand.”

Despite this loss, Tufts still has an opportunity to sneak into the final playoff spot if it handles its business and receives some help from other teams in the conference.

“Right now we are three points out of the playoffs behind [Conn. College,]” Phillips said. “So really our mentality is do−or−die. We need to go in next weekend and we need to come away with those points. We need to come out and see our best weekend of hockey to get those four points and come away with the last playoff spot.”

The task is certainly no easy one, however, as Tufts will first face national No. 4 Bowdoin College, currently sitting in first place in the NESCAC. After that Friday−night matchup in Maine, Tufts will travel across the state to Colby College for its last regular season game on Saturday. The team must win at least one game to have any chance of making the playoffs, setting up a dramatic finish to a roller−coaster season for the Jumbos.

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