Men's Hockey | Jumbos struggle, lose 10th straight NESCAC game
Published: Monday, January 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013 01:01
After a disappointing winless weekend trip to Connecticut, the men’s ice hockey team was back home in Malden for two NESCAC matchups, this time against No. 12 Williams and Middlebury.
Despite a strong performance against the Ephs on Friday night and a late charge Saturday against the Panthers, the Jumbos were overpowered by their conference foes. With the two losses, Tufts drops to 1-9-2 in the conference and remains in ninth place, still one point outside of eighth place and a spot in the NESCAC tournament even amidst their slide.
Led by the two goals of sophomore Peter Mistretta, Williams came away with a 5-3 victory on Friday night, their second over Tufts by exact score this season, with the first coming on the road. The success for Williams came in its ability to match the Jumbos blow for blow throughout the contest. In fact, each time Tufts scored, Williams was able to respond within a minute, quickly killing any momentum the Jumbos were able to create.
“On Friday, our discipline after we scored is what shot us in the foot,” sophomore defender Blake Edwards said. “They came back and scored within a minute on each of our three goals. We played well and gave ourselves a chance to win, but letting up the quick goals killed us.”
Edwards was the first to score on the night, netting a drive from the left side to give the Jumbos an early lead in the first period. However, Williams answered a mere 59 seconds later, and the teams remained locked at 1-1 for the remainder of the first period. In the second, Mistretta quickly put Williams out in front 2-1, but the Ephs only managed to hold the lead until the 15:44 mark, when Jumbo sophomore forward Derek Schartz knotted the game back up at 2-2. With another Jumbo lapse, the Ephs scored nine seconds later and never looked back after taking a 3-2 lead, stretching their margin in the third period with two more goals.
“One of the most important shifts in a game is the shift that comes right after we score,” sophomore forward Tyler Voigt said. “Every time we would score, they could get a quick one in on us. We kept dropping our intensity and letting them take advantage to answer.”
The Jumbos also had to deal with multiple injuries this weekend, with juniors Kyle Gallegos and Cody Armstrong and freshman Brian Oulette out for both games. Despite a disappointing result against the Ephs, Voigt points to the injuries as an opportunity for growth and experience within the team.
“A lot of guys were put in positions that they weren’t used to, but still did very well,” Voigt, who has scored four goals so far this season, said. “I thought Derek Schartz had one of his best weekends all year.”
The Jumbos’ matchup on Saturday looked like it was headed for the same uncompetitive result, with the visiting Middlebury Panthers up 4-1 heading into the last 15 minutes of the game.
While Tufts again scored the first goal, Middlebury was able to tie the game at one each by the end of the first period. Middlebury went on to score on a rebound shot just three minutes into the second period after junior goaltender Brian Phillips made the save, and then again on a power-play later that same period. After adding another goal just five minutes into the third, the game looked like it was over, with the Panthers up 4-1.
However, a second goal from Bell gave the Jumbos a new life.
The rally was under way and even though the Panthers were able to net another, two late goals from senior co-captain forward Dylan Plimmer, one on a power play, brought the Jumbos within 1 with 2:58 left in regulation. However, Tufts could not squeeze out another goal, and the team fell for the second time on the weekend.
“We’ve had a lot of instances where the third period has been our downfall,” Edwards said. “We’ve talked about it a lot and unfortunately we haven’t been able to change that. We have to stay disciplined; that’s the most important thing. We have to go into the third period with an aggressive mindset and not let up.”
With this new outlook and a playoff spot in the conference still very much in reach, the Jumbos must find a way to win their upcoming NESCAC games as the season winds down. After the Jumbos face non-conference opponent Suffolk on Tuesday night, they will have their most important stretch of the season if they hope to earn a playoff berth.
On Friday, the Jumbos will travel to New London, Conn. to face the eighth-place Camels, with Conn. College coming back to Malden to face the Jumbos at home the next night.
The back-to-back games might not only help Tufts to gain a decisive advantage in the fight for the playoffs, but it could also be the shift in momentum that the players are looking for to send them into the playoffs in stride.