Men’s Ice Hockey | Jumbos look to grow from difficult season
Strong core of continuing players to form strong core next year
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013 09:02
At the beginning of this winter’s hockey season, the Jumbos had high hopes — not only of returning to the NESCAC playoffs as a top four seed for the second−straight year, but also of advancing past the quarterfinals for the first time.
Early in the season, senior co−captain defender Nick Metcalfe said that the team’s first−round loss to Williams in overtime in the 2012 playoffs was sheer motivation to keep pushing the team to greater success.
But for Metcalfe and his classmates, co−captain forward Dylan Plimmer and defender Jared Barker, this season was not the step forward they had hoped for. Finishing 2−14−2 at the bottom of the NESCAC, just one year after the team won nine conference games, has left the seniors with a sense of disappointment at the end of their careers.
“We just didn’t get the bounces we wanted this year,” Metcalfe said. “In all honesty, it just wasn’t our year. The team just needs to take this offseason to work hard and come back next year and hope for better.”
The campaign started well for the Jumbos with a tie and a win at home in NESCAC play against Trinity and Wesleyan, respectively, and then another big win against Curry College, 6−0. Despite a slip−up against Manhattanville at the Rutland Invitational, the Jumbos would go on to win the consolation game, 6−3, against Brockport. Through five games, the team accumulated 20 goals.
The downward slide that marred the Jumbos’ season started in the third week of play, as the Jumbos traveled to Williams and Middlebury only to be defeated 5−3 and then 9−2. The team would continue to struggle against conference and non−conference opponents alike, dropping four games in a row before the winter recess.
While the team managed a 3−2 win over SUNY Canton upon returning to the ice on Jan. 5, the success was short−lived as the Jumbos developed a habit of falling apart late in games.
The Jan. 25 matchup against the Williams Ephs typified Tufts struggles, as the Jumbos struck first on a goal from sophomore defenseman Blake Edwards, but allowed the Ephs to knot the game up within a minute. Twice more Tufts jumped out with a goal, and the Ephs bit back immediately, stunting any momentum the Jumbos could muster.
Metcalfe said the loss was hard to explain. “Everyone put in the effort, there was no lack of effort by any means,” he said. “Everyone was working hard, everyone was in the gym, and everyone was doing their best to work hard in practice. Everyone was trying to do everything right. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but the effort was definitely there.”
Injuries didn’t do the Jumbos any favors during this trying season. From Nov. 17 to Feb. 10, the team was winless in the NESCAC, amassing only one tie and 11 losses over the course of the success drought. According to junior goaltender Brian Phillips, the losses were a result of not only losing key contributors to injury — including junior forward Kyle Gallegos and sophomore forward Tyler Voigt — but also struggling to find a groove with different lineups week in and week out.
“The injuries were definitely a challenge for us,” Phillips said. “A lot of our top forwards and even some of our defensemen sat out multiple games with injuries. So for us to overcome that was difficult. We had to work to figure out the chemistry, especially when guys are moving out of the lineup with injuries, so it was tough to settle in and adjust.”
While it had a great deal of trouble within the conference, the team was more effective in non−conference games, winning five out of the six games in which they played non−NESCAC opponents. While that statistic is certainly something for the team to hang its hat on, the wins just weren’t enough to help propel the team into a strong conference run.
Despite the disappointing season, the team shows some promise moving forward into the offseason. The team is losing only three seniors to graduation, which means most of the young talent, including Gallegos, Tyler Voigt, and Edwards, will remain as the core of the team. While the team’s high number of younger players this year may have hurt the Jumbos due to their lack of experience, it can only help the team grow together as a unified squad throughout the offseason and into next year.