Ice Hockey | Jumbos return to NESCAC action after break
Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 08:01
The Tufts hockey team entered its month-long winter break with some much-needed momentum. After dropping the first five games of the season, the Jumbos split their last four contests heading into the break, highlighted by a 5-2 win over Colby, for the team’s first conference victory. However, over winter break, the team reverted back to its pattern of late-game heartbreak, going 1-2 to bring its overall record to 3-9.
On Jan. 8, the Jumbos took on Suffolk for the latter half of their back-to-back stint against the Rams. Three days removed from a decisive victory, the Jumbos were poised to win the rematch and earn their first home victory. Senior goalie Greg Jenkins got the start after a strong performance in the previous game, but let up two goals in the first five minutes and was pulled after the first period in favor of freshman Ryan Kellenberger.
Despite the two-goal deficit, the Jumbos stormed back, scoring three unanswered goals, all on power plays. Freshman Matt Pugh netted the first of his career to tie the game at two goals apiece, and junior Tyler Voigt gave the Jumbos a 3-2 lead with 13 minutes of regulation time left. However, two minutes later, the Rams converted a five-on-three as freshman Simon Leahy slipped a shot past Kellenberger. Classmate Stanton Turner scored the game-winner two minutes after Leahy’s goal to hand the Jumbos their fifth one-goal loss of the season, by a final score of 4-3.
While the Jumbos dominated puck position and outshot the Rams 55-22, the game served as another example in an ongoing theme of tough late-game losses.
“Shots don’t win games,” coach Brian Murphy said. “We took a lead and ended up in the box. It was a game we absolutely had to win at home.”
In their first game against Suffolk, the consolation game of the Codfish Bowl, the Jumbos gave the top-down performance they had been searching for all season. Freshman Conal Lynch opened up the scoring two minutes into the game, and power-play goals by junior Andrew White and sophomore Stewart Bell gave the Jumbos a 3-0 lead heading into the second period. Junior Derrek Schartz’s goal in the second period made it four in a row for the Jumbos, and a lone second period goal by Suffolk ended the scoring at 4-1.
The Jumbos were in control for the entire game, with 11 different players tallying points, but the biggest story of the game was the goaltending. Jenkins, making his first career start in his four years at Tufts, was a standout in the net. He turned away 33 shots, and his 97% save percentage was the best of any Tufts goalie in a game this season. It was a rare opportunity for the senior backup, who was the only Jumbo to be named to the All-Tournament team.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Murphy said of Jenkins. “He is always one of our most prepared athletes. It was a difficult situation to come into, but he handled himself very well.”
Even if the consolation win served as a confidence booster, just being in the game was something the Jumbos hoped to avoid.
“We had high expectations coming into the tournament,” senior Kyle Gallegos, the team’s leading scorer, said. “We were happy about our first NESCAC win, so we were coming in with a lot of energy.”
The day before their first Suffolk game, the Jumbos took on a strong Southern New Hampshire team in the opening game of the tournament.
Gallegos opened up scoring just 26 seconds into the game, and a power-play goal by Voigt late in the period gave the Jumbos a 2-1 lead. Sophomore Keith Campbell put the Jumbos up 3-1 in the second, but as has been the case all season long, the lead was squandered by consecutive goals from the Penmen that tied the game up at 3-3 in the second period. Southern New Hampshire’s sophomore Joseph Collins netted an unassisted power play goal in the third period to put Southern New Hampshire up one, but Tufts refused to quit. Less than two minutes after Collin’s goal, Tufts’ junior defenseman and co-captain Blake Edwards tied the game up at four apiece.
Under normal circumstances, Edwards’s goal would have ended the game in a tie. Because of the tournament setting, however, the two teams had to go into overtime to determine a victor. Sophomore Jim O’Connor scored the game-winner for the Penmen, who would go on to lose the championship game of the Codfish Bowl against UMass-Boston the next day.
The Jumbos have 12 games remaining this season, all against conference opponents. Their conference record of 1-5 has the Jumbos at the bottom of the NESCAC, yet there is still reason for optimism. Edwards and sophomore Brian Ouellette have become unique offensive weapons for the Jumbos. They are tied with Bell for second on the team for points and are the team’s top two assist leaders.