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Ice Hockey | Tufts snaps losing streak with tie against Amherst

Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 09:02

It was not a win, but for the hockey team it was enough to end a 10-game losing streak. Tufts last weekend dropped a close game to Hamilton 3-1 before tying Amherst 1-1, bringing Tufts a point in the standings, though they are already mathematically eliminated from postseason play. The Jumbos are now 3-18-1 overall, and 1-14-1 in conference play.

Sunday’s game at Amherst looked to be as uneven as a matchup could get in the NESCAC. Amherst entered the game in second place, with a chance to challenge No. 14 Williams for the top spot in the conference. Meanwhile, Tufts had not won in over a month.

Neither team was able to get much going in the first period, with Tufts unable to convert while Amherst senior Brian Safstrom was in the penalty box. The action picked up in the final minutes when Tufts sophomore forward Stewart Bell got a five-minute major for boarding.

It looked like the Jumbos would once again succumb to a late-period goal when Lord Jeffs junior Mike Rowbotham sent a shot that deflected off of senior goalie Greg Jenkins and hit the post. With Jenkins out of position, the rebound sputtered in front of an empty net, but no Amherst player was in position to take advantage.

The Jumbos opened up the second period still down a man when junior Andrew White sacrificed his body to block a shot at the top of the zone. Classmate George Pantazopoulos picked up the loose puck, and with no other skaters in front of him, beat senior goalie Johnny Russell on a one-on-one, giving the Jumbos a 1-0 lead.

While the goal was unassisted, Pantazopoulos did not take sole credit for his fourth goal of the season.

“I actually used [freshman forward]Mike Leary’s stick,” Pantazopoulos said. “I think I might have to use his stick the rest of the season.”

Three minutes later, Amherst responded when junior Jake Turrin got behind the Tufts’ defense, took a long pass from classmate Dan Merenich and converted a one-on-one with a shot to the top right corner.

While Turrin’s goal capped off the scoring at 1-1, it did not stop the intensity of the game. Jenkins and Russell made a number of great saves in the third frame to keep each team at one apiece. In particular, Jenkins was essential in preserving the tie, facing 23 shots in the third period and overtime, while the Jumbos only challenged Russell four times during that span.

In the final two minutes of regulation, sophomore defenseman Brian Oullette was called for holding, but for the fifth time in the game, the Jumbos successfully killed off the penalty.

With neither team able to score in the five-minute overtime, both went home with a point in the standings. For head coach Brian Murphy, it was a sign that his former backup goalie and his team were seeing results after a season of bad bounces and close losses.

“Greg is finally feeling comfortable in there and it is starting to show,” Murphy said. “You look at our record and people think it is a disaster, but then you come into the locker room and you know the guys deserve better.”

The night before at Hamilton was a battle between the teams at the bottom of the NESCAC standings. Like the Jumbos, the Continentals entered the game struggling, with a seven-game winless streak of their own. 

Seven minutes into the game, sophomore Kenny Matheson fired a slapshot from the right circle that beat Jenkins on his stick side to give Hamilton a 1-0 lead. Hamilton would expand the lead in the second period, when freshman Robbie Murden’s wrist shot flew past Jenkins.

In the third period, the teams traded penalties with neither side able to capitalize. That changed 13 minutes into the period when sophomore Luke Griffin took a pass from Pantazopoulos and slipped a shot past Hamilton junior goalie Zach Arnold to give Tufts the lone power-play goal of the game.

Down 2-1, the Jumbos pulled Jenkins with 50 seconds left. With 39 seconds remaining, they called a timeout to draw up one last play off of a faceoff in their offensive zone. However, Matheson won the faceoff, which led to junior Patrick Curtis’ empty-netter from center ice to secure the 3-1 win for Hamilton.

The loss to Hamilton guaranteed the Jumbos’ sixth last-place finish in the NESCAC since they joined the conference for hockey in 2001-02. They will play their final two games of the season at home this weekend when they take on Colby and Bowdoin.

“Our goal was to be playing our best hockey in February,” Pantazopoulos said. “It would be easy for a lot of the guys to give up, but we all agreed that that will not be the identity of the team.”

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