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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Jumbos outscored 11-2 in losses to Trinity, Wesleyan

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Tufts suffered more than a few setbacks this weekend after two major losses against Trinity and Wesleyan 7-1 and 4-1 respectively. Additionally, senior goaltender Mason Pulde tore his ACL after leaning awkwardly on his leg in an attempt to prevent Wesleyan from scoring on Saturday and will be out for the rest of the season. Fortunately, the team is confident that both junior goaltenders Nik Nugnes and Ryan McConnell are more than equipped to carry the team through the final third of the season.

“You feel horrible when something like that happens, and as a player, you feel like that could never happen to you, but it can happen in an instant, as it did on Friday,” Nugnes said. “We are just trying to support him moving forward and make sure that we're there for him. Unfortunately, things like this happen a lot, especially in hockey as a contact sport.”

Against Trinity, Tufts had many turnovers at the blue line and in the neutral zone allowing Trinity to capitalize on odd-man rushes, create multiple offensive opportunities and inevitably bury Tufts under a six-goal deficit. In the first four minutes of the game, the Bantams scored two goals within 10 seconds of one another, and led 3-0 at the end of the first period after senior forward Ethan Holdaway tacked on a third score.

At 5:04 of the second period, junior forward Anthony Sabistky of Trinity won a face-off and slipped the puck to senior forward Ryan Cole, who scored with a wrist shot from the right wing. This brought the Bantams up to 4-0. Later, 9:26 into the second, Holdaway scored a short-handed goal as Trinity advanced 5-0. The Bantams would score twice more at 7:08 and 11:57 into the third, and first-year forward Anthony Faranacci scored the Jumbos' lone goal with just two minutes remaining in the game on a power play.

All three of the Tufts goalies saw ice time against Trinity as Pulde and Nugnes had 11 saves and McConnell had 12 saves.

“Winter break slowed the momentum a little bit ... but I think any time you take that many days off, it's tough to find your rhythm when you come back again,” coach Pat Norton said. “We’ve also had some injuries to some key guys that have slowed down line chemistry."

The high frequency of turnovers proved to be a problem for Tufts against Wesleyan on Saturday as well, as two of Wesleyan’s four goals were a result of Tufts' turnovers. The Cardinals netted the first goal of the game at 9:55 into the first period after a shot went wide and rebounded off of the boards and behind the net, where a Cardinal found the puck and scored. Despite tearing his ACL on that play, Pulde remained on the ice through the first and second period and had a total of 21 saves. Nugnes replaced him in the third period.

“I don’t think any [of] the goaltenders all the way out has played quite as well in the second third of the season as we did in the first third of the season, so I think we are still trying to find our game a little bit,” Norton said.

Wesleyan scored twice more during the second period at 3:45 and at 19:37.The latter goal was a result of a Tufts turnover in the defensive zone, and Wesleyan junior Cam McCuscker netted a top-shelf goal extending Wesleyan’s lead 3-0. In the middle of the third period, senior Patrick Lackey scored Tufts' first goal of the game assisted by junior defender Trevor Davis.After the Jumbos pulled Nugnes, Wesleyan scored an empty net goal with less than two minutes to go in the game, sealing a 4-1 victory.

“We really need to focus, bear down and get back to the stuff we were doing earlier in the season," Davis said. "That starts every day in practice. We want to get back into good habits, like making crisp plays and good decisions in practice."

The team has also suffered three additional injuries as first-year forward Blake McIntyre, sophomore forward David Lackner and junior forward Oliver Takacsi-Nagy are out with concussions. Looking forward, the team has been working to reconfigure its lines to make up for these losses and reduce turnovers as it approaches the final third of the regular season.

“Our mentality is the best that it’s ever been, especially given that in Div. III, we play about 25 games, so you have to let go of weekends quickly and have a short-term memory,” Nugnes said. “We also respond well to adversity if things don’t go our way during the following weekend ... I think we’re trying to take that bounce-back mentality into this weekend.”

The Jumbos sit at 7-6-3 and face a pair of conference games at home looking to rebound. Tufts takes on Williams (8-5-3) Friday and Middlebury (1-13-2) Saturday.