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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Men's ice hockey heads into NESCAC playoffs as 8th seed

The Tufts men's hockey team is pictured during their game against Amherst on Feb. 12 2022.

In the final weekend series of the regular season, Tufts men’s ice hockey played two competitive games, losing Friday night 3–0 to Colby College as well as their Saturday game against Bowdoin College 4–3 in overtime. Entering the weekend, the Jumbos’ record stood at 5–13–2 with a NESCAC record of 5–9–2. The two proceeding games would determine the seeding for the upcoming NESCAC conference championship tournament. 

The first game was against the Colby College Mules, the top ranked team in the NESCAC, whose record stood at 13–5–2. The Jumbos lost their previous matchup to the Mules 4–0 earlier in the season

However, this round of the series was much more competitive. In the first period, the scoring did not begin until almost halfway through, when Colby took the lead 1–0 on a wrist shot past Tufts senior goalkeeper Josh Sarlo. The rest of the period was fairly evenly matched in terms of possession. The Jumbos repeatedly called upon the help of Sarlo to keep the game at 1–0. 

In the second period, the game turned much more defensive, as both goalies refused to let the puck past. Colby goalie Andy Beran was able to stop a point blank shot from Tufts senior defenseman Tom Tresca to maintain Colby’s lead. The period remained scoreless until the very end, when with 22 seconds remaining, a shot rebounded off of Sarlo’s pads and was slotted home from directly in front of the net to double the Colby advantage. 

Entering the third period, the game stayed quiet offensively. Tufts was able to get an opportunity on a power play but couldn’t capitalize on its numbers advantage. Late in the third period, Tufts pulled goalie Josh Sarlo and attempted to cut into the Colby lead with a 6 on 5 attack, but Colby was able to score an empty net goal with just two minutes remaining to seal the final score at 3–0. Tufts was able to hold off all of Colby's power plays, enabling it to keep the game close against a competitive team. 

“We put ourselves in a position too many times, where we're forced to kill. ... When we do put ourselves in that situation, our penalty kill has been great,” first-year forward Tyler Sedlak said.

Colby outshot Tufts 39–17 with Sarlo making 36 saves throughout. In terms of the playoff picture, Friday’s loss didn’t damage the Jumbos’ chances at the 8th seed as Connecticut College also lost to Bowdoin College 5–3 to keep the standings where they were. 

Saturday’s game against the Bowdoin College Polar Bears proved to be a much more back-and-forth affair. Bowdoin’s overall record stood at 7–9–4, while their NESCAC record was 7–7–3.In their previous matchup against Tufts, the Polar Bears  outlasted the Jumbos, winning in overtime 3–2.In order to have complete control of their fate in the NESCAC seedings, Tufts needed a win to secure the 8th seed.

Right off of the bat, about 30 seconds into the game, Bowdoin scored on a pass from behind the net to a point-blank finish by first-year forward Luke Wheeler to put the Polar Bears up 1–0. Bowdoin kept high pressure on Tufts and peppered shots at sophomore goalie Peyton Durand, but he was able to keep them out of the net for the remainder of the period. Tufts had a few chances on a power play midway through the period, but Bowdoin goalkeeper Alex Kozic was not letting any pucks past him. 

In the second period, the Jumbos came out with renewed energy and were able to get off early shots on goal to put pressure on the Polar Bears’ defense. Soon after, they gave up a penalty on a hooking call.

Luckily for Tufts Bowdoin was called for a holding penalty less than a minute later, and the following minutes proceeded in 4-on-4 fashion. With 13 minutes remaining in the period, the Jumbos set themselves up perfectly with a beautiful pass from junior forward Mason Kohn to Sedlak who wristed the puck into the side netting to tie the game 1–1. However, not 30 seconds later, a rebound shot off of Durand was put into the back of the net to restore the Polar Bears’ lead.

Later in the period, Tufts put itself in a difficult situation by being on the wrong end of two penalty calls which resulted in a two-man advantage for Bowdoin. The Jumbos stayed disciplined and orchestrated great defense to kill the penalty. They rode that momentum into the tail end of the period and kept sustained pressure on the Bowdoin defense. 

Sophomore forward Andrew Maynard played an excellent cross-ice pass to sophomore defender Jacob Iida, who slapped the puck home to tie the game 2–2. Not to be outdone, with a mere two seconds remaining on the clock, Bowdoin retook the lead on a deflected wrist shot from the right flank of the goal to go up 3–2 heading into the third period. 

The third period turned into a more defensive affair. Bowdoin had two penalties called against them which resulted in power plays for Tufts, but the Jumbos were unable to capitalize.

With a minute remaining, Tufts pulled their goalie and put high pressure on the Bowdoin line of defense. The effort paid off as Sedlak scored off of a pass from first-year forward Harrison Bazianos to send the game into overtime.

“It was a great pass from Harrison Bazianos as he was in behind the goal line, and he put it out in front, [he] made it easy for me,” Sedlak said.

The overtime didn’t last very long as Bowdoin’s Nate Clark won the puck off of a faceoff victory in the Bowdoin offensive zone, skating unguarded towards Tufts’ net. He was able to put a shot around Durand to win the game 4–3 for the Polar Bears. 

Durand made a whopping 45 saves in the effort, keeping the Jumbos competitive for the majority of the game. 

The Jumbos will finish their season with an overall record of 5–15–2 and a NESCAC record of 5–11–2. With Connecticut College's loss to Colby on Saturday, Tufts secured the 8th seed and will host Middlebury College in the first round of the NESCAC conference playoffs this Friday. 

“Any team in this league has a chance [to win] on any single night, and I think that's important to remember coming into playoffs,” senior captain Justin Brandt said.

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