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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Men’s hockey clinches playoff spot with four-game winning streak 

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The Tufts hockey team is pictured.

The Tufts men’s ice hockey team had a stellar weekend, capping off the regular season with two wins at home. It extended its win streak to four games in a row heading into postseason play. Entering the Friday matchup, the Jumbos’ record sat at 8–13–1 overall and they held a conference record of 5–10–1. With a win in the first game, Tufts clinched a playoff spot.

Their opponent was the Bowdoin College Polar Bears, who they had previously tied against 2–2 earlier in the season. The two teams sat directly next to each other in the conference standings, making this game crucial for playoff seeding. 

“We knew we had to beat them to stay alive in the playoff race,” junior goalie Peyton Durand said. “If we had lost that game, we would have dropped a couple spaces and the Saturday game would have been do or die.”

The first period of gameplay remained scoreless, with both teams getting opportunities on net but neither team converting its chances. In the second period, the Jumbos got on the board. Tufts had a one-man disadvantage due to a hooking call against senior forward Mason Kohn. However, this didn’t deter their offensive ability. First-year forward John Mulvihill won a faceoff in the defensive end and junior forward Fisher Shea sent the puck all the way down the ice and into the Bowdoin end, where first-year forward Liam O’Hare gathered it and passed it back to Mulvihill, who was speeding into position. Mulvihill neatly tucked the shot away to give the Jumbos a 1–0 lead. 

A few minutes later, a penalty was called against Bowdoin goalie Alex Kozic for throwing his stick at the puck. Tufts was awarded a penalty shot and sophomore forward Tyler Sedlak put it away to double the lead. 

In the second half of the period, Bowdoin once again was on the power play due to an interference call. This time, the Polar Bears were able to take advantage of the numbers mismatch and put the puck in the back of the Jumbos’ net to make the score 2–1. 

Early in the third period, Tufts was forced to go on the penalty kill once again for a charging penalty. Durand made five saves to preserve the Tufts lead. After escaping the power play, halfway through the final period of play, junior forward Aidan Lovett won a faceoff in Bowdoin territory and passed it to junior defenseman Jack Hughes, who quickly worked the puck over to junior forward Joel Brandinger. His shot was saved, but he was able to scoop up the rebound and put it away to restore the two goal lead. Just five minutes later, Bowdoin pulled one back again off of a deflected shot that made it 3–2. 

The Polar Bears pulled their goalie and played with an empty net for the final three minutes of the game, but solid defense by the Jumbos saw the game out to victory. Durand made 46 saves throughout the game, and the Jumbos clinched a playoff spot with the victory. They ensured that they could not finish lower than the eighth seed in the NESCAC tournament.

Regardless of the outcome of Friday’s game, Tufts came into Saturday just as hungry for a win. 

“We didn’t change anything. Everyone wanted to make sure that we had as high a spot possible going into the playoffs,” Mulvihill said.

Saturday’s game was against the Colby College Mules, who the Jumbos had beat earlier in the season 3–1. 

Tufts gained momentum early, as a penalty was called against Colby within the opening minutes and the Jumbos went on the power play. Even with the man advantage, however, Durand was forced into a save as the Mules got a breakaway chance. Durand made an excellent stop to keep the game scoreless. Later in the period O’Hare made a good defensive play by poking the puck away from a Colby attacker, and Mulvihill picked it up and charged down the ice to put the puck away and make it 1–0 Tufts. 

The pace of the game slowed down in the second period, as neither team could muster a meaningful offensive attack. 

In the third period, Colby’s goalkeeper Andy Beran was forced into a save and the rebound was slapped towards the blue line but intercepted by first-year defenseman Chris Throndson. He passed it to sophomore forward Brennan Horn, who passed to sophomore forward Harrison Bazianos, who sent it home to give the Jumbos a two-goal lead. Once more, in the final seconds the opposing team pulled their goalkeeper and Durand was forced to make many saves to keep the game in control. The final score was a convincing 2–0 win. It was the Jumbos’ fifth shutout victory of the season, and the third for Durand. 

“For me, it’s just taking the game slow, trying to get as many whistles as possible … just kind of looking confident in the net so that guys can feed off of that,” Durand said. “I think it’s helped us tremendously in the final stretch.”

The Jumbos will look to build off of their good form as the playoffs begin. 

“Everyone has really taken it upon themselves to do everything for each other, rather than individual things. So we want to keep the team mindset going forward into the playoffs,” said Mulvihill.

Tufts heads into the postseason as the number six seed, and will face Amherst College in the NESCAC quarterfinals on Saturday.