For the Tufts men’s hockey team, the weekend was defined by an essential before-and-after with their third-period comeback on Saturday. The Jumbos were shut out 2–0 against Williams College on Friday, and when they were down 1–0 after the first two periods against Middlebury College on Saturday, there was a real concern that the same outcome would happen again.
“Not scoring a goal for five periods was pretty tough, so urgency in the locker room was pretty heavy,” sophomore forward Max Resnick said. “Everyone was saying we need to get going here. So I’d say it was pretty evident that we needed to pick up our play, and going into the third [period] was huge. So just step on the gas, play as hard as we can and hopefully good things will come about — and it happened.”
The intensity seemed to be rising with every minute the Jumbos went without scoring. When junior forward Harrison Bazianos scored the first goal of the weekend on Middlebury, it was a critical shift for the team. In fact, 39 seconds later, junior forward Clark Bolin scored a second goal, giving the Jumbos their 2–1 win on Saturday.
Though the Jumbos had a rocky start to their weekend in terms of scoring, they were able to turn it around just in time.
“[On Friday], we couldn’t really find the back of the net, but we did play pretty well,” junior forward Tyler Sedlak said. “I think once we got to the end of the second period [against Middlebury], I guess the message was not to get frustrated, and that once we got one [goal], we were going to get another one. So that’s what we did.”
Williams was a frustrating loss for Tufts. The Jumbos beat the Ephs 7–4 in Devember, but this game was a shutout.
“We felt like Williams was a team that we should've beat, so we were disappointed and we kind of had our backs against the wall against Middlebury,” senior defenseman Sam Miller said. “We knew that was a game we had to win in order to stay in a position in the standings that we would like. So we knew we had to take care of business against Middlebury, especially after Friday night’s loss.”
But less than 24 hours later, the Jumbos were back on the ice, ready to focus on the next game.
“In the NESCAC, it's a quick turnaround to those Saturday games,” sophomore defenseman Philippe Lamarre. “We had to be resilient and forget about that Williams game and head into [the game against] Middlebury. They're still a very strong team, and it was a tough battle throughout the whole game.”
The lack of scoring that started the weekend doesn’t take away from the solid games that the Jumbos played both Friday and Saturday, or the strong 7–4–1 conference record they have been working for all season.
“I didn’t even think we were playing poorly, [but] puck bounces weren’t going our way,” Miller said. “We’ve been able to score at a pretty good clip this year, and it was uncharacteristic of us to not score as much this weekend.”
Another impressive aspect of the game was senior goalie Peyton Duran. He had a total of 59 saves this weekend, with a save percentage of .944 against Williams and .945 against Middlebury. He was instrumental in keeping Middlebury and Williams’ scoring low in both games.
“We’ve had great goaltending all year,” Sedlak said. “We rely on [Duran] a lot, and he’s shown up game in and game out, so we’re grateful for him.”
Going forward, the team is hoping to increase their intensity on offense in order to avoid scoring droughts like last weekend.
“I think it’s just trying to figure out how we can get some more grade A shots and grade A goals, because at the end of the day, this league is pretty tight, and most of the games are one-goal games,” Sedlak explained.
In order to do this, the Jumbos are hoping to increase the amount of time the puck spends on their opponent’s side of the ice.
“[We need to work on] minimizing our turnovers,” sophomore forward Liam O’Hare explained. “Obviously that always helps offensively, and keep going north, keep getting pucks into the net. It’s a gritty league and nothing's super clean, so [we have to] just put pucks to the net and see what happens.”
This is the time of year when the postseason comes into clearer focus. Right now, the Jumbos are ranked third in the NESCAC, and they’re hoping to both play competitively in the NESCAC tournament and make the NCAA playoffs.
“We want to host a playoff game here,” O’Hare said. “That’s the goal … we’re looking down at six games in the regular season left, so [we’re] trying to get as many points as we can out of it, and host a playoff game at Malden Valley Forum.”
With championship spots being competitive, teams will likely become even more focused, meaning the road ahead for the Jumbos will be challenging. Next weekend, the Jumbos will play the Camels of Connecticut College twice on consecutive days in another competitive NESCAC matchup.
“The NESCAC tightens up at the end of the season,” Miller said. “Everyone’s fighting tooth and nail for playoff positions, so the honest truth is that we just [have] to win as much as possible.”