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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Hockey defeats Conn. College to advance to semifinals of NESCAC Tournament

The Jumbos came back from a two goal disadvantage to win 5–3.

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Tyler Sedlak is pictured in the Feb. 24 game against Connecticut College.

Tufts hockey will advance to the NESCAC semifinals for the first time since 2016 after a 5–3 victory over Connecticut College.

Despite their two goal victory, the Jumbos took a while to start scoring. Tufts struggled to keep up with Conn.’s offense at first, with the Camels scoring twice in the first period.

“A lot of us were a little bit complacent and a little nervous to start the game in the first period,” junior forward Tyler Sedlak said. “Conn. took advantage of a couple of mistakes that we made defensively and made it 2–0 pretty quick.”

The first period was challenging for the Jumbos, but they looked for a change in momentum going into the second period. Despite being down two goals, the team was more confident going into the second period. Sedlak explained that the Jumbos have the resilience to handle these tough situations.

“The first period was a bit surprising to us,” Sedlak said. “Going into the break with a two goal deficit was not how we envisioned the night to start. But, this group has been through a lot throughout the year. We’ve been leading games; we’ve been losing games; we’ve been in almost all situations. If there’s any group to be in a situation like this, it’d be the 30 guys in the room that we have.”

The team needed a change in momentum, and they found it in the second period. When the Jumbos came onto the ice at the start of the second period, they were playing at their best. The Jumbos’ offense was unstoppable, with four unanswered goals in the second period.

“Once we got to our game in the second period, we really started playing well,” sophomore forward Max Resnick said. “[We were] cycling the puck down low, not turning the puck over, taking the puck to the net and getting shots on net.”

Seven minutes into the period, sophomore forward Brendan Fennell brought the puck down the ice, and on a three-on-one break, he scored a goal to put the Jumbos on the board. First-year forward Trace Norwell continued this second-period comeback with a shorthanded goal.

“Fennell, in that first goal, he kind of started the momentum for us,” Sedlak said. “And then Norwell got the second one, and then after that, we were right back in the game.”

From there, Sedlak led the Tufts offense with a hat trick. He turned the tide of the game, scoring back-to-back goals one minute apart in the second period

The Jumbos led 4–2 going into the third period but, despite their lead, they didn’t let up. The defense held strong to keep the Jumbos’ lead in the third period.

The Camels were able to score a goal to bring the score to 4–3.

With under one minute left, Sedlak scored his third goal of the night on an empty net to give the Jumbos their 5–3 victory. Not only did Sedlak’s hat trick help earn the Jumbos a spot in the semifinals next weekend, but it also earned him NESCAC Player of the Week.

Resnick and junior forward Harrison Bazianos both had important assists for Sedlak’s goals. Resnick explained that he’s enjoyed being Sedlak’s linemate, especially last Saturday.

“[Sedlak] is always just so good, night in and night out, and I’m lucky enough to play on his line,” Resnick said. “He was moving his feet really well, he was super optimistic and he’s a leader on our team.”

Norwell explained that the entire team worked together well to secure a Jumbo victory.

“Everyone throughout the lineup played their roles, and they did it well,” Norwell said. “Every guy did what they needed to do to win.”

Beyond the excitement of the game itself, the team also noticed the high-energy atmosphere in the Malden Valley Forum, where the Jumbos held their first home playoff game in over ten years.

“Just to represent and to be able to bring a home playoff game to Tufts was unbelievable,” Norwell said. “The amount of people we got out was fantastic. We had a great showing and everybody [was] loud, and they kept us in the game.”

The crowd’s excitement made for a fun game for players and spectators alike.  

“Right when we came out of the locker room, we were a little bit surprised as to how many people were there before the game even started,” Sedlak said. “That’s definitely the most crowded game that most of us have played in at Tufts, and it was probably the most fun that I’ve ever had in a game here.”

Though the Jumbos were able to overcome their slow start against Conn. College, that kind of recovery may not be possible as Tufts goes on to play higher-seeded NESCAC teams. The Jumbos will have to shake off those early game nerves to be as strong as possible next weekend.

“In the playoffs, we have to show up on time. We can’t show up late, and I think we know we can get to our game right away,” Resnick said. “We have to come out and play like that from the puck drop.”

This weekend, Tufts will travel to Hartford, Conn. for the remainder of the NESCAC championship. The Jumbos will play Hamilton College in the semifinals on Saturday, and the winner of that game will play the winner of Trinity College and Middlebury College in the championship game on Sunday.

“We’ve had a couple of good games against [Hamilton],” Norwell said. “They honestly probably outplayed us a little bit the last time we played them, so we’re itching for a little bit of revenge, and what better time to do it than in the biggest stage of the season?”