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

Men’s hockey advances to NESCAC championship game, falling to Trinity in the final

Though the playoff campaign yielded no hardware, this was truly a season of which to be proud.

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The Jumbos are pictured celebrating a goal in the Feb. 24 game against Connecticut College.

On Nov. 26, 2023, as the Tufts community savored the final hours of their Thanksgiving break, the Tufts men’s hockey team fell 3–2 to the then No. 10 ranked Salve Regina University Seahawks. The loss brought their record to 0–4–1, as the 2023–24 campaign looked to be over just five games after it started. Fast forward to March 2, and that losing streak is a distant memory. In the three months since, the Jumbos turned their season around, going 13–5–2, including a NESCAC quarterfinal victory over the NESCAC No. 6 ranked Connecticut College Camels. This set up a NESCAC semifinal bout with the Hamilton College Continentals, with a first-ever trip to the NESCAC championship game up for grabs.

The Jumbos’ previous encounter with the Continentals was one to forget, as they lost 3–2 in overtime on Senior Day on Feb. 10. Nonetheless, the Jumbos, boasting three recently named All-NESCAC team members, were confident going into the matchup in Hartford, Conn.

“It was a great opportunity that came in front of us, and we knew that Hamilton was a really good team, and we were going to have to play a really tough, hard-fought game, and I think we did more than rise to the occasion,” sophomore forward Max Resnick said.

In the first period, the Continentals held the offensive advantage, registering 31 shots compared to just 20 from the Jumbos. The Jumbos’ defense and senior goalkeeper Peyton Durand stood strong, with Durand making 14 saves in the period. The Jumbos also killed two penalties after senior defenseman Sam Miller was charged with two minutes apiece for tripping and hooking. Ultimately, the second period dawned with the two squads knotted at 0–0.

Despite being outshot 18–8 through the first 12 minutes and change of the second period, magic struck for the Jumbos with just over seven minutes remaining. Off a faceoff, the puck found senior defenseman Jack Hughes. Hughes gathered the puck and rocketed it across the ice to a wide-open Tyler Sedlak, who fired home a slap shot past Continentals senior goalkeeper Jack Grant. Junior forward Sedlak’s 15th goal of the season solidified his second-place spot in the NESCAC goalscoring charts. Grant saved five shots and Durand saved four the rest of the way, as the 1–0 scoreline held until into the third period. 

The third period saw Durand and the Jumbos continue to weather the Continentals’ storm. The Continentals registered 31 shots, compared to just 20 for the Jumbos, but Durand was a brick wall between the pipes. He made 18 saves, including eight in the final two minutes of the game, preserving the Jumbos’ lead and sealing the 1–0 victory.

“That’s just how our team goes. [Sedlak] was our best player, offensively, all year. So, he’s of course going to score in a big-time moment and [Durand’s] going to block the house down and do what he always does,” Resnick said. “It was an awesome win and we deserved to win that game.”

For the first time, the Jumbos found themselves in a NESCAC championship game. There, a familiar foe, the No. 1 seeded Trinity College Bantams, awaited them. In their two previous meetings this season, the Bantams had the Jumbos’ number, winning 5–1 and 3–1. Still, the Jumbos knew there was no better stage to make a statement than in a conference championship game.

“Yes, obviously, it’s the NESCAC championship, everyone’s happy to be in it. But, that was not it. We really wanted to win, and we knew they’ve had our number and we were going to have to play a good game,” Resnick reflected.

The Bantams wasted little time kicking off the scoring. 15 minutes into the contest, sophomore Spencer Korona won a faceoff in the Jumbos’ defensive zone. As the puck escaped the circle, junior Richard Boysen picked it up and rifled a wrister past Durand to put the Bantams up 1–0. 

Four minutes later, with the clock winding down in the first period, Boysen once again charged into the Jumbos’ zone. He took a shot that was saved by Durand, who failed to corral the rebound. Battling four defenders for the puck, Boysen emerged victorious, slotting it home for his second goal of the game to beat the first period buzzer.

Though they were down 2–0, the Jumbos kept their heads held high. They were not going to leave their first NESCAC final without a fight. In the second period, they stayed resolute. Durand stopped 10 efforts, though Trinity’s goalkeeper Devon Bobak saved eight. The Jumbos went on one power play in the period, though they were only able to muster one effort, from senior defenseman Jacob Iida, which was blocked.  

For most of the third period, the Jumbos continued to stand strong. Durand made seven saves before he was pulled to give the Jumbos a six-to-five skater advantage. However, once he was pulled, Boysen completed his hat trick and senior Devan Tongue added another, capping off a 4–0 victory for the Bantams and giving them their seventh NESCAC crown.   

While a first NESCAC title would have been an incredible achievement for the Jumbos, their accomplishments this season are downright admirable. Winning 14 games for the first time since 2000–2001, their season is widely regarded as the best in program history.

“I’m so proud of the guys. It was the most fun year of hockey I’ve ever played, and every single guy on the team, I love them to death and they’re my family,” Resnick said. “I am really glad [about] all the steps we made this year, but it’s kind of just setting the standard now for the program. That’s kind of where we expect to be, in the last game of the season in the NESCAC and hopefully on the other side of things next year and for the foreseeable future.”

Though they lack the hardware to show for it, the Jumbos are proud of what this team has accomplished. A year ago, they sat 10–14–1 and fell to Amherst in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC tournament. The turnaround has been thrilling to witness and speaks to the unbelievable progress and development under Head Coach Pat Norton. The squad’s three All-NESCAC team honorees — Resnick, Miller and Sedlak — are the most in program history, emphasizing the widespread acclaim this year’s team has garnered. Simply put, the future is bright, and the Jumbos will embrace it with open arms.

“I wish it was Nov. 17 already today, to be honest, I just want to keep playing,” Resnick said. “I think we’re just going to build off what we did this year, but obviously, we’re not gonna take anything for granted. And everyone’s going to take us a lot more seriously. … We’re gonna keep working hard [and] doing the right things and I think we’ll be on the right path.”