Tufts opens season with two losses

Sophomore forward Matt Pugh carries the puck behind the net during the team's 7-2 loss to Trinity on Nov. 16. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily

This weekend, the Tufts hockey team opened its season with two home games, beginning on Saturday against Wesleyan (which finished with a record of 11-12-2 last year) and against Trinity (21-5) on Sunday. The Jumbos lost to both teams twice last season.

“I think that Wesleyan is a very skilled team with plenty of experience in net and Trinity, in my opinion, has the best line in Div. III hockey,” coach Brian Murphy said.

In the second match of the weekend, Tufts faced off against Trinity on Sunday. Tufts sophomore forward Conal Lynch committed a tripping penalty two minutes into the game, which led to a quick 1-0 lead for the Bantams courtesy of sophomore forward Sean Orlando’s power-play goal.

“We need to make sure we do a better job focusing on our first shift of every period,” senior tri-captain Andrew White told the Daily in an email. “We need to win the first five minutes of every period which will do a good job of preventing our opposition from gaining momentum in the beginning of a period.”

Junior defender Brian Ouellette evened the score with a power-play goal of his own 10 minutes later. Tufts took a whopping 14 shots in the period, but Ouellette was the only player able to find twine against the staunch goalkeeping of junior Nathaniel Heilbron.

After junior forward Elie Vered scored with 1:21 remaining in the first period, the Bantams led 2-1 entering the locker room.

Sophomore defenseman Sean Kavanagh, who had two assists against Wesleyan, tied the game up with his first goal of the season in the final minute of the second period.

After a scoreless second period for Trinity, the team exploded in the third. First-year forward Tyler Whitney led the way, netting two of his team’s five goals in the final period, giving the Bantams a convincing 7-2 victory.

The day before, Tufts began its season at home against Wesleyan.

First-year defender Marty Rubin opened up the scoring for the Cardinals and senior forward Jay Matthews followed suit eight and a half minutes into the first period.

Tufts responded, however, when White netted his first goal of the season late in the opening period after Wesleyan goalie Dawson Sprigings went behind the net to retrieve a loose puck but was unable to control it. This allowed White to cut the deficit to one. Despite possessing the puck for much of the latter half of the first period, the Jumbos went into the locker room still down by a goal.

In the second, Matthews was able to score on the Cardinals’ first power play of the game to put his team back up by two. The Jumbos, on the other hand, had numerous power play opportunities of their own in the period due to Wesleyan’s four minor penalties, but were unable to capitalize.

“We were pretty tense and tight on the power play,” White said. “We needed to simplify our game and focus on getting pucks to the net as opposed to playing on the perimeter and settling for low quality shots. We need to establish our presence in the offensive zone and not rush our decision making. I am confident our power play will be successful in the coming weeks.”

Early in the third period, the Cardinals’ sophomore forward James Kline had a breakaway along the right side with just Tufts senior tri-captain defender Blake Edwards to beat. Despite Edwards’ best efforts to poke check the puck away, Kline deked left and fired the puck past first-year goalie Ryan McConnell, opening the margin to 4-1 and leaving the Jumbos grasping at straws for the rest of the game.

Tufts was able to get one back, however, as senior forward Tyler Voigt added his first goal of the season later in the period assisted by Kavanagh and first-year forward Chad Goldberg. It was the final goal the Jumbos could muster against Sprigings and the Wesleyan defense.

The Wesleyan goalie was nearly perfect, saving 31 of 33 Tufts shots in the team’s 5-2 victory. Although the Jumbos lost by three, they still out-shot their opponents in every period and also dominated the faceoffs, winning 43 of 71.

“I think there are several positives to take out of the Wesleyan game,” White said. “First, I thought we outplayed them in all three periods. We outshot them 33-23 and had the majority of the chances. Despite falling behind early, we continued to battle and clawed our way back into the game. I think we showed a lot of resiliency and heart as we continuously battled back from goal deficits.”

While the final scores from the opening weekend were not what Tufts was anticipating, the team is still confident moving forward and saw a lot of key contributions from its underclassmen.

“[Our underclassmen] will be sprinkled throughout the lineup [this season],” Murphy said. “We don’t distinguish between classes. I know a lot of our underclassmen can make us better and they will certainly [continue gaining] experience [this year].”

Looking ahead, the 0-2-0 Tufts squad will search for its first win of the season as it faces off against 0-1-1 Middlebury and 1-0-1 Williams on the road this weekend.