Tufts ice hockey went on the road to face two NESCAC opponents this weekend, Middlebury and Williams. After an impressive 2-2 overtime tie with Middlebury on Friday, the Jumbos fell to Williams, one of the conference’s best teams, by a score of 9-0 on Saturday.
The 2013-14 Williams Ephs went 10-5-3 in the NESCAC, but perhaps more impressive was their 10-1-2 record in home games. If not for a tough third period against Amherst last February, Williams would have had an unbeaten home record.
The Ephs are led by their senior goalie Sean Dougherty, who has been as effective as any other goalie in the NESCAC so far this season. He has a very impressive .935 save percentage and has allowed just six goals through the first four games of the season for the 3-0-1 Williams squad.
Sophomore forward Luke Stickel opened the scoring for the Ephs in Saturday’s game, beating Tufts sophomore goalie Mason Pulde with a wrap-around goal just two-and-a-half minutes into the first period. His unassisted goal was soon followed by sophomore forward Tyler Young’s first goal of the season, which was assisted by first-year forward Colby Cretella and his classmate forward David Italiano.
Williams added two more goals in the first period, one from Cretella and another from Stickel, which gave the Ephs a 4-0 lead after the first period. While Williams played its best offensive game of the season, Tufts’ offense struggled to gain possession of the puck and the team only mustered 15 shots on net during the three periods of play.
Stickel completed his hat trick midway through the second period after corralling a rebound off of a missed shot by sophomore forward George Hunkele, and then maneuvering the puck into the back of the net. Stickel was arguably the game’s best player, finishing with three goals and an assist.
Young also had a career day for the Ephs, not only scoring his first goal of the season, but also adding a team-high three assists.
Despite the tough loss to Williams, Tufts played very well against a difficult Middlebury team the night before. The Panthers went 9-7-2 in the NESCAC a year ago, and are 1-1-2 through their first four games this season.
Junior Panther goalie Liam Moorfield-Yee has been another top netminder in the conference this season with a .923 save percentage, but the Jumbos, specifically first-year forward Brian Brown, were eventually able to get the puck by him.
Tufts’ Pulde was excellent in the net from start to finish, with 39 saves on 41 chances.
Middlebury opened up the scoring 13 minutes and 50 seconds into the first period, with a goal from sophomore forward Mike Najjar. His wrist shot was set up by senior forward George Ordway. Following Najjar’s goal, his second of the season, neither team found the net for the rest of the period.
Middlebury’s first period goal was one of 12 shots that the team took in the period, which was 11 more than Tufts could gather. Despite the seemingly lopsided first period, the Jumbos offense hit its stride and managed 11 shots in the second, including Brown’s first goal of the game.
Tufts had a five-on-three late in the second period, and senior defenseman Blake Edwards helped his team capitalize by hitting junior defenseman Brian Ouellette with a great pass. Ouellette then found Brown on the left, whose one-timer flew by Moorfield-Yee to tie the score.
Unfortunately for Tufts, the game remained tied for just two minutes. Middlebury first-year forward Vincent Gisonti received a cross from junior defenseman Ronald Fishman and the first-year shot it past Pulde to give the Panthers the 2-1 lead, which remained until late in the third period.
Sophomore forward Matt Pugh found Brown with just less than six minutes left to play. The first-year once again beat Moorfield-Yee and gave Tufts a great opportunity to win its first game of the season.
Both defenses controlled the tempo for the rest of regulation and overtime, and despite a few chances, neither team could beat the opposing goalie.
Middlebury outshot its opponent 41-25, but Pulde’s great goalkeeping and Brown’s clutch shooting made up for the 16 shot difference in the game.
Although Tufts was unable to earn its first win of the season, the team had plenty of key contributions against Middlebury.
On Tuesday, the 0-3-1 Jumbos face a non-conference opponent, 1-6 Becker College, before traveling to Vermont for the Rutland Herald Invitational on Friday.