After notching its first win of the season by shutting out Becker College last week, Tufts traveled to Vermont for the Rutland Herald Invitational this weekend, where the team split two games against Brockport and Castleton to bring its record on the season to 2-4-1.
“I think it was really good for the team to win 2 out of 3 of these non-conference games,” senior forward William Sellers told the Daily in an email. “Having been able to gain more winning experience is definitely valuable both for the [first-years] and returning players as well. I feel the guys will come into this weekend hungry for more wins.”
On Saturday, Tufts squeaked out a 4-3 victory over the Castleton Spartans. The Jumbos were trailing for nearly all of the first two periods, but they fought back and netted three goals in the final 20 minutes for their second win of the season.
First-year forward Brian Brown opened up the scoring just under two minutes in, beating Castleton sophomore goalie Mark Hochman with a one-timer. First-year Zack MacQueen and Sellers assisted on Brown’s third goal of the season.
While Brown’s goal put the Jumbos out in front, the Spartans were in complete control for the rest of the period. Castleton fired 10 shots at first-year goalie Ryan McConnell, with two reaching the back of the net.
Down 1-0, sophomore forward Brock Labelle and first-year forward Braedan Moffatt had a 2-on-1 opportunity with Labelle controlling the puck across the blue line. The sophomore hit Moffatt, who beat McConnell for the first goal of his career.
Castleton senior forward Ryan Frost found the back of the net off of a pass from junior forward Derek Gingera to give the Spartans their first lead of the game, at the halfway point of the 1st period.
The score remained the same throughout the first two periods as Tufts struggled to win its face-offs and was unable to capitalize on its two powerplay opportunities in the second period. The Spartans out-shot the Jumbos 21-14 through the first 40 minutes of play.
The team continued to control the puck in the third period and Frost scored his second goal of the day eight minutes in to give the home team a 3-1 lead. Despite being down two goals, Tufts was able to rally. The final 12 minutes of the game was arguably the best the Jumbos have played this entire season.
“Keeping it simple has really been key for us,” junior forward Stewart Bell told the Daily in an email. “The coaches have emphasized getting the puck in their end and generating shots, and we’ve seen some positive results this past week.”
First-year Dan Kelly started the team’s rally by finding his classmate Brown on a breakaway, and the streaking forward had no difficulty getting the puck by Hochman for his fourth goal of the season.
Sophomore forward Matt Pugh continued the team’s offensive outburst a minute later. Pugh beat the netminder for a rebound goal to tie the score at three and, just 36 seconds later, beat Hochman again to give the Jumbos the lead.
McConnell and his team were stellar for the rest of the game as Castleton was unable to beat the bruising Jumbos’ defense for the final seven minutes of the third period.
While Tufts was able to grind out the victory over Castleton, the team was unable to beat a tough Brockport squad on Friday night.
The 3-5 Golden Eagles, led by senior goalie Aaron Green, beat the Jumbos 4-2. The senior had 31 saves and aside from allowing two goals in a five minute span, was borderline perfect.
After a scoreless first period in which the two offenses combined for a whopping 24 shots, Brockport’s junior forward Chase Nieuwyndek netted a powerplay goal off of a pass from junior defenseman Chris Luker.
Nieuwyndek added another goal in the period, but not before Bell and senior defenseman Blake Edwards ignited the visiting team’s offense with a deflection goal from the former, assisted by the latter.
The offensive onslaught of the second period continued thanks to a rebound goal from sophomore forward Conal Lynch, tying the game at two with nine and a half minutes remaining in the 2nd.
Unfortunately for the Jumbos, the tie did not last very long, as junior defender Chad Cummings had his shot from the point ricochet into the net to give the Golden Eagles the lead, which they maintained until the end of the period. Tufts’ deficit doubled in the third period and its offense was unable to net any of its 11 shots in the final 20 minutes, leaving the team with a two-goal loss.
Finally, the Jumbos earned their first win of the season against Becker College two days before Thanksgiving.
“I think getting that first win at home was immensely important, helping the team understand what it takes in order to get a win,” Sellers said. “Furthermore we got great goaltending from [sophomore goalie] Mason Pulde, and our offense finally clicked after struggling a little in the early on.”
The 2-4-1 Tufts team returns to conference play this weekend as they face off against 2-3-1 Colby and undefeated Bowdoin.
“We definitely feel like we have some momentum to carry into Colby-Bowdoin next weekend,” Bell said. “This Thanksgiving stretch of non-conference games is a nice time to try and improve on things we’ve seen through the first two weeks of the season. We are working to get better everyday and we feel that we’re in a good position to pick up some important NESCAC points before the break.”