The Jumbos opened their season this weekend with two-back-to back wins, defeating the Trinity Bantams, last year’s conference champions, 3-1 and the Wesleyan Cardinals 4-2. D3hockey.com ranks Trinity No. 13 nationally after it went 1-1 over the weekend.
Tufts hosted Wesleyan on Saturday in the Malden Valley Forum where junior forward Brian Brown scored his second game-winner of the weekend. He roofed the puck to the top left corner a minute and a half into the third period.
Senior forward Pat Lackey scored an unassisted goal 47 seconds into the game and scored again at the 13:50 mark, assisted by senior co-captain Mike Leary, to put the team up 2-0 in the first period. Wesleyan managed to climb back, scoring one goal at 14:39 in the first period and another on a power play at 3:18 of the second period, tying the score at 2-2. Those two goals were not enough, though, as Brown’s goal put Tufts ahead and first-year forward Anthony Farinacci finished the Cardinals off at 18:41 in the third period with an empty-netter to finalize the score at 4-2.
“We followed our systems really well this weekend, but it’s tough because the season starts on November 1st and our first game is three weeks after that, so to be able to understand and know how to implement and utilize our systems is [a] really hard thing to do,” senior goalkeeper Mason Pulde said. “I think we did that really well from our power play to our penalty kill to our [defensive] zone. We had a great result but we still can be even better despite that great result which bodes well for us in the future.”
Junior goalie Nik Nugnes started in net, making a total of 28 saves and blocking all eight shots he faced in the third period. However, Tufts lost the majority of face-offs, as Wesleyan won 38 of 63.
In its season opener on Friday, Tufts hosted NESCAC rival Trinity. The Bantams defeated the Jumbos thrice last season as payback for the Jumbos upsetting them in the NESCAC quarterfinals two years ago. Tufts had the last laugh on Friday, as Trinity fell 3-1.
Trinity senior forward Brandon Cole put Trinity on the board first, scoring at 18:05 in the first period. Trinity took 14 shots in the period and Tufts fired off nine. The rivalry game started off chippy, with two penalties for each team in the first period, and continued that way throughout.
Just 6:01 into the second period, first-year defenseman Cooper Stahl scored his first collegiate goal, and the team’s first goal of the season, to tie the game 1-1 against Trinity. In the third period, Brown scored both the game-winner and an insurance goal within three minutes. The first was on a power play around the 17 minute mark and the second, an empty netter, came with less than a minute remaining after Trinity pulled junior goalie Alex Morin.
“It was really exciting to score the first goal because we had been working so hard throughout the fall,” Stahl said. “It was awesome to have everyone excited for and with me. I will never forget it.”
Pulde picked up right where he left off last season with 38 saves against Trinity and helped kill all six of Trinity’s power plays. Tufts was very active defensively and created offensive opportunities by putting pressure on Trinity and causing chaos. While the team has a consistently strong penalty kill, the number of penalties committed each game is something they would like to reduce. Additionally, the team won 33 of the face-offs to Trinity’s 35 face-off wins.
“Team-wise, I think we wanted to reduce a lot of penalties and get rid of the dumb penalties we have been taking and play with more discipline,” Brown said. “We didn’t really get to do that on Friday, but our penalty kill is the best in the country and it stayed that way on Friday night.”
First-year players stepped up this weekend with two goals — one from Stahl and one from Farinacci — and many integrating into the top lines and defensive pairs.
“Coach definitely did a great job recruiting [first-years], I think the first recruiting class of our new head coach is really good because the guys have great character. They integrated really well and really bought into our systems,” Brown said. “I think this showed in week one with two [first-years] playing on the top line and top d-pair.”
The team hosts Becker College today at 7 p.m. before traveling to take on Brockport College at Castleton University at 3:45 p.m. on Friday.