After 12 years without a victory, 17 losses and one tie, Tufts finally ended its winless streak against Amherst and won 4-0 on Friday. This historic win was followed by a devastating 3-1 loss to Hamilton on Saturday, as Hamilton scored the last two goals within the last three minutes of the game.
Hamilton was the first team on the scoreboard with a goal at 11:59 of the first period after a shot from Hamilton senior Brad Smelstor rebounded off junior goaltender Nik Nugnes, which allowed Hamilton first-year Nick Ursetti to collect the puck and score from the left side.
It wasn’t until 14:33 of the second period that Tufts responded with a short-handed goal to tie the game 1-1 in the last second of a Hamilton power play. First-year Jordan Haney collected a Hamilton turnover in the neutral zone, sped down the left side of the offensive zone and narrowly missed the net hitting the far post, and first-year Tyler Scroggins collected the rebound and scored. This was Scroggins’ second short-hand goal of the season, and he leads the NESCAC with three short-handed points.
The game remained at a standstill throughout the second period and most of the third, while both teams battled back and forth and Tufts continued to pepper the Hamilton goalie with many close scoring opportunities. Sophomore Clay Berger nearly scored toward the end of the second period after a 1 on 1 with the goalie, but he was unable to find the back of the net.
Hamilton outshot Tufts 15-6 in the third, but Nugnes maintained the tie with a number of crucial saves. With under three minutes to go in the third, however, Hamilton first-year Bennett Morrison scored a shorthanded goal with a slap shot from the right circle taking the 2-1 lead. After pulling Nugnes with 1:35 left in the game, Hamilton scored the winning goal on an empty net after Tufts turned the puck over at the offensive blue line, and junior Tyler Bruneteau scored on a breakaway, notching the final goal of the game.
“[Hamilton] probably executed a hair better than we did over the course of the game. We probably didn’t move [the puck] quite as well, and [we didn’t] stick to our game plan as well against Hamilton as we did against Amherst,” Coach Pat Norton said. “To [Hamilton’s] credit, they played really well. It could’ve easily gone the other way … so it was disappointing, but that is [a loss] you can live with because you played hard.”
Nugnes made 30 saves and is now ranked third in the league for save percentage at .936. Hamilton’s goaltender Evan Buitenhuis is ranked first in the league with a .949 save percentage and totaled 23 saves against Tufts.
Against Amherst, Tufts dominated the ice and Nugnes had his second shutout in three games with 27 total saves. While the first period remained scoreless, first-year forward Anthony Farinacci put the team on the scoreboard 11 seconds into the second period after the puck deflected off the goaltender and the post into the net, assisted by junior forward Brian Brown.
“We carried out all of our systems that we had been working on with grace and drive,” Haney said. “We knew that we were better than them, and that is what made the difference in [the] intensity of the game as well.”
The rest of the second period was also scoreless, and the Jumbos scored the last three goals within a three-minute span early in the third period. Senior Conal Lynch received a pass from senior captain Mike Leary and scored at 8:04 into the third.
Less than two minutes later at 9:28, Haney came down the left side of the offensive zone and scored an unassisted goal, putting the Jumbos up 3-0. Finally, junior defenseman Trevor Davis scored from the right side at 10:30, netting his first career goal and solidifying the 4-0 victory.
“The locker room was ecstatic,” Haney said. “It was a great feeling, because the week before during every practice, Coach was drilling in us that we hadn’t beat [Amherst] since 2004. Now that we beat them, it was big stress off of our back, and we felt proud to be a part of Tufts hockey.”
After defeating Amherst, the team is now ranked seventh in the NESCAC with a conference record of 8-7-1, but playoff rankings and home-ice-advantage are still up in the air and will be determined by the results of the weekend’s games.
Tufts will face Bowdoin on Friday before its final regular season game against Colby on Saturday.