With 2:03 on the clock, Tufts pulled junior goaltender Nik Nugnes in hopes of climbing out of a 3-1 deficit against Trinity on Saturday. But after Trinity senior Ethan Holdaway scored an empty net goal at 19:35 into the third, the Bantams sealed the 4-1 victory at the NESCAC championship quarterfinal, knocking Tufts out of the playoffs and ending the team’s season.
Trinity will continue on to the semifinals and face Williams. Tufts finished its season with an overall record of 11-11-3.
According to head coach Pat Norton, the Jumbos started off strong.
“We started out great. They scored, and then we got on our heels a little bit and I thought we struggled to get back to … the game plan,” coach Pat Norton said. “We got away from what we were trying to do and that, to me, is the difference.”
At 1:57 into the first period, first-year Barclay Gammill deflected a slap shot from senior defenseman T.J. Sherman from the blue line into the net putting Trinity up 1-0. The Jumbos had many close scoring opportunities throughout the period, including an uncontested wrist shot from first-year Tyler Scroggins at 11:48, and a blocked shot from senior Patrick Lackey by Trinty’s junior defenseman Griffyn Martin.
It wasn’t until 15:17 into the first period that senior tri-captain Mike Leary assisted the lone goal of the game for Tufts after passing the puck to senior Conal Lynch who was waiting in front of the net and slipped the puck past Trinity junior goaltender Alex Morin. Bantams senior captain Sean Orlando collected a pass and roofed the puck from the far-side post to regain the lead for the Bantams just 19 seconds later. Trinity maintained the 2-1 lead for the remainder of the first period.
“We tried to make it about us, not them, and sometimes you just don’t get the right bounces,” Nugnes said. “They scored off of a deflection, which was pretty deflating, and the third goal had a funny bounce and went right to their player. They got the bounces, and we just didn’t have it.”
The majority of the second period was a back and forth battle and remained mostly scoreless. After a hooking penalty was called on junior forward Brian Brown in the defensive zone 3:29 into the second, Trinity went on its first power play while Nugnes stood on his head, saving many close scoring opportunities. After the power play ended, Ethan Holdaway of Trinity was called for hooking and Tufts went on a power play, but the team was also unable to capitalize on the man advantage.
With just over two minutes remaining in the second, Orlando won a face-off in the offensive zone and Holdaway collected a rebounded shot off of Nugnes and scored, giving the Bantams a 3-1 lead to end the period.
Trinity dominated Tufts offensively during the third period, although both teams were unable to put the puck in the back of the net for the majority of the third as well. With two minutes remaining, Tufts pulled Nugnes for the man advantage, but a turnover at the blue line of the offensive zone led to an empty net goal by Holdaway with 25 seconds left in the game, solidifying the 4-1 victory.
“We started playing hard and I think the effort was there, but our execution across the board wasn’t where it needs to be to beat arguably the best team talent-wise in the NESCAC,” Norton said. “[Trinity] has six or seven kids that, when you make a mistake, can put the puck in the back of the net, and no other team has that many guys that can hurt you. So part of it is they played a great game and part of it is us we didn’t execute as well as we needed to.”
While Trinity outshot Tufts 50-26, Nugnes had 46 total saves compared to Morin’s 25. With four players with over 20 points on the season, Trinity’s offensive prowess was evident in this match up.
“I think we were all really optimistic going in,” Nugnes said. “At the beginning of the season, we set a goal to win a NESCAC championship, and I think we went in pretty confident that we would accomplish that, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.”