Tufts turns season around over break

Junior forward Brian Brown hits the puck during the men's ice hockey game against Amherst College at the Malden Forum on Feb. 11, 2017. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts ice hockey team entered January in the midst of a four-game losing streak with an overall record of 1–7–1. The team resumed its season at the W.B. Mason Winter Classic in Plattsburgh, N.Y. on Jan. 5–6, resulting in two more losses to Plattsburgh State (then 5–7) and No. 2 Endicott (then 13–1–1).

The Jumbos redeemed themselves the following game on their home ice, where they again took on the high-flying Gulls. In stark contrast to the team’s first matchup, Tufts tied Endicott 22 in overtime, marking a turning point in its season. The following weekend, Tufts shut out Amherst 40 and beat No. 9 Hamilton 53 at home, bringing its current record to 3–9–2.

“The outcome of last weekend was a result of our work ethic,” sophomore defenseman Cooper Stahl said. “We just put the past behind us and decided to move forward with our season and just play hockey.”

Tufts faced some fierce competition at the W.B. Mason Winter Classic, with its first game against Plattsburgh State. Although neither team scored in the first period, the hosts came out very strong in the second frame with goals from senior forward Matt Quilty, sophomore defenseman Andrew Pizzo and sophomore forward Antoine Desnoyers in a span of just two minutes. With 19 seconds left in the second period, junior forward Ross Sloan scored the Cardinals’ fourth goal. Cardinals sophomore defenseman Antoine Fournier-Gosselin rounded out the scoring with a power play goal in the third period.

While the 50 shutout was a tough result for the Jumbos, there were still great highlights from the game. First-year forward Edward Hannon won six of seven face-offs, first-year forward Hayden Smith had four shots on goal and senior goalie captain Nik Nugnes made 18 saves in his 24:53 minutes in net.

Tufts played the following day in the tournament consolation game against Endicott College, the second-ranked team in the nation. With 4:59 remaining in the first period, senior forward Brian Brown scored his third goal of the year to give the Jumbos a surprising 10 lead. The Gulls quickly tied the score before the end of the first with a goal from junior defenseman Logan Day. From that point on, the Gulls went on a scoring spree, dominating the remainder of the game.

Endicott scored three goals — from sophomore forward Luke Rodgers, senior forward Jack Musil and junior forward Daniel Kucerovy — in the first 10 minutes of the second period. The Gulls had an even more aggressive third period with four goals: two from junior forward Ross Olsson and one apiece from junior forwards Josh Bowes and Thomas Daniels.

Although the scoreboard read 81, the Jumbos put up a fight throughout the entirety of the game. Sophomore forward Anthony Farinacci led the team with five shots, and first-year netminder Drew Hotte made 29 saves.

“Coach has told us to trust the process all year,” sophomore defenseman Cory Gottfried said. “So that’s what we did and continue to do. The wins will come as long as we keep working hard. That weekend was definitely tough, but all we can do is move forward.”

Tufts played Endicott for a second time on Jan. 9, with a very different result: the teams tied 22. Brown led the Jumbos, scoring twice against the Gulls, with one at the end of the first period and the second only 42 seconds into the second period. Down 20, the visitors responded with goals from Olsson early in the second period and Kucerovy with 92 seconds left in the third. Both teams took three shots in overtime, but none found the back of the net.

Nonetheless, the Jumbos were excited about their turnaround performance and satisfied with their hard work paying off.

“After the Endicott game, we saw that we can compete with any team,” first-year forward Mason Babbidge said. “That tie put us in a great position leading up to our following league home games.”

Tufts hosted two league games against Amherst and Hamilton on Jan. 13 and Jan. 14, respectively. The Jumbos defeated the Mammoths 40 with a power play goal late in the first period from Brown, a goal early in the second from first-year forward Charley Borek (his first of the season), another tally in the second via sophomore forward Tyler Scroggins and the last goal from Farinacci in the third. Nugnes made 33 saves for the Jumbos in the third shutout of his career.

Coming off the important win, Tufts took the ice against No. 13 Hamilton the following day.

“We knew that Hamilton was going to be a really physical game going into it,” sophomore forward Machlan Sawden said. “So myself, [junior forward] Clay Berger and [sophomore forward] Ross Delabruere knew we had to throw our weight around and step up.”

The Jumbos battled in the first two periods, with the teams alternating goals. Just 46 seconds into the game, first-year forward Brendan Ryan scored off an assist from first-year defenseman Michael Gordon. Hamilton followed that goal with one of its own from senior forward Brandon Willett. Borek then scored for the Jumbos with only a few minutes left in the first period to put the Jumbos up 21.

Only 11 seconds into the second period, Hamilton junior forward Jason Brochu put one in the back of the net to tie up the game. Less than four minutes later, Babbidge scored to put the Jumbos back in the lead — one which they would not relinquish. In the third period, Delabruere and Brown both scored for Tufts, while Brochu added his second goal of the game for the Continentals with only a few minutes remaining.

Nugnes and Brown both had impressive weekends, with the former making 32 saves against Hamilton and the latter extending his recent scoring streak to five goals in four games. Machlan also stepped up for the Jumbos, playing defense instead of forward because first-year defenseman Craig Uyeno was absent due to a concussion.

“Our sweep this past weekend was a great display of our hard work,” Stahl said. “However, it’s in the past, and we need to keep working hard.”

Tufts will play Trinity for a second time this season at home on Friday, Jan. 19. The Jumbos fell 51 to the Bantams in the season opener.

“Coming off a big winning weekend, it’s going to be a big test to play Trinity,” Borek said. “We’re excited to rematch them and get a chance at some revenge.”