On Saturday and Sunday the Tufts men’s hockey team took on NESCAC rivals Amherst and Hamilton in a pair of road matchups. While the games were statistically even, the Jumbos suffered defeats in both.
Hamilton came into the game on Sunday having won three of its last four games, and it showed against Tufts. The Jumbos faced a barrage of shots right from the beginning of the first period, with Hamilton getting off five shots within the first five minutes, though none found the back of the net.
The visitors were unlucky to end the period without a goal, as the Jumbos hit the post on two occasions. Off a three-on-two break, first-year forward Charley Borek fired a slap shot that caromed off the upper right frame of the goal at the 11:07 mark. Borek hit the pipe again just three minutes later.
The game remained scoreless until the dying minutes of the first period, when Hamilton broke the deadlock with sophomore forward Sterling Bray. Continentals senior goaltender Evan Buitenhuis grabbed the puck and played it to first-year forward Jon Beniers, who threaded it through to Bray. Bray then skated through the neutral zone and squeezed a wrist shot under Tufts senior goaltender and co-captain Nik Nugnes. The second period was uneventful; the Jumbos were still unable to find the back of the net, despite outshooting the Continentals, 12–9.
With the third period winding down, the score was still 1–0 Hamilton. In a desperate attempt to tie the game, the Jumbos pulled their goalie to get a six-on-five advantage in the attack. Hamilton took advantage, however, and junior forward Jason Brochu scored on the empty net with 30 seconds to go, putting the nail in Tufts’ coffin and securing a 2–0 victory for the hosts.
Hamilton’s Buitenhuis made 25 saves in total and came up big on several power plays, when Tufts had the man advantage.
“Against Hamilton, I would have loved to see us capitalize on more of our shots,” Tufts coach Pat Norton said. “I thought we attacked the net well and had some great chances. I am not sure we could have done much more, short of having a few get behind [the goaltender]. The goalies in the league are all good — it is tough to score.”
Against Amherst the previous day, Tufts gained an early advantage. At the 16:54 mark of the first period, Tufts first-year Edward Hannon drove down the right side of the ice and fired a wrist shot past Amherst senior goaltender Connor Girard.
The Mammoths answered with a goal of their own seven minutes into the second period. After a strange deflection off the boards, the puck fell directly to Amherst sophomore forward Joey Lupo, who was keenly positioned in front of the Tufts goal to slot in an easy, shorthanded goal to level the score.
Amherst showed its prowess with the man advantage, taking the lead on a power play later in the period. Tufts was penalized for having too many players on the ice, and Amherst senior forward David White proceeded to take a shot that rebounded off Nugnes and straight into the path of sophomore forward Patrick Daly, who stuffed the puck into the net.
Amherst capitalized on another power play in the third period, further cementing its lead, after Tufts sophomore defenseman Cory Gottfried was called for a two-minute holding penalty. Similar to the previous goal, the Mammoths’ senior forward and co-captain Thomas Lindstrom jumped on a rebound and tapped it across the line to make it 3–1.
The two teams’ statistics were almost even across the board, with Tufts registering 28 shots on goal to Amherst’s 31.
“NESCAC hockey is incredibly competitive, and the difference between winning and losing is a small margin,” senior defenseman and co-captain Dan Kelly said. “Sometimes, the team [that] is more opportunistic ends up on the winning end. Despite what happened last weekend, we are excited for the opportunity to keep our season alive against Bowdoin on Friday night.”
Norton emphasized how otherwise-balanced games can be decided on pure chance.
“We only had a 1–0 lead against Amherst, so that isn’t exactly an iron grip,” Norton said. “They were able to score a fluke goal off the glass, a play that might happen once every five or six years. It just happened to occur Saturday to tie the game. I like the way we played all the way to the end. We gave ourselves a chance — we just weren’t able to get another one by their goalie.”
Tufts is now 4–14–4 on the season and 3–10–3 in the NESCAC. Due to the two losses, the Jumbos have dropped to ninth place in the NESCAC. Tufts will go up against Bowdoin on Friday and Colby on Saturday, both at home, in the two final games of the regular season.
“Right now, our only thought is our next task at hand, which is beating Bowdoin [on] Friday night,” Kelly said. “It is important for us to trust each other, our systems and all the hard work we have put in all year. If we all do our jobs to the best of our ability, we will give ourselves a great chance to win.”