The No. 4 ranked Tufts Jumbos (13–1, 8–1 NESCAC) celebrated its Senior Day in style on Saturday, comfortably defeating the Middlebury College Panthers (7–7, 4–5 NESCAC) by a final score of 23–14. With the victory, the Jumbos maintained their spot atop the NESCAC power rankings with the best record in the conference.
The Jumbos were determined to make a statement against the Panthers: Though they’ve gone 4–0 in April, they’ve won three of those games — all against NESCAC opponents — by a single goal. Prior to the match, coach Casey D’Annolfo praised the No. 7 ranked Panthers highly.
“They’re going to be really good,” D’Annolfo said before Saturday’s game. “They’re not ranked as highly as some of these other teams, but they’re very good, so I expect them to give us a great game, and I expect them to give us a close game. It should be a good challenge for us.”
Despite a final scoreboard that might suggest complete domination, the game matched D’Annolfo’s close-game predictions throughout the first three quarters of regulation.
Tufts drew first blood off an assisted goal by sophomore attacker Max Waldbaum in the opening minute of the game, but Middlebury responded five minutes later with a goal of its own to even the score. Waldbaum fired back with a goal off of an assist by senior attacker and co-captain Ben Connelly, to which Middlebury junior attacker A.J. Kucinski answered with two goals in two-and-a-half minutes to give Middlebury a 3–2 lead with just over five minutes to go in the first quarter.
The back-and-forth scoring pattern continued throughout the first half, and the Jumbos escaped the first half with a 10–9 lead. The trifecta of electric attackers consisting of Waldbaum, Connelly and senior attacker and co-captain Danny Murphy led the Jumbos offense, scoring nine out of the 10 goals in the first half. Murphy led the pack with four goals of his own.
Senior attacker Matt Treiber made an impressive two-goal statement to put the Jumbos up by three with a score of 12–9 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter. While Middlebury struck again with two goals of its own, Treiber quickly responded with his third goal of the night.
Treiber’s third-quarter performance paired well with Murphy’s superb offensive flourish: He managed to add three goals in the third quarter, and combined with his first-half performance, he tallied seven goals by the end of the third quarter. Murphy’s spectacular effort paid off, and the Jumbos led by four going into the fourth quarter with a 17–13 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Jumbos let their potent offensive reins loose on the tired Panthers. Kucinski recorded his fifth goal of the day for the Panthers to set the game at a score of 17–14, and then the Jumbos suddenly bombarded the Panthers with a series of unanswered goals. Led by Connelly’s three goals, Tufts went on a 6–0 charge against Middlebury in the final 13 minutes of regulation, closing out the game in fashion.
The Jumbos’ four top season scorers — Waldbaum, Murphy, Connelly and Treiber — led the way with a combined 17 goals. The fearsome foursome have now scored 154 goals on the season. Waldbaum, who leads the team in goals, added another highlight toward his incredible breakout season by recording his 50th goal of the year; Murphy tied his career-record for most goals in a game with seven for the third time in his career; and Connelly’s four goals on Saturday came straight off of an incredible six-goal performance in Wednesday night’s 19–14 victory over Bates.
Tufts senior defenseman and co-captain Arend Broekmate, who helped lead the charge for the Jumbos in their defensive shutdown of the Panthers in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, provided some context for the individual performances.
“I mean, the favorite highlight for everyone is just winning,” Broekmate said. “We don’t really put much talk into individual performances. Obviously, the wins rely on those performances.”
In their final regular season game, the Jumbos travel to Brunswick, Maine, to face off against the Bowdoin Polar Bears (6–8, 2–7 NESCAC), who are currently ranked ninth in the NESCAC conference. A win confirms a No. 1 seed in the NESCAC championships that begin at home on Saturday.