Hockey improves to 7–12–1 with 4 games remaining

Tufts junior, Brendan Ryan, brings the puck forward in the ice hockey home game at Valley Forum against Wesleyan on Jan. 20, 2018. Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily Archives

The hockey team went 3–2–1 in its previous six games, getting back on track after a 4–10 start that included a five-game losing streak to start the season.

This weekend, the Jumbos faced off against the Conn. College Camels in a Friday-Saturday doubleheader.

In Saturday’s matchup in New London, Conn., the Jumbos fell 5–1, the fourth time this season they have given up five goals in a game. The Camels scored four goals — two on power plays — in the second period on sophomore goalkeeper Josh Sarlo. Meanwhile, the Jumbos were held scoreless until 12 minutes into the third period when junior forward Peter Hatton found the back of a net on a power play.

On Friday, the Jumbos hosted the Camels at Valley Forum in Malden, Mass. The Camels got on the board within two minutes of the first period, but the Jumbos erased the deficit with goals from junior forward Mason Babbidge and senior defenseman Cory Gottfried. The Camels tied it up before the end of the period, but a goal from sophomore forward Justin Brandt in the second period gave the Jumbos the 3–2 lead that they held onto for the rest of the game.

The game was also Team IMPACT night. Team IMPACT is a non-profit that pairs children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses with collegiate athletics teams.

“It’s always fun playing in front of the Team IMPACT kids and players,” Gottfried said. “We love playing around [our Team IMPACT teammate]. We wish he actually came around more because I think we’ve won every game he’s been at.”

Coach Pat Norton explained that the inconsistencies between the two Conn. College games are part of an overall trend this season.

“We’re trying to discover what’s going to help us play a little bit more consistently,” Norton said. “We haven’t been able to find that recipe of late. But when we play well, we’re very good. When we don’t play well, we tend to battle a little bit.”

The weekend before, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, Tufts traveled to take on Middlebury and now-No. 12 ranked Williams.

The Jumbos lost to the Ephs in Saturday’s matchup for the second time this season, this time by a score of 5–3. The Jumbos made a last-minute comeback at the end of third period with goals from senior forward and assistant captain Ross Delabruere and senior forward and assistant captain Anthony Farinacci to bring the score to 4–3. But the Ephs held on, scoring on an empty net with 19 seconds left to seal the victory.

“I think it’s really good to see the fight our team has and that everyone is willing to play all the way through,” Gottfried said.

The game against Middlebury also went down to the wire, as two third-period goals for the Jumbos from senior defenseman and captain Cooper Stahl and sophomore forward Cal LeClair tied the score 2–2, sending the game to overtime. Neither the Jumbos nor the Panthers could convert in the five-minute period.

“We came into Middlebury with too much confidence, and we should’ve focused on doing our job,” Gottfried said. “However, against Middlebury we were down 2–0, so it was great to see our team come back and fight to get that point at the end of the day.”

The previous weekend was much more successful, as Tufts defeated Wesleyan 4–2 on Jan. 24 and Trinity on Jan. 25, both at home. Against the Trinity Bantams — who now rank No. 7 in Div. III — the Jumbos had goals scored by Babbdige, Farinacci, Hatton and sophomore forward Angus Scott. The night before, against the Cardinals, the highlight of the night was undoubtedly LeClair’s hat trick.

As it stands now, the Jumbos are tied for eighth place in the NESCAC, with a 5–8–1 conference record. To qualify for the NESCAC Championship tournament, the Jumbos need to get at least the No. 8 seed.

“We can’t worry about what position we’re in,” Norton said. “It’s incredibly tight; it’s incredibly close. Everybody behind us has games that they can win or lose… If we take care of our own business, we play well, we play good hockey and we compete at the level that I know we are capable of competing at, then we will be fine, and we’ll be in the playoffs. If we don’t, then it’s going to be a battle playing in the last game trying to figure out how to get it done.”

With four more games remaining on the regular season schedule, the Jumbos’ fate is not sealed yet. This weekend, the team hits the road to take on Hamilton and Amherst; the following weekend, the team hosts Colby and Bowdoin.