The men’s ice hockey team was stymied on Feb. 12 in a match against the streaking Colby College Mules, losing 4-2, and then split a home-and-home weekend series against the Trinity Bantams, with both teams losing on their home ice.
In a makeup game after the Cardinals’ home game was snowed out last weekend, Wesleyan traveled to Phillips Exeter Academy to play a game on neutral ice against the Mules. The cards came out strong; after allowing a power play goal early, Nick Craven ’13 scored on a Keith Buehler ’14 pass in the slot to even the score.
Gritty defense and stalling offenses defined play in the second and third periods until Colby fought back with 13 minutes remaining. Ryan Zeek was able to put home a rebound off a Nick Lanza shot, which Wesleyan netminder Nolan Daley ’16 deflected with his outstretched right leg pad. Colby then scored its second power play goal of the evening with six minutes left, putting another rebound past Daley and putting the Mules up 3-1.
Wesleyan got a goal back with three minutes remaining, Craven’s second of the game, but Colby sealed the victory with an empty-net goal less than a minute removed from the final buzzer. The Cardinals had just 18 shots on the evening.
Colby, after losing 13 of its first 17 games, finished the year strong, winning six of its final seven. The Mules ended the season on a three-game win streak against NESCAC opponents, earning themselves a trip to Williams as the seventh-seed in the NESCAC tournament.
On Friday, Feb. 15, Wes got back into action with a home game against Trinity, who came into the game in third place in the NESCAC. The Cardinals hopped out to an early lead in the first period, with Jay Matthews ’16 scoring from the circle on a shot that looked to be sailing wide but was deflected in by a Trinity defender. Then, with just over a minute remaining in the period, the Wesleyan penalty kill came up huge for the short-handed Cardinals. Buehler deflected a pass out of the Wesleyan zone, and Craven picked up the puck at center ice and was alone with the goalie. He deked the netminder and put a backhanded shot into the net, putting the team up 2-0 on a shorthanded tally. It was Craven’s 16th goal of the regular season and Buehler’s 18th assist. Both tallies stand as those players’ regular season final marks.
After Wesleyan put just five shots on goal during a lackluster second period, Trinity took control offensively in the third. Four minutes in, Wesleyan goalie Glenn Stowell ’13 was deked out of position and unable to recover for a pass across the slot, which brought Trinity within one.
Down one goal with 40 seconds left, Trinity called a timeout and drew up a play for its six-man empty-net rush against the Cardinals. The rest paid off for the Bantams, who won a faceoff with 10 seconds remaining off of a Wesleyan icing call. Leading scorer Jackson Brewer put home the puck with four seconds left, shocking the Cardinals and sending the game into overtime. Brewer struck again just 90 seconds into the extra frame, putting a low shot from the slot five-hole on Stowell, whose 35 saves were not enough to stave off the 3-2 defeat.
The Cardinals traveled to Hartford the next morning to face Trinity yet again, this time with revenge on their minds. They fell behind 1-0 in the first period, but that was the only goal Daley allowed all day, tallying 33 saves.
Despite a monstrous effort in the second period, compiling 17 shots, Wesleyan was unable to find a gap in Trinity goalie Nate Heilbron’s net coverage. However, the Cardinals continued to pound Heilbron in the third, and finally the puck found its way through. Buehler was able to put a shot through after blasts from Tommy Hartnett ’13 and John Guay ’13 left two Bantam defenders sprawled out on the ice. That was Buehler’s 18th goal of the year, which will likely make him the NESCAC leading scorer for 2012-13. He and Craven are in first and second in both assists and goals, making them one-two in points as well, with 37 and 33, respectively.
Cardinal Ryan White ’13 put home an unassisted goal after a maelstrom of Wesleyan shots, finally finding the back of the net for the game-winning goal, his fourth of the year. Trinity tried once more to stage a comeback with an empty net, but it was too little, too late as the Cardinals struck back with a 2-1 victory to end the regular season. Wesleyan outshot Trinity 42-34 after being outshot 38-22 against the same opponents a night earlier. Buehler, who finished third in the nation with 19 goals, was named a semi-finalist for the Joe Concannon Award, which goes to the top American-born Division II or III player in New England.
With playoff action right around the corner, Wesleyan will be the sixth seed in the NESCAC tournament. The Cardinals will be back in action on Saturday, Feb. 23 when they kick off the postseason on the road against third-seeded Trinity.