The men’s hockey team could not have dreamt up a better scenario for themselves going into their opening weekend. After winning two conference games against Tufts and Conn College, the Cardinals are sitting proudly atop the NESCAC standings.
“I thought we played well at times and also made first-game mistakes,” said Head Coach Chris Potter. “I thought both games could have gone differently, but we were able to make some plays at the right time. We worked hard and were able to cover up mistakes. It was good to see that we were able to handle some of the adversity on the weekend.”
The Redbirds got an unexpected surprise from new phenomenon Elliott Vorel ’17, who began his NESCAC career by netting two goals and three assists against the Jumbos.
Vorel was able to move up to the first line after Jaren Taenaka ’16 was removed from the game for checking an opponent from behind. He topped off the weekend by scoring two more times against the Camels on his way to a conference-leading seven points.
“I just wanted to go out and have fun,” Vorel said. “That’s really what the sport is all about. It’s a good mindset to have because then you play better because of it.”
The game against Tufts was back and forth, as each team never held more than a one-goal advantage. After Tufts tied the game with seven minutes to go, Vorel’s pivotal play came to fruition when he scored the game-winning goal with just four seconds remaining off a rebound from Captain Keith Buehler ’14 and Assistant Captain Tommy Hartnett ’14.
“I was really happy to help tie up the game, but we had to find a way to get the next one,” Vorel said. “Who wouldn’t like to score a dramatic game winner with four seconds left? Hockey’s a whole lot easier when you’re surrounded by better players than yourself.”
In addition, the two seniors each added a goal, with Buehler tallying up an additional assist.
“I was really impressed with our seniors this past weekend,” Potter said. “They were a presence in the games and were leaders in the locker room.”
Nolan Daley ’16 had a solid outing against Tufts, coming up with 24 saves against 28 shots attempted in the 5-4 victory.
The Cardinals finished up their weekend with Dawson Sprigings ’17 providing a big impact in a 5-2 triumph over Conn College.
“Honestly, I was just trying to have fun and enjoy the moment,” Sprigings said. “I felt confident in my abilities and knew that our team was ready to go after a big last second win the night before.”
Sprigings started his first game in net for the Redbirds and played magnificently, only allowing two goals and stopping 36 shots.
“I came into the game knowing what I needed to do personally in order to be successful,” Sprigings said. “I got off to a solid start and was able to keep building from there. Staying focused and taking the game one step at a time was a big part of that.”
Two first-years teamed up for a score when Nick Malone ’17 assisted on a goal by James Kline ’17 in the second period. Kline’s first goal of his young career proved to be the game winner against Conn. Cole Morrissette ’17 added an assist on one of Vorel’s two goals. Vorel’s final goal of the game came on an empty net.
“Our staff was confident that our freshmen were going to be good,” Potter said. “I think anyone would be surprised if a player produced like [Vorel] did in his first two college games. I thought the other freshman also did a great job in their first games. We asked Cole Morrissette to play defenseman Friday and forward on Saturday. I think they were asked to do more than I had originally planned, but when you lose a player in the first period of both games, you don’t have much of a choice but to throw them in the fire.”
Wesleyan will have to travel twice next weekend, once to Hamilton and then again to Amherst. Hamilton will probably be the easier of the two opponents, but then it will be a tough turnaround when the currently undefeated Cardinals face off against the 2-0 Lord Jeffs the next day. In order to keep their success, the Redbirds will have to continue scoring on the power play, something they did three times this past weekend.
“I hope that we can keep this momentum rolling into next weekend,” Sprigings said. “We play two tough opponents in Hamilton and Amherst, but I know we have the depth and skill to play with anyone in this league. I expect us to come back home on Sunday with another four points.”