Currently sitting fifth in the conference standings, the men’s hockey team started to pick up its play last week after losing two straight NESCAC games to Hamilton and Amherst by a combined margin of six goals. The team followed these defeats by picking up five points in the last three games, with wins over non-conference opponents Stonehill and Salve Regina, as well as a tie with Wentworth.
“I think we learned that we have to come to play and battle every single night, and if we don’t, we won’t be happy with our result,” said Assistant Captain Tommy Hartnett ’14.
Elliot Vorel ’17 continued his streak of scoring a point in each of the first seven games this season. He leads the conference with seven goals and nine assists for a total of 16 points. His success has been an indication of a larger theme for the Cardinals, as first-year players have been credited with 11 of the team’s 29 goals and 20 of their 42 assists this season.
The loss against Hamilton was disappointing for the team after last season, when the Cards were able to demolish the Continentals in Clinton, N.Y., 11-3. This time around was different, as Hamilton outscored the Redbirds 8-5. Once again, Vorel led the team in scoring with three points, while three others, James Albrecht ’15, Jay Matthews ’16, and Nick Malone ’17, each scored two points. Nolan Daley ’16 saved 20 of the 28 shots that were fired at him.
The Cardinals were hopeful of avenging their two losses to Amherst from last year, but the Lord Jeffs protected their home ice with a 4-1 victory. Hartnett scored the lone goal for Wesleyan, with assists from Captain Keith Buehler ’14 and Vorel. Dawson Sprigings ’17 suffered his first lost of the season despite stopping 28 of 32 shots for a .875 save percentage.
“We took way too many penalties against Hamilton and Amherst, which was a big part of those losses, as well as not capitalizing on our own power plays,” Hartnett said. “We learned as a team that in order to be successful, we cannot take as many penalties as we did that weekend, and we have to come to battle for 60 minutes every game.”
Against Stonehill, the game was in a 1-1 tie entering the third period. That’s when Wesleyan erupted with 4 goals, which led them to a 5-3 victory. A team effort was given for this victory, as eight different players recorded at least one point. Jaren Taenaka ’16 scored the winning goal, shorthanded, about midway through the third period. Daley was back in net for this one, as he stopped 23 of 26 shots that came his way for a .885 save percentage.
“The Stonehill game proved to be a big bounce-back game for us,” Harnett said. “I think we were playing pretty well throughout the game, and the guys came out to really battle for the win. [Robby Harbison ’17 and Buehler] made a great play to get me the puck, and it ended up in the back of the net. I think it was a matter of time until the team exploded for some goals because of how well we were playing. Tying the game up brought some energy back into the bench, and we were able to roll for a few more goals.”
The Redbirds’ next game ended in a 2-2 draw against Wentworth. They fought back with a comeback goal scored by Vorel in the third period. The team trailed by one after allowing two unanswered scores, including a goal late in the second period. Sprigings played very well, saving 20 out of 22 for a .901 save percentage.
Wesleyan came back the next day to defeat Salve Regina at home by a score of 6-2. The Cardinals never trailed in the game, and failed to look back after netting three goals in the first period. James Kline ’17 scored twice in the game, and each of his goals was assisted by Vorel. Kline also added an assist on a Buehler goal, while Connor Ryan ’15 scored his second goal of the season, shorthanded, off assists from Terence Durkin ’16 and Harbison. Ryan’s goal proved to be the game winner against the Seahawks. Daley was back in net for Wesleyan, as he blocked 34 of 36 shots fired for a .944 save percentage.
“We played a solid game against Salve, especially after coming off a tough tie with Wentworth the night before,” Hartnett said. “We capitalized on some early power plays, and with a great game from a few guys, as well as a great goaltending performance by Nolan Daley, we were able to put the game away.”
The team will look to keep their success rolling as they have a few more non-conference games before jumping into a challenging NESCAC schedule. They will face off at home against Hobart on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. This will be the final game for the Cardinals before heading into winter break.
“We expect to come out and play a great game on Saturday and come away with a win against a good team in Hobart,” Harnett said. “It will be a great stepping stone going into break on a positive note.”