The men’s hockey team ended its season on a disappointing note this past Saturday against Trinity. The Cardinals were shut out until the latter stages of the third period, when Keith Buehler ’14 scored off an assist from James Albrecht ’15 to cut the deficit to eight. That would be the final score of the afternoon, as Trinity advanced to the semifinals with a 9-1 victory.
Head Coach of Men’s Ice Hockey Chris Potter was not impressed with the single-game effort, but had good things to say about the last games of the season.
“I don’t think there were any positives [about Saturday’s game]; however, I don’t like attaching the one game to our season,” Potter said. “We played with our backs against the wall for a few weeks and played well to get the opportunity to be in the playoffs. I hope the lesson is how important every shift and every game is to get to a home playoff game.”
Despite losing twice to Trinity the week before, Wesleyan had high hopes heading into the quarterfinal matchup. The team felt that if it played to its strengths, chances would arise. Unfortunately, the Bantams took advantage of the Birds’ deficiencies and of every break they had.
“We went into the game with three things we needed to do in order to have some success,” Potter said. “First, puck management and good defenses were necessary. Second, a low-penalized game. Third, discipline…. The special teams game was an advantage for [the Bantams] because it put their best players on the ice more than we wanted and they capitalized on that type of game.”
Trinity had a plethora of players who enjoyed a gratuitous afternoon with multiple points. Jackson Brewer, who leads the conference in assists and points, added to his tally with six assists against the Cards. John Michael Hawkrigg is atop the NESCAC in goals scored and is four points shy of his teammate for the lead in points. Hawkrigg also put up six points last weekend with two goals and four assists. Sean Orlando netted a hat-trick for the Bantams and added an assist to bring his point total up to 39 on the season. Trinity players now possess the top four spots in the conference’s point standings.
“It was definitely a bad day,” Potter said. “I think the first few goals as a team were uncharacteristic and that obviously put us on our heels. I did not think we were playing poorly, even at 4-0, but they capitalized on a few mistakes and that is what they have been good at all year. As the game went on, we lost our composure and played into their strength: special teams. They were definitely better at the game [than] we were in most of the night. I think if we stayed more five v. five, we would have given ourselves a better chance.”
Although they have lost to Trinity in each of the last two NESCAC playoffs, the Cardinals still have high expectations for next season.
“Next year, I expect to compete for home ice,” Potter said. “We need to learn how to win consistently, and I hope that the playing experience the freshman and sophomores have will pay dividends.”
In order to make these wishes a reality, there is going to have to be a lot of improvement both physically and mentally from this past season.
“As I said earlier, we were a funny mix of great leadership and youth,” Potter said. “There were points in the year where youth showed up in games, and then there were times where the leadership took over. We were forced to play without our best player, [and] when he did play, he was not 100 percent. That put our youth front and center, and as a group, I think they handled it well and stepped up. Goaltending is also a key to any season and Nolan [Daley ’16] being hurt in the second half put freshman Dawson Sprigings [’17] on the hot seat. He continued to improve as the season moved forward and played some pretty good hockey in the last three weeks when we needed it most.”
The team will be hurt by a loss of leadership next year after the current seniors are gone, but it will try to fill the void with a strong incoming freshman class.
“The class looks good,” Potter said. “I really like some of the pieces coming in. We [are graduating] some special people, and the team will have a different look next season, but it is always exciting.”
Other teams better be on the lookout for the Cardinals; a mix of new talent with more experienced sophomores and juniors could lead to a deadly combination for the 2014-2015 team.
“We need to continue to get stronger,” Potter said. “We have a young team moving into a veteran team. Some of the rising leaders have done a good job in controlling what they can control on their development, which is getting stronger. In the next few days, we will choose our leaders for next season and start the process of training. I am looking forward to seeing what the sting of a loss like that brings to our team in terms of focus and work ethic. I can tell you I am not looking forward to carrying that loss for nine months.”