The men’s hockey team skated to a 1-1 record in its opening week in two road contests. This places the Cards in a tie for fifth in the NESCAC with Conn College, the team that they lost to on Sunday.
“Overall, I think we played well,” said James Kline ’17. “We got two points on the road, which is never an easy thing to do in the NESCAC. We have some maturing to do as a team, but that is something that will come with all of the hard work that we are putting in at practice.”
The season started with a matchup against Tufts, in which Wesleyan was victorious, 5-2. The Cardinals broke a scoreless tie just 5:32 into the game when an unassisted goal came off the stick of defenseman Marty Rubin ’18, who picked a great time to score his first point for the team. Rubin sent the puck past the goaltender into the bottom corner of the net.
Just 30 seconds after the score, forward Jordan Jancze ’18 was sent to the box for cross-checking, but Wesleyan’s now short-handed unit along with goalie Dawson Sprigings ’17 held on, not allowing an equalizer.
The Cardinals would make the Jumbos pay for failing to capitalize on the power play by doubling their lead to two: with 8:29 left in the first period, Alternate Captain Jay Matthews ’16 scored off assists from Captain Connor Ryan ’15 and Elliott Vorel ’17.
“The goal came off of good movement and cycling down low with both Connor Ryan and Elliott Vorel, and then when I had an angle at the net I took my shot and was fortunate enough to have it go over the goalie’s shoulder,” Matthews said.
The same line that scored for the Cards would also get burned with just 5:24 left in the first period. Tufts cut its deficit in half when Andrew White beat Sprigings off assists from Stewart Bell and Sean Kavanagh.
After just two minutes in the second period, Tufts committed a costly slashing penalty. Unlike the Jumbos, Wesleyan made sure to fully utilize its extra man. Matthews scored his second of the night and assists were granted to Kline and Captain Jim Albrecht ’15.
“For my second goal, in a similar spot to my first goal, I threw the puck into the goalie’s feet to challenge him and it snuck in between his legs,” Matthews said.
Tufts continued to underwhelm on its power play in the second period, earning multiple opportunities to score after four Wes penalties. Although the Birds lacked discipline in the opening game, they were not hurt by their mistakes and headed into the third period with a 3-1 advantage.
Kline would add an insurance goal for Wesleyan 5:12 into the final period, finding the back of the net off assists from Quincy Oujevolk ’17 and Albrecht. Only two minutes later, Tufts forward Tyler Voigt sent a shot past Sprigings, scoring the Jumbos’ second goal of the evening.
Down two goals with just under two minutes left, Tufts desperately pulled its netminder Ryan McConnell, hoping to find some late magic. Instead, Cole Morrissette ’17 took advantage of the empty net and tallied his first goal of the season, unassisted with 51 seconds remaining in the contest.
“We received input from all different players on the roster, which had to have been our biggest strength over the weekend,” Kline said. “I believe that we have a lot of dynamic talent on this team. Everybody contributes in different ways. It was also nice to see a strong impact by our freshman class. They all have proven to be great additions to the Wesleyan tradition.”
Sprigings finished with 31 saves, including 11 in the first, and he only allowed the two goals, making his save percentage 93.9.
“Our greatest strength for the team going into the weekend was being prepared systematically, knowing what it takes to be successful in all three zones,” Matthews said.
The Cardinals were outshot 33-23 and were penalized three more times than the Jumbos, but they capitalized on their one and only power-play opportunity. Defensemen Rubin and Nick Malone ’17 had the team’s best plus-minus ratio at plus three, while Kline produced a plus-two performance.
The contest at Conn College did not provide as much success for the Cardinals as the previous day’s game did. The Camels took the matchup 5-2 and beat Wesleyan for the second straight season in New London.
This time the Cardinals could not overcome being outshot by 10, 36 to 26. The Camels were penalized once more than the Birds but Wesleyan was zero for four on its extra-man advantage while Conn College was one for three.
“A weakness that I feel we faced in the game was not getting enough pucks on net and making the game difficult for the opposing goalie,” Matthews said.
After Alternate Captain Eric Casey ’16 took a hooking penalty with 4:20 off the clock in the first period, the Camels capitalized on the opportunity. Joe Giordano found the loose puck near the slot in the Cardinals’ defensive zone and fed JC Cangelosi in front of the net, where he pushed the puck past Sprigings for the early lead.
Kline leveled the score at one with just over seven minutes gone by in the first. He received a pass from forward Jaren Taenaka ’16, drove hard to the net, and finished a wraparound goal. Cangelosi added his second of the game just over four minutes later, tapping in a rebound off a slap shot.
The second period was one to forget for Wesleyan, as the Cardinals were outscored two to zero. Conn College increased its lead to two in the second period when Giordano had a breakaway opportunity, and the Camels’ shooter was able to finish. Conn College padded its lead with a fourth goal, which came off the stick of Jeff Celniker. Nic Pilote forced a turnover between the blue lines, and two passes later, the puck found Celniker, who ripped a shot past Sprigings from the slot.
A goal by Alex Carlaaci ’16 off an assist from Ryan had the potential to make things more interesting with approximately 12 minutes remaining in the final period. Unfortunately, the Cardinals could not get any closer, and after Head Coach Chris Potter decided to pull the goalie with just 1:27 remaining, Conn College’s Marc Roper closed out the game with an empty-net score.
“I believe that we all learned from the loss at Connecticut College,” Kline said. “We need to be at our best everyday if we want to be successful in the NESCAC, and we simply were not at our best on Sunday.”
Sprigings finished the game with 31 saves, including 13 in the second period, when Wesleyan was outshot by five. The Cardinals’ goaltender fended away 31 of 35 shots, giving him a save percentage of 88.6 and a season percentage of 91.2.
Wesleyan will have two prime opportunities at home this weekend to improve in the standings, starting on Friday, November 21 at 7 p.m. against Hamilton. The next day will feature a Little Three matchup with Amherst at 3 p.m.
“We need to learn from our mistakes and play disciplined,” Kline said. “Both Hamilton and Amherst are solid opponents, and we need to make sure that we are ready to battle.”
A season ago, the Cardinals lost to Hamilton on the road 5-8 and could only produce a 2-2 tie in Spurrier-Snyder Rink. Amherst was a very difficult test for Wes in two games; the Cardinals lost by a combined score of 8-2 in both contests. Hopefully, Wesleyan’s luck will change this upcoming weekend.
“In order to have a successful weekend this weekend we need to play for the full 60 minutes and get as many pucks on net as possible to wear down both Hamilton and Amherst,” Matthews said. “If we work hard in all three zones we can be a very successful team.”