In a season filled with tough luck and bad breaks, the men’s hockey team (2-16, 1-11 NESCAC) found itself on the short end of the stick once again this past weekend. Hoping to avenge two early-season home losses to Hamilton and Amherst, the team packed its bags and was optimistic on its bus ride to Clinton, N.Y.
“This weekend we went on the road with a purpose to get some league points and fell short in both games,” said speedster Jordan Jancze ’18. “Regardless of the score line, there was a commitment to play the way we wanted to. We got into shot lanes, finished hits, saw some great saves by Nolan Daley [’16], and played fast, transition hockey. At the end of the day, we didn’t capitalize in the third period like we want to.”
With Hamilton sitting in the middle of the conference standings at 4-4-2 heading into the weekend, the Cardinals desperately needed a victory in order to move up the ladder.
The crowd at Sage Rink was raucous after an early goal came off the stick of Continental Neil Conway just six minutes into the game. The Cardinals turned it over in their own defensive zone and Truman Landowski’s pass allowed his teammate to whip a wrist shot past Wesleyan netminder Daley.
Following a slashing penalty on defenseman Nick Malone ’17, the Conts capitalized, doubling their lead to two when Robbie Murden got the puck behind Daley midway through the second period. Down a pair, the Cardinals would not wave the white flag, continuing to push forward towards a goal.
That much-needed first score came in the middle of the second period when Assistant Captain Eric Casey ’16 found Jancze for his third goal of the season. Continuing to apply pressure into the third frame, Assistant Captain Jay Matthews ’16 evened the score up with a massive slap shot that passed goaltender Evan Buitenhuis. Terence Durkin ’16 and Quincy Oujevolk ’17 assisted the play.
“The goal was a fortunate bounce off some legs in front of the net after a shot from Eric Casey at the point,” Jancze said. “Our coaching staff stresses the importance of getting bodies to the net and I was lucky to have moved into the right spot in order to kick the puck to my stick and tap it in the vacant net.”
Jancze proved to be a bright spot on the team’s most recent recruiting class. He is getting a lot of valuable ice time and is tied for third on the team in points with three goals and six assists.
With 5:47 gone by in the final period, Wes scored its third consecutive unanswered goal, this time off the stick of defenseman Cole Morrissette ’17. Things started to look brighter for the Cardinals until Matthews was called for an embellishment penalty that gave the Continentals a power play. Hamilton did not waste its man advantage, as Tyler Lovejoy fired a shot and beat Daley off assists from Murden and Kenny Matheson.
Another crucial hooking penalty from Casey just a minute later would provide Hamilton with another valuable opportunity. The Continentals exploited the Cardinals’ short-handed unit, with Murden’s goal giving him his third point of the contest. Assists were attributed to Lovejoy and Marko Brelih. Wes pulled its goalie late in the period, looking for any kind of boost on offense. Joe Rausch had other ideas, though, and he placed the puck in Wesleyan’s empty net for Hamilton’s third straight goal, which solidified a 5-3 defeat over the Birds.
The following day provided a Little Three matchup and a much more formidable opponent in Amherst (9-3 NESCAC). The Lord Jeffs are currently ranked 12th nationally in Division III and only sit behind the number-one team in the country in the NESCAC standings, Trinity (10-1-1 NESCAC).
Wesleyan had an early power play opportunity after a tripping penalty was called, but Amherst overcame being a man down, as Jake Turrin found David White for his ninth score on the year. The score would remain 1-0 after the first period as Purple and White goalie Danny Vitale stopped all 12 shots in the frame, including four from Oujevolk.
The Lord Jeffs scored early in the second to take a two-point lead. White sent a gorgeous dime to Topher Flanagan, who lit the lamp for the sixth time this season. Wes answered the call, led by Matthews, who cut the deficit in half with his seventh score of the year off assists from Cam McCusker ’18 and Alex Carlacci ’16. Just as the Cardinals were back in the game, Amherst delivered a devastating blow, scoring for a third time with just 10 seconds remaining in the middle stanza.
The third period would be controlled by Amherst, starting with a goal by Thomas Lindstrom off assists from Brendan Burke and Mike Rowbotham. Dylan Holze ’18 gave the Cardinals some life after his score made it a 4-2 game. Jancze was given the assist on the tally. Amherst would score twice more in the next four minutes, giving them a 6-2 edge, and Wesleyan Head Coach Chris Potter pulled Daley in favor of goaltender Danny Weiss ’17. In his season debut, Weiss stopped two shots in just over six minutes of action. Despite losing by a wide margin, the Cardinals only trailed by two in the shot count department.
Wesleyan will try to halt its long losing streak next weekend on the road with two tough matchups. First will come Little Three rival and 14th-ranked in Division III, Williams (8-3-1 NESCAC). The following day will see the Cardinals battling against the Middlebury Panthers (4-5-3 NESCAC).
“The key to success in this league doesn’t change,” Jancze said. “The key to success against any opponent is your preparation. How you train your body and mind during the week pays dividends on Friday and Saturday nights. This week we are preparing to play against two fast, physical teams and I have no doubt that when we get on the bus on Friday afternoon, we will be mentally and physically ready to battle for some important points. We are still in the playoff hunt and we need a spark to propel this group to another level. We’ve had some tough breaks and a couple bad bounces, but our group is resilient. We are looking forward to the challenges that Williams and Middlebury present.”
In order to come out with a win, the Cardinals are going to have to limit their time spent in the penalty box and continue to fire pucks toward the net. They will also have to improve their play in the final period, as they have been outscored 19-5 in the third period of the last 11 contests.
“The third-period breakdowns are something we are all conscious of and every week we come to practice with a mission to fix it,” Jancze said. “We’ve had some unfortunate injuries and ailments this year, losing a very talented defensemen in Theo Tydingco [’18] in our first game. Our reduced numbers, compared to some other teams in the league, may affect our focus and energy levels in the third. That excuse, however, doesn’t reflect the amount of work that our guys put in the gym, on the ice, and in the classroom. We are a tight group, a hardworking group, a team of character, and regardless of the short-term outcomes, we are building something here. We are long-term greedy.”