The men’s hockey team welcomed two familiar foes to Middletown this past weekend. On Saturday, the team faced off against Little Three rival Amherst at Spurrier-Snyder Rink before taking on another NESCAC opponent, Hamilton, on Sunday. Following the pair of contests, the Cardinals record now stands at 2-9-7, with a 2-4-6 record in conference play.
On Saturday, the team took on the Purple and White from Mass. and edged out a 3-2 victory. A Redbird power play gave the squad an early lead when Chad Malinowski ’19 scored at 13:28 of the first period. Fellow first-year players Andy Espinoza and Vincent Lima assisted on the goal. Amherst’s Jack’s Fitzgerald answered almost immediately, when he netted a goal over the glove hand of Cardinal netminder Dawson Sprigings ’17. The Birds would retake the lead with just over five minutes remaining in the first period when Terence Durkin ’16 was able to find the back of the net on a deflection of Robbie Harbison ’17 shot on-goal. Mike Yablong ’19 recorded an assist on the goal, feeding the puck to Harbison.
Wesleyan took a 2-1 lead into the penultimate frame, but Amherst would even up the game once again midway through the second period when Fitzgerald was able to beat Sprigings for a second time. The game remained tied until late in the third period, when Jaren Taenaka ’16 found twine with 1:46 remaining in the game. Espinoza and Alex Carlacci ’16 were given assists on the play.
The win was Wesleyan’s first over Amherst since 2008 when the Cardinals were victorious at home by a score of 1-nill. Sprigings stopped 21 of the 23 shots he faced on the evening.
Captain Eric Casey ’16 weighed in on what it meant to beat Amherst for the first time in his collegiate career.
“Beating Amherst for the first time in almost a decade was a great feeling,” he said. “It was a good team win that proved we can compete with the best teams in the NESCAC. We need to continue to build off that win and bring the same effort to every game. The game was also a bittersweet time for the team as our coach Jim Langlois, a Wesleyan hockey coach for more than 30 years, passed away this past week. He was a great coach, role model, and an even better man that will be greatly missed. It was an emotional week for the team, so to pull out a win in his honor was really special.”
On Sunday, the Cardinals squared off against Hamilton at Spurrier-Snyder Rink. Despite a late rally, the Redbirds fell 2-1 to their conference foe. Hamilton has enjoyed a hot start to the year, currently holding a 12-4-2 record with a 7-3-2 mark in NESCAC play.
Hamilton scored one goal in each of the first two periods to net a 2-0 advantage. Richard Court earned the Continentals first goal at the 11:26 mark of the first period. The next tally came on a delayed penalty midway through the second. James Kline ’17 was able to cut the Hamilton lead in half with 7:53 remaining in the game, but the Cardinals were unable to complete the comeback. Despite killing off a late penalty and pulling Sprigings with a minute left to give the Cardinals the extra-man advantage, Hamilton goalie Evan Buitenhuis held off the Cardinal attack to seal the game for the Continentals.
Sprigings made 19 saves in the game, while Buitenhuis stopped 42 of the 43 shots he faced. Kline’s goal gave him a team-leading eleven on the season to go along with three assists.
Casey discussed what the team is focusing on in the coming weeks.
“To this point in the year, we have been good about getting points every weekend, either through wins or ties,” he said. “We definitely want to continue being hard to beat and getting points so we can keep climbing the standings. It’s important for us to take it day by day and continue to work hard during the week at practice and hopefully that work will position us to make a run in the playoffs.”
In the wake of a weekend filled with big contributions by some of the team’s younger players, Casey talked about what they have meant to the team this year.
“Our younger players have been great so far,” he said. “We have sophomores and freshmen that are getting a lot of time on the ice and have played in some important situations throughout the year. Especially at the defensive position, at least four of the six defenseman are underclassmen, and so each game we lean on the young guys a lot and they have all stepped up to the task.”
Finally, Casey discussed the importance of being a captain during his senior season.
“This year’s team is lucky to have a lot of leaders, including Captains Jay Matthews [’16], James Kline, and Rob Harbison,” he said. “These guys, as well as the other seniors, have stepped up all year and been great examples for the younger guys on the team. It makes it easy to be a captain when you have guys working hard and taking on leadership roles of their own.”
Up next for Casey and the Cardinals is a showdown against Middlebury at Spurrier-Snyder Rink this Friday at 7 p.m.