The men’s hockey team took its annual trip to Maine this past weekend and battled with some familiar NESCAC foes. Having already welcomed both opponents to Spurrier-Snyder Rink earlier this season, the Cardinals ventured to the Pine Tree State for rematches with both Bowdoin and Colby. On Saturday night, Wesleyan fell to Bowdoin 8-2, before losing a hard-fought 5-3 game to Colby on Sunday afternoon.
Wesleyan tied both opponents earlier in the season, so the losses bring its season record against each to 0-1-1. Wesleyan now sits at 2-12-8 overall, with a 2-7-7 record in conference play heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Forward and Alternate Captain James Kline ’17 reflected on the weekend’s results.
“This past weekend was a setback in regards to the standings,” he said. “Unfortunately, things didn’t go our way. With that being said, we are able to grow by learning from our mistakes and prepare for a playoff atmosphere against Trinity this weekend.”
Kline and the team see a chance for redemption this weekend.
“We understand what is at stake this upcoming weekend, so we need our best during both games. We need two wins and it is as simple as that,” Kline stated.
Bowdoin lit up the scoreboard early on Friday night and never looked back. The Polar Bears scored four goals in the first period, eventually tallying seven straight before Wesleyan could answer. The Polar Bears chased Cardinal netminder Dawson Sprigings ’17 from the game a mere eighteen seconds into the second period, with Nolan Daley ’16 coming on for relief duty. Bowdoin’s Kendall Culberston commenced the scoring with a goal just 1:49 into the game. At 3:07, the Polar Bears doubled their lead with a goal by Matthew Lision, but they weren’t finished. At 11:10 of the first frame, Matt Rubinoff, who had assisted on the previous goal, netted a power play goal to increase the advantage to three. Camil Blanchet capped off the period’s onslaught with a goal at the 17:44 mark of the first, giving the Polar Bears more insurance than they would need.
After the intermission, Bowdoin scored three more times, including another tally on the extra man advantage. Jordan Jancze ’18 was able to prevent a shutout for the Cardinals on a goal assisted by Jaren Taenaka ’16, but with 17:46 gone by in the second period, it was too little too late for the Redbirds. The teams would trade another pair of goals, as Wesleyan defenseman Mikey Yablong ’19 found the back of the net on the power play at the end of the second period before Bowdoin’s Joseph Lace was able to beat Daley for the final goal of the night in the final frame.
Overall, the Polar Bears had six different skaters register a goal, and outshot Wesleyan 31-18. The teams combined for an unusual ten goals in the game, with five in the second period alone. A silver lining for the Cardinals was their success on special teams; the power play went 1-2, and 3-5 on the penalty kill.
Facing a quick turnaround, the squad traveled to Waterville, Maine to take on the Mules in a matinee affair. The Cards would jump out to an early 2-1 lead, but eventually fell by a score of 5-3. Eight different Cardinals registered points in the game.
The teams played their way to a scoreless first period, with Wes taking an 11-9 shot advantage into the locker room. Capitalizing on the momentum, Yablong scored his second goal of the weekend at 5:51 of the second. Jancze and Cole Morissette ’17 provided assists on the play. Colby answered Yablong’s tally five minutes later, when Cam MacDonald got the Donkeys on the board.
Kline gave the Cardinals the lead once more when he found twine with an extra attacker on for the Cardinals, as a result of a delayed penalty call. The goal was good for Kline’s team-leading twelfth score of the season, and Jancze produced his second assist of the day on the play. Colby would answer quickly once again, capitalizing on the man advantage with under a minute remaining in the second period. This sent teams into the locker room all knotted up at two goals apiece, but this score would not hold for long.
MacDonald’s second goal of the game for the Mules would give his team the lead for the first time all afternoon when he deflected a shot past Sprigings only a minute into the third period. The teams then exchanged goals, with Wesleyan’s Vincent Lima ’19 cutting the Colby margin to one when he beat the Colby goaltender, Emerson Verrier, over his glove hand; the goal was set up by assists from Andy Espinoza ’19 and Captain Eric Casey ’16. MacDonald completed his hat trick after he increased the Mules lead to two with just over two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game.
Wesleyan’s power play was again able to kill off three of five penalties, but they could not capitalize on the man advantage, going 0-2 on the day. Wesleyan outshot Colby, 34-28, but MacDonald’s trifecta was the difference in the game. Sprigings stopped 23 of the 28 shots he faced, while Verrier saved 31 of the 34 that came his way.
Kline reflected on his scoring ability this season, and what it feels like to lead the lamp.
“I attribute the success that I have experienced on the ice this season to my teammates,” he said. “I have had the opportunity to play with some highly talented players who have been able to generate offense. We put in a lot of hard work when nobody is looking and it is that hard work that has formulated success. It is always gratifying to see your hard work paying off.”
As for the team’s goals the rest of the way, Kline left no doubt about where the players stand.
“Our number one goal is to make the playoffs,” Kline stated. “There is no better environment than playoff hockey and we are going to give everything that we have to get there.”
It was unquestionably a tough weekend for the Cardinals, but a glimmer of hope remains. With the loss to Colby, the Redbirds fell out of the eighth and final playoff spot. Trailing the final slot by just one point, Wes will need Conn College and Tufts to steal points away from the Mules in order to jump into the playoffs. The Redbirds have a away-and-home showdown with in-state rival Trinity this weekend. The team will travel to Hartford on Friday night before welcoming the Bantams to Middletown on Saturday afternoon, hopefully with a chance to salvage their season.