Hockey Rallies to Tie Colby 3-3, Earns Spot in NESCAC Playoffs

WATERVILLE, Maine – Tufts University came back from a 3-0 deficit to earn a 3-3 tie at Colby College on Saturday in a NESCAC men's hockey game that was the regular-season finale for both squads.

Hayden Smith's goal at Colby today was his third of the weekend

Before their game ended, Tufts clinched the eighth and final spot into the NESCAC Tournament as Bowdoin College was defeated by Connecticut College 5-4 this afternoon. However, the Jumbos would have earned the berth on their own with the point from today's tie.

Entering the weekend in a three-way battle against Bowdoin and Connecticut Collegefor for NESCAC's eighth playoff berth, the Jumbos put themselves in the driver's seat with a 5-0 win at Bowdoin last night while the Camels lost 2-1 at Colby. Tufts needed a win or a tie of their own or a Bowdoin loss on Saturday to qualify for the tourney and that's what happened. Head coach Pat Norton's team heads into the post-season on the strength of an undefeated weekend in Maine.

The Jumbos (6-15-3, 3-12-3 NESCAC) will travel to Trinity College for the quarterfinal round of the conference championship next Saturday. The Bantams won twice against Wesleyan University this weekend to pass the Cardinals and take over the top seed in the conference.

Colby (10-9-5, 7-7-4) finished with the sixth seed in the conference and will play at third-seed Amherst College in the quarterfinals.

Jumbo sophomore goalie Drew Hotte, whose 40-save shutout keyed Friday's win at Bowdoin, made 35 saves today. Freshman Cal LeClair scored a goal and an assist to lead Tufts offensively. The Jumbos held Colby to 0 for 5 on power plays.

J.P. Schuhlen also finished with a goal and an assist to lead the hosts, who got 39 saves from goalie Mack Burton. Tufts out-shot the Mules 42-38.

The Jumbos had a 13-7 advantage in shots in the first period, but it was Colby who came out with 1-0 lead. Burton saved all 13 Jumbo shots and Thomas Stahlhuth netted his seventh goal of the year at 14:49 of the frame. Velan Nandhakumaran's shot from the left point was saved by Hotte, but Stahlhuth lowered his head and battled to knock in the rebound.

Colby picked it up offensively in the second period, putting 18 shots on Hotte and adding two more goals. The Mules made it 2-0 on a transition goal by Schuhlen from Kienan Scott. The play started in Colby's end as Scott, while being nudged by a Tufts player, pushed a pass up to Schuhlen. The junior forward did not get all the puck on his shot and the bounce of the puck got past Hotte as he dove back to try and keep it from going over the line.

Colby seemed to be in control when Mike Morrissey scored his eighth goal of the season with just two minutes left in the second period. Morrissey brought the puck out of Colby's zone and hit Brendan Murphy with a pass at the Tufts blue line. Murphy immediately got the puck over to Schuhlen at the right boards. Schuhlen waited for Morrissey to come streaking over the blue line and hit him with a nice pass for the score.

Tufts started its comeback with a pair of goals 55 seconds apart late in the second. Tyler Scroggins, crossing the Colby blue line, pushed a pass to LeClair on the left. LeClair beat a defenseman and came in hard on Burton, who was knocked over but still managed to poke the puck away. Clay Berger came in for the rebound and put Tufts on the board at 18:45. After Hotte made a nice save on Colby's Quinn Doyle, the puck bounced to Hayden Smith, who had a long pass to Brendan Ryan. Smith hustled down the ice after the pass and was rewarded when Ryan hit him with a centering pass as he was about to go around the goal and Smith scored with just 20 seconds left in the period.

LeClair tied the game at 3-3 at 3:03 of the third period, giving Tufts its three goals in 4:18 of game time. Trevor Spence had a shot from the point that was deflected directly to Anthony Farinacci, who put a quick shot on Burton. The long rebound came straight out and LeClair was coming in up the middle to knock the puck in the goal.

Burton made 15 saves in the third and Hotte had 11 to help send the game to overtime. The action continued into the extra session as Tufts put three shots on goal and Colby had two, but the score remained the same.

Heading into the playoffs, the Jumbos have won twice as the eight-seed against the #1 seed in the conference tournament. That includes 2015 at Trinity (2-0) and 2016 at Williams (2-1).

Portions of recap courtesy of Colby College