MEDFORD – Tufts qualified for their fifth straight New England Small Athletic Conference (NESCAC) men's hockey championship and enter the field as the No. 8 seed. The Jumbos are set to travel to the No. 1 overall seed Trinity College for a NESCAC Quarterfinal contest at 1 pm on Saturday at Williams Rink in the Koeppel Community Sports Center.
The Jumbos and Bantams have met in each of the prior four NESCAC post-seasons. Trinity has won three of the four matchups, but Tufts knocked them out in the 2014-15 season as the No. 8 seed with a 2-1 win. The following season, the Jumbos were the eight-seed and upset Williams, the No. 1 overall seed. The Bantams edged the Jumbos 4-3 in the semifinals that year. Last season saw a 2-0 Trinty win in the quarterfinals. Trinity has won 24 conference post-season games overall and four titles, second-most in NESCAC.
The Jumbos (6-15-3) defeated Bowdoin College 5-0 last Friday night to jump the Polar Bears in the standings for the eighth-seed. The brown and blue clinched their playoff spot the next day when they drew 3-3 in overtime against Colby, who is the No. 6 seed in NESCACs.
The Jumbos' offense is heading in the right direction as they have scored 11 goals in their past three contests. Sophomore Hayden Smith netted three goals on the final weeekend of the reguar-season, including two at Bowdoin. Freshman Cal LeClair had a goal and an assist to lead Tufts' comeback from a 3-0 deficit at Colby. Junior Anthony Farinacci has netted a team-high eight goals, while the Jumbos have recveived six goals from their lone senior Clay Berger, with five of them coming in conference action. Sophomore Charley Borek and freshman Nick Schultze have also provided sparks on the ice as they both have four goals respectively.
In the playmaking department, junior Tyler Scroggins leads the team with his 10 helpers which brings him up to 26 career assists. There is a three-way tie for the second-most assists on the team with six between freshmen Justin Brandt and Trevor Spence, and junior Ross Delabruere. The Jumbos' 72 assists this season are seven more than they earned a year ago.
The brown and blue have allowed an average of 2.76 goals per game so far this season, backed by a good goaltending duo. Sophomore goalie Drew Hotte has played in 16 games and has recorded two shutouts, including one against Bowdoin last week when he had 40 saves. The sophomore netminder has recorded a .921 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.70. Freshman Josh Sarlo has also gotten into 10 games and has played well in his first season. He made 59 saves in a 1-1 tie at Trinity and has a 2.24 goals against mark. Junior Jordan Haney has been the team's defensive leader on the blue line.
Trinity (16-3-5) enters the NESCAC Tournament having won each of its past six games, including two over Wesleyan last weekend to clinch the No. 1 overall seed. The Bantams are ranked 13th in the country and score 3.35 goals per game. Senior Ryan Pfeffer has found the back of the net a team-leading 10 times and has dished out six helpers. The Bantams have gotten great play right away from freshman Lucas Michaud who has team-highs in assists with 14 and points with 23, which is six points better than any other freshman in the NESCAC. Trinity sophomores Dylan Healey and Michael Grande are versatile offensive weapons as they rank second and third on the team with 19 and 18 points respectively. The Bantams have 12 players on the roster that have posted double-digit points this season, making them tough to defend.
The Bantam defense has been just as good as they only allow 1.79 goals per contest. Trinity has turned to junior goalie Tedy Loughborough 14 times this season and he has posted a 9-2-2 record. Loughborough leads the team with a .934 save percentage and a 1.73 goals against average. Freshman Jonah Capriotti has appeared in 11 games and is 7-1-3 overall. The freshman only allows 1.81 goals per night.
Tufts and Trinity have met twice this season. They played in the regular-season opener in which the Bantams came out on top by a 3-0 margin. Hotte stopped 37 Trinity shots, but juniors Andy Chugg, Nick Florentino, and Barclay Gammill found the back of the net. Loughborough saved all 20 Jumbo attempts in the game. Farinacci and Trinity sophomore James Callahan each recorded a goal in a thrilling 1-1 tie in the teams' second meeting. Sarlo played a phenomenal game as he stopped 59 of the 60 shots the Bantams put on goal.
The winner of Saturday's game will advance to the NESCAC semifinals next Saturday (Mar. 2) at the site of the highest remaining seed.
Written By Athletic Communications Intern Bryan Costello