Tufts eliminated the men’s hockey team (18-5-2, 14-3-2 NESCAC) by a score of 2-1 on Saturday afternoon at the Lansing Chapman Rink in the first round of the conference playoffs. The Ephs got the first goal of the game early in the second period, but the Jumbos subsequently scored two unanswered goals to pull off the upset.
The game featured a matchup between two of the top goaltenders in the NESCAC with Tufts netminder Mason Pulde and Michael Pinios ’19. Pulde entered the game with a .945 save percentage on the season, while Pinios finished the regular season slate with a .942 save percentage and a .833 win percentage.
Coming into the tournament as the top seed, the Ephs shut out the Jumbos in both of their regular season meetings. The first matchup took place in early December, with the Ephs taking a 2-0 victory on the road. In the second matchup, staged in late January, the men claimed a decisive 4-0 victory.
However, the tournament game proved to be a reversal of the script. After the first period, the Ephs led in shot count 11-4, having created multiple offensive chances with strong passing play. Williams got off to a quick start in the second period, staking itself a one-goal lead at 1:00. Immediately following a face-off in the lower right circle, Michael Lata ’19 maneuvered the puck to the slot, allowing C.J. Shugart ’18 to fire a shot past Pulde, bringing the game to 1-0.
At 11:48, the Jumbos tied the game at one apiece, after a shot from the right point by Sean Kavanagh hit a body in front of the net and bounced by Pinios. This was Kavanagh’s third goal of the season, and it put the Jumbos back in the game.
Tufts scored their second goal less than a minute later to take the lead at 12:53 of the second period. Mike Leary was able to skate past the Williams defensive unit to fire one off from the slot. Pinios made a pad save that rebounded right to the stick of Keith Campbell, who was able to shoot one past, with Pinios unable to recover in time to make the save.
This was Campbell’s first goal of the season, and Leary and Patrick Lackey were awarded assists on the play. After two periods of play, the Ephs led in shots 22-15, although the teams were equal in shots in the second period.
The Ephs put on the pressure in the third period, as much of the last 20 minutes took place in their offensive zone. Pinios was pulled to get the extra man with one minute remaining in the contest, but the opposition’s defensive unit was able to stifle any opportunities presented to the Ephs.
The shot count finished in the Ephs’ favor 37-23. In the game, Pinios made 21 saves, while Pulde ended with 36 in an impressive performance.
The game came to a close with a score of 2-1, resulting in Tufts defeating and eliminating the No. 1 seeded Williams squad. For the second year in a row, the No. 8 seeded Jumbos upset the No. 1 seed in the first round of the conference playoffs. The Ephs still have an opportunity to get an at-large national bid, but that possibility is yet to be determined.
“It was a tough loss,” captain Zander Masucci ’16 said. “Tufts played a smart game and capitalized on [its] opportunities. We are optimistic we will get an at-large bid into the National tournament, but for now it is a waiting game.”
On Feb. 29, Masucci was named to the All-Conference First Team and also named NESCAC Player of the Year. He is the fourth defenseman to earn the award. Tyler Young ’17 and Pinios were both named to the All-NESCAC Second Team. Pinios was also named Co-Rookie of the Year and is the first Eph to earn this honor.
In addition to honors awarded to players, Coach Kangas was voted NESCAC Coach of the Year for leading the Ephs to first place with a NESCAC record of 14-4-0. The 18 wins total this season ties Williams’ best season win total set by teams coached by Kangas in 1992-93, 1997-98 and 1998-99.