Hockey Drops Season Opener at Wesleyan, 5-3

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – An early three-goal deficit was too much to overcome as the Tufts University hockey team dropped their season opener at Wesleyan University, 5-3, in New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) action on Friday evening.

Justin Brandt scored the Jumbos' first two goals.

The Jumbos start the season 0-1-0 while Wesleyan is 1-0-0.

The Cardinals got on the board in the first minute of play with a goal by Tyler Wyatt. The Jumbos dumped the puck in and fired a shot from the hash marks that wrapped all the way back into their own end. Wesleyan won the race to the loose puck and sent a pass into the slot were Wyatt one-timed a shot into the net at 00:58.

Wesleyan drew two penalties and earned a five-on-three. They would pass the puck around and earn open lanes. A shot by Spencer Fox was saved by Tufts junior goalie Drew Hotte with a diving stick save, then a Wyatt rebound shot blocked by the Tufts defense. However, Wyatt collected the second rebound and buried it to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead at 5:57. Just 30 seconds later, Alex Giummo extended the lead to 3-0 for Wesleyan.

Tufts salvaged some of the first period as with just two seconds remaining sophomore Justin Brandt capitalized just after a five-minute man advantage. After winning a puck battle in the left corner, senior assistant captain Ross Delabruere found senior captain Cooper Stahl at the point. Stahl fired a shot on goal that Wesleyan goalie Tim Sestak turned away, but Brandt was on the doorstep to finish off the play and send the teams to the first break with Wesleyan leading 3-1.

The Jumbos continued their attack and used the momentum from the late score to cut the lead to one early in the second period. A strong forecheck by Tufts forced a turnover at the attacking blueline. Brandt found free space in the slot and fired a backhander shot that beat Sestak at 2:43 of the period.

Wyatt completed a hat trick with less than five minutes to play in the second period. Wesleyan chipped a pass out to the neutral zone which put the Cardinals on the attack. The Jumbos managed to clear and were attempting to change giving Wesleyan and two-on-one. Wyatt was strong on the puck and beat Hotte with a backhand shot. That gave Wesleyan a 4-2 lead headed to the second intermission.

The Jumbos again jumped on the attack early in the third period. Sophomore Brendan Skarda got the Jumbos to within one. Sophomore Angus Scott and senior Jordan Haney earned assists on the early period goal.

Ultimately, the Jumbos could not find the equalizer as Wesleyan iced the contest with a late empty-net goal.

The Jumbos fired 31 shots on goal. Brandt led the offense with two goals on three shots on goal. Skarda added a goal for the Jumbos on his lone shot in the contest. Haney fired a team-high four shots on goal. The Cardinals sent 30 pucks on goal. Wyatt tallied four goals in the win. He fired a game-high six shots on goal.

Hotte stopped 25 shots in the losing effort. Sestak is now 1-0-0 after making 28 saves.

Tufts will play their second game of their weekend double-header at Trinity College on Saturday afternoon. Puck drop is scheduled for 4 pm. The Cardinals host Connecticut College tomorrow afternoon at 3 pm.