Men’s hockey sweeps weekend to claim second place in NESCAC standings

By Grace Myers ’19

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This past weekend was an exciting whirlwind for the Hamilton College men’s hockey team, whose victories against two NESCAC rivals came in the last minutes of each game. Fresh faces carried the team on the Feb. 10 and Feb. 12 games against Connecticut College and Tufts University respectively, with two of the goals coming from first-year students. After splitting last weekend’s series and taking two ties on the series the weekend prior, the double wins are a huge help to the team, especially in guaranteeing a home seed in playoffs. The Continentals now hold possession of second place in the NESCAC conference with a solid record of 9-3-4, only one win behind first-place Williams College.

The Feb. 10 away game versus Connecticut College (NESCAC 2-12-2) was a nail-biter to the very last second. Forward Brandon Willett ’18 played solidly throughout the entire weekend and responded to an early Connecticut goal to tie the game 1-1 after 20 minutes of play. With this goal, Willett now leads the Continentals in goals with 12 on the season. The tie remained through the next two periods, though Hamilton had the clear offensive advantage with the shots on goal reading 34-18 in favor of the Continentals by the end of the game.

The tie-breaker came with just two tenths of a second left to play in the third, with forward Jason Brochu ’19 scoring the game-winning goal. It was the first time that Hamilton has scored a game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation in over seven years. Evan Buitenhuis ’18 continued his exemplary goaltending, with the Friday game marking his third consecutive performance in which he held the opposing team to just one goal. Also notable was Connecticut goaltender Avery Gobbo ’20, who allowed just two goals on 34 shots for a 0.941 save percentage.

Hamilton faced another tough opponent in Tufts University (NESCAC 8-7-1) on Feb. 12, and this time capitalized on young talent to win another conference game. First-year Nick Ursitti ’20 scored off of a rebound mid-way through the first period to get an early lead. His goal was answered late in the second period however, when Tufts scored on a Hamilton College power play for a shorthanded goal.

The third period was marked by incredible Hamilton domination, having had a 15-6 shot advantage. Willett again had great opportunities in the offensive zone, and managed to pick up the assist on a goal by defenseman Bennett Morrison ’19 late in the third for the second short-handed goal of the game. Willett’s 21 points are ninth in the NESCAC, and he also dominated face-offs on the night, winning 15 of 19. Tufts pulled their goalie with 1:35 left in regulation in an attempt to make a late-game comeback, but Tyler Bruneteau ’18 managed to score his eighth goal of the season on the empty net to seal the Hamilton win. Goaltender Buitenhuis’s 0.949 overall save percentage is now first in the NESCAC, and his streak of holding the opposing team to one goal continued to four games with the Feb. 12 victory.

Second-place Hamilton returns to home ice this weekend at the Russel Sage Rink with two NESCAC games, against the first place and the last place teams. The Feb. 17 game is against Middlebury, who hold the last place spot with a record of 3-13-0 in the division. The Feb. 18 game has the Continentals facing number one Williams College, which could provide Hamilton an opportunity to take first place in the division just short of playoff seeding.

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