First-Ever NESCAC Tournament Win Propels Men's Ice Hockey to Semi-Finals at Williams
With a pair of goals from Tom Salah '12 (#5, photo insert lower left), including what proved to be the game-winner at 12:01 of the second period, and 33 saves from keeper Matt Hadge '13 (#33, photo insert lower right), including 21 in the final period, Wesleyan got to celebrate (main photo) its first-ever NESCAC tournament win with a 5-2 first-round victory at Hamilton Sat., Feb. 26. Hadge was selected NESCAC Player of the Week for the second time this season in recognition of his performance. Men's ice hockey now joins Wesleyan men's lacrosse as the only #8 seeds in NESCAC tournament history to upend a top seed. Hamilton earned the #1 seed on the final weekend of the regular season with a pair of league wins.
As the only NESCAC rival to beat the Continentals during the regular season, Wesleyan did not secure its playoff spot until the final weekend. After gaining a berth, Wesleyan took advantage by overcoming an early 1-0 deficit due to a first-minute short-handed situation, to forge a 3-1 lead after two periods. Hamilton cut the margin to 3-2 midway throught the final period, but Geoff Mucha '12 added a critical insurance goal with a rush up the right side at 15:43 of the third period and Salah finished off the day's scoring with an empty-net goal at 17:33 for the three-goal margin of victory.
Wesleyan was playing in its fifth NESCAC tournament, having lost in the first round in its previous four appearances, the last one in 2008 at Colby, 4-1. After giving up the early power-play tally, the Wesleyan penalty-kill unit held firm on six other short-handed situations including playing two-men down for 1:14 during the third period while nursing the 3-1 lead.
Tommy Hartnett '14 tied the game for the Cardinals at 12:14 of the opening period, putting a low shot past the Hamilton keeper to his glove side. Nik Tasiopoulos '14 gave Wesleyan the lead for good at :52 of the second period, stripping the puck from a Hamilton player in the Continentals' zone and going in alone for his team-leading 12th goal of the year. Salah made it 3-1 after Adam Kaiser '13 dug the puck out of the corner and set Salah up for a one-timer in front. When Mucha added the fourth Cardinal goal, it allowed him to equal Tasiopoulos for goal-scoring leadership this season with 12.
Wesleyan plays its initial NESCAC semi-final affair at Williams Sat., March 5 against the host. Williams, seeded #2, was the only home team to survive during the opening round as #6 Colby upset #3 Middlebury, 2-1, and #5 Bowdoin defeated #4 Amherst in overtime, 4-3. When Wesleyan and Williams met during the regular season in Williamstown, the Ephs escaped with a 3-2 overtime triumph over the Cardinals.