In the first meeting of the teams since the split between the NESCAC and the ECAC East after the 2010-11 season, Wesleyan overcame a 2-1 deficit with three goals in the final seven minutes of the contest to come away with a 4-2 win over visiting New England College Sat., Jan. 4. NEC entered the game ranked 18th nationally in the latest USCHO.com Division III poll and fell to 8-4 on the season. NEC leads the series with Wesleyan, 14-6-1, and came into the game 10-1-2 in the last 13 encounters between the squads.
After falling behind, 2-1, at 13:23 of the third period, the Cardinals trailed for only 33 seconds as Jay Matthews '16 (#12, photo insert upper left) slapped a shot from the right circle past the Pilgrim netminder at 13:56 for his third of the season. It took just 32 more seconds for the Cardinals to claim their first lead of the game as Keith Buehler '14 took a pass on the left and deked past two Pilgrim defenders to plant a low shot inside the right post at 14:28 for a 3-2 lead. It was the fourth seasonal goal for Buehler. When NEC pulled its goalie with 1:15 to go with a faceoff in the Wesleyan zone, the Cardinals won the draw and moved quickly up ice with Tommy Hartnett '14 firing a shot into the empty net from the NEC blue line at 18:56 for the 4-2 final. Hartnett is second in goals for Wesleyan with eight this year. Leading the Cardinals is Elliott Vorel '17 (#9, main photo), who scored the Cardinals' first goal at 7:18 of the second period on the power play, extending his point-scoring streak to all nine games this year with his 11th of the campaign. He added an assist on Wesleyan's tying goal, giving him 21 points this year. Matthews also had a goal and an assist.
NEC netted the only goal of the first period while Wesleyan had the lone tally of the second stanza as the teams entered the final period deadlocked at 1-1.
Dawson Sprigings '17, who entered the game 8:04 into the first period when Wesleyan starter Nolan Daley '16 left with a leg injury, had 27 saves with just one goal against.
Wesleyan was right back in action Sun, Jan. 5, hosting SUNY Canton. Wesleyan got on the board just 1:14 into the game when Buehler, standing in the slot, was hit by a shot from teammate Tommy Hartnett '14, then turned to control the puck and whisk a wrist shot past the Kangaroo keeper for his fifth of the season. It took Wesleyan more than 20 minutes to add to its lead as Derek Collins '14 took a pass from Vorel up the left side, carried into the Canton zone and centered a pass to Connor Ryan '15 for a redirect into the net at 2:43 of the second stanza. It was Ryan's third goal of the year. With his assist, Vorel, currently second in the country in scoring with 22 points in 10 games (a 2.20 point-per-game average), extended his point-scoring streak to all 10 games this season. Exactly five minutes later, Matthews netted the first of his two goals in the contest, which upped his season total to five, as a central point shot by Casey Fratkin '14 was blocked, but the puck found Matthews in the left circle for a scoring drive, making it a 3-0 lead.
Canton got on the board with the first of its two power-play markers as a misplay between a Wesleyan defender and Sprigings left the puck for a Kangaroo to flip over Sprigings at the 1:39 mark of the third stanza. Matthews then blasted a slapper from the left circle at 5:12 to up Wesleyan's margin back to three goals. Just 18 seconds later, a centering pass into a maze of players in front of the Cardinal net resulted in a poke in for Canton. At 10:59, Canton cut the gap to a single goal on the power play with a strong rush and a centering pass to the middle for a one-timer that resulted in a 4-3 count.
Canton tried to pull its goalie with 1:35 on the clock by was whistled down for a sub infraction, forcing a center-ice faceoff and the return of the netminder to the pipes. He did get off for an extra skater with :45 left but Wesleyan prevented any sustained attack by the Kangaroos before time expired, making it a 4-3 Wesleyan win. Wesleyan is now 2-0 vs. Canton, having won the initial meeting in Middletown a year ago, 9-2.
Wesleyan had a 44-23 edge in total shots as Sprigings made 20 saves.
With his four points during the weekend on three goals and an assist, Matthews was honored by the NESCAC as its Player of the Week.
Wesleyan will carry a four-game win streak and a six-game (5-0-1) unbeaten string into its next contest, a Little Three/NESCAC matchup at Williams Fri., Jan. 10. The game will be webcast. After that, the Cardinals swing over to Middlebury Sat., Jan. 11 to take on the Panthers. That game, as well, will be webcast.