Recap Courtesy of Tufts Athletic Communications Office
MALDEN, Mass. - Senior forward Cam McCusker scored with 1:07 remaining in the third period to lift the Wesleyan University men's hockey team to a 2-1 victory against Tufts University in NESCAC action Saturday afternoon at Valley Forum.
During a scrum near the mouth of the Jumbos' goal, McCusker was on the spot to score into an open net off assists from sophomore forward Walker Harris and junior forward Luke Babcock. Tufts pulled senior goalie Nik Nugnes for the final minute, but the Jumbos' lone shot on goal by senior forward Brian Brown was saved by Wesleyan sophomore goalie Tim Sestak and the Cardinals closed out the win.
Wesleyan, which received two votes in this week's USCHO poll, improved to 9-4-3 overall and 5-3-2 in the league. The victory snapped a two-game skid for the Cardinals. The Jumbos dropped their second in a row after a 2-0-1 stretch, falling to 3-11-2 and 2-7-1 in the NESCAC.
Both Sestak and Nugnes were excellent in goal today. Despite the low final score, the action-packed contest featured 32 shots by the Cardinals and 28 by the Jumbos. Both goalies stopped several quality scoring chances throughout the game.
In a scoreless first period, Nugnes made the first clutch stop of the afternoon when he saved an open shot by Babcock right in front of the net with six minutes left on the clock. With time winding down under two minutes, Sestak kept the game scoreless with a save, as Tufts freshman Hayden Smith found the puck alone in the slot.
Both teams scored power-play goals in the second period. The Jumbos had an early extra-man advantage, but were thwarted by Sestak on a shot by Brown, and then by the post on a chance by sophomore Tyler Scroggins. Then, when Tufts went to the box, Wesleyan capitalized, as Harris found the top of the net at the 7:49 mark of the second, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. The Jumbos answered less than three minutes later on a man advantage, as Scroggins continued a hot streak with a power-play goal at 10:21 to tie the score at 1-1.
Overtime seemed destined with Nugnes and Sestak continuing their fine play in the third. Nugnes saved a pair of opportunities by McCusker and junior Chris White within seconds of each other at the six-minute mark. Sestak moved quickly to his left to save a shot by Jumbos sophomore Machlan Sawden at the post later in the period.
The game-winning scoring combination of McCusker, Harris and Babcock all finished with two points for Wesleyan. Sestak won his fifth game with 27 saves. Harris was an outstanding 20-for-27 at the faceoff dot, as the Cardinals won 39-of-64 draws overall. Junior defenseman Sean Ross blocked four shots.
Nugnes had 30 saves in the Jumbos' net, which is his fourth straight game with 30 or more. Sophomore Cooper Stahl blocked five shots defensively for the hosts.
The Cardinals will be back in action on Saturday, Jan. 27, for a 7 p.m. matchup against Amherst at the Spurrier-Snyder Rink in Middletown, Conn.