CLINTON, N.Y. – The Wesleyan University men's ice hockey team has advanced to the semifinals of the NESCAC Tournament for the second straight season, as junior forward Andy Espinoza tallied the game-winning goal with 1:46 remaining in regulation during a 2-1 win over Hamilton in the quarterfinal round on Saturday in Clinton, N.Y.
The Cardinals, who won their third-ever playoff game in the NESCAC, will play either Amherst or Colby in the semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m. from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- With the matchup knotted at 1-1 with a couple minutes remaining, sophomore forward Walker Harris possessed the puck down below the net and carried out to the point for the Cardinals (13-7-5, 8-6-4 NESCAC). He then flicked a shot, which was redirected into the back of the net from the slot by Espinoza at the 18:14 mark, as the goal was his first season of the season.
- Wesleyan, which has qualified for the NESCAC postseason 10 times, jumped on the board with 1:31 left in the first on sophomore forward Tyler Wyatt's ninth tally of the 2017-18 campaign. Junior captain Chad Malinowski slammed a shot from just outside the right circle along the boards, and Wyatt, who hails from Bridgeton, N.J., established position in front of the net and was able to screen Continentals senior goalie Evan Buitenhuis, while simultaneously deflecting the puck over the goal line.
- The Continentals (15-7-3, 9-6-3 NESCAC), who defeated the Cardinals, 5-4, during the semifinals of the 2017 NESCAC playoffs in Clinton, N.Y., evened the game at 1-1 on a man-advantage goal with 16:41 showing on the clock in the second. Sophomore forward Nick Ursitti won a faceoff back to sophomore defenseman Bennett Morrison at the point, who rifled a wrist shot into the lower right corner.
- Senior forward Dylan Holze, who leads the NESCAC in goals (16) and points (26), has been a constant threat all year in short-handed scenarios (two goals), and he nearly turned the goal light on again during a penalty-killing situation for Wesleyan at the 13:51 mark of the second, but his drive connected with the pipe. Freshman defenseman Matthew Zandi then fired a couple shots immediately after, but Buitenhuis was able to turn both aside.
- The Cardinals came out with a great deal of energy during the opening shifts of the third, forcing Hamilton to ice the puck on multiple occasions. With four minutes, 45 seconds elapsed in the frame, Malinowski found himself alone in the slot, and he sent a bullet, which rang the crossbar, off a great pass from the boards by Harris, and then immediately there was a scrum in front of the net. Holze was able to get his stick on the puck in traffic, but his shot from the right side hit the outside of the post.
- Wesleyan sophomore goalie Tim Sestak rose to the occasion on a big-time save with 10:49 showing on the clock in third, as sophomore forward Sterling Bray utilized a crafty move in the slot to get free, but Sestak was aggressive and able to turn away his drive from right in front of the crease.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Sestak (9-5-5) stopped 25-of-26 shots in the victory, while Buitenhuis (8-3-3) recorded a game-high 28 saves for the hosts.
- Hamilton went 1-for-4 on the advantage, and Wesleyan was unsuccessful during its lone power play.
- The Cardinals, who are 2-1 all time against Hamilton in the postseason, held a 30-26 lead in shots on goal, including a 21-15 advantage during the final two periods. In the opening 20 minutes of action, Hamilton outshot Wesleyan, 11-9.
- Harris was a force in the faceoff circle, winning 17-of-27 draws. Junior forward Jason Brochu went 13-of-19 for Hamilton at the dot.
- During the 2017-18 regular season, the Cardinals and Continentals split their two-game series, with each team winning on the road.
- The Cardinals will square off against either Amherst or Colby in the semifinals of the NESCAC Tournament on Saturday, March 3, at 1 p.m. in Hartford, Conn.