The 2010-2011 season was a banner year for the Wesleyan men’s hockey team as the squad made its first ever appearance in the NESCAC semi-finals. With nine of the 11 double-digit scorers from that squad returning, Wesleyan has lofty aspirations as the new season gets underway.
Last year, the Cardinals had their best record in four years, going 10-12-3 overall and 8-10-1 in league play. Sneaking into the NESCAC tournament as the #8 seed, no one expected Wesleyan to make a run. The program had only made five playoff appearances and never came close to winning a game. Facing off against #1 Hamilton on the road in the opening round, the Cardinals took down the Continentals with ease, 5-2. Instead of having a letdown versus heated rival Williams in the semi-finals, Wesleyan demonstrated just as much grit and skill. The team carried a 2-1 lead into the third period only to fall 3-1 in overtime. With so much talent returning to this year’s team, Wesleyan is expecting a different result in the 2012 NESCAC tournament.
The offensive depth returning to the Cardinals in 2011-2012 is extremely impressive. Leading the way on offense are 20-point scorers Nik Tasiopoulos, Geoff Mucha and Keith Buehler. Tasiopoulos, a sophomore, and Mucha, a senior, tied for the team lead in goals with 12 while Buehler tied for the team lead in assists with 13. Senior Tom Salah generated 15 points and has 49 career points over three seasons.
“Our offensive depth is very good up front,” Head Coach Chris Potter said. “We have offensive threats on all four lines.”
The Cardinals strength on the defensive end definitely lies in goal. Juniors Matt Hadge and Glenn Stowell return and are again expected to split time almost evenly. The duo, who Potter praises for working great off one another, both recorded strong statistical marks last season. Hadge posted a .926 save and 2.52 GAA with a 6-51 record in the campaign while Stowell produced a .904 save percentage, 3.13 GAA and 4-7-2 mark.
Potter is less confident in his squad’s defense after their first few contests of the season. “We have a lot of young defensemen, and we need to get stronger in team defense overall,” he stated. “We’re improving in that area but we have a long way to go.”
Wesleyan opened the season on November 18th by rolling to a 6-1 victory over Connecticut College. Nik Tasiopoulos led the way by earning his second career hat trick. Matt Hadge controlled the flow of the game in goal, ending the contest with 20 stops. The six goals marked Wesleyan’s largest output against Conn. College since 1986. The Cardinals hit the ice again on November 19 in a face off against Tufts College. After falling behind 3-0 halfway through the second period, Wesleyan forged a spirited comeback effort that was eventually unsuccessful, losing 3-2. Hadge finished with 25 saves. The Cardinals rebounded with an impressive out-of conference victory over UMass-Dartmouth on November 22. The team flashed their depth on offense by having five different players score. For the third straight game Wesleyan received an excellent performance in goal, with Glenn Stowell ending the contest with 32 stops.
Behind 40 saves from Stowell and a pair of goals from Tasiopoulos, Wesleyan continued its hot start by earning a 4-1 home win over the Wentworth Institute of Technology on Saturday, November 26. With the win, Wesleyan improved to 3-1, the first time the program has had that record through four games since the 2003-2004 season. The team’s four-goal outburst in the second period accounted for all of the Cardinal’s scoring. Sophomore Tommy Hartnett and junior John Guay got the offense started with their second and third goals of the year. Tasiopoulos earned his pair of goals on a rebound and the power play, with Geoff Mucha assisting on both. Stowell’s 40-save game was the third of his career.
Wesleyan faced off against Assumption College on Sunday and play Amherst and Hamilton on the road this weekend.