R.J. Tolan persevered through a season of ups, downs, and all-arounds for Wentworth.
Easily the preseason pick to win the ECAC Northeast, the ultra-talented Leopards struggled at times for offense, among other things, and there was many a time that their coach struggled to define his team along the way.
“As a coach, I should probably be better with words in these types of situations,” Tolan said. “I just know the kind of team we have, and I know when the time comes to go out and get the job done, my team can do it better than I can talk about it.”
The Leopards, ultimately, made Tolan’s words hold up. A late-season surge, and a dominant ECAC Northeast tournament later, and Wentworth is back in the NCAA tournament, and the early-season inconsistency — from Dec. 6 to Jan. 15, WIT went just 2-4 — is nothing more than a memory now. WIT will meet Babson on the road on Wednesday, as it tries to secure an opening-round win for the second time in as many seasons.
“We learned a lot from last year; we know what it takes to win at this time of year, and at this level,” Tolan said. “For us, it’s always a matter of going out and doing it. Not to think about it so much, as to just go out and play.”
The Leopards will get a chance to do that against the Beavers, who went 17-6-5 overall, but 7-1-1 out of the ECAC East. So, without question, Babson will be unfazed by Wentworth’s momentum, depth, or drive.
“When we have success, it’s about us, and how we perform … how or if we play up to our ability,” Tolan said. “If we do that, then we can live with the results.”
The Leopards have had no problem doing that of late. Dating back to Jan. 30, WIT has not lost a game, and dating back to the regular-season finale, it has won three in a row by a combined count of 12-4. Wentworth is also 8-1-0 when leading after one period, and 13-0-1 when leading after two periods. So if Babson, which was ranked in both polls Feb. 26, wants to rattle the Leopards, they’d be best to jump on them early.
What separated WIT from the rest of the conference at crunch time was the Leopards’ depth this season. Tolan can throw layers and layers of lines at you, and over the course of the season, that luxury wore down the rest of the league. Wentworth had three players reach 20 points, and seven others landed in double digits in scoring.
This is just the third meeting all-time between these two proud Massachusetts programs. Babson won both previous contests.
Wentworth: By the Numbers
Tournament Qualification: ECAC Northeast Champions — automatic bid
NCAA Tournament Profile: Sixth NCAA Tournament appearance
Last Appearance: 2012 (Second round loss to Norwich, 3-0).
Best NCAA Finish: 2012 (Second round loss to Norwich, 3-0).
Road to NCAA Tournament
W, 3-1, vs. Salve Regina (ECAC Northeast Tournament final).
W, 4-1, vs. Johnson and Wales (ECAC Northeast Tournament semifinals).
ECAC Northeast Regular Season: 10-2-2, (First).
Overall Record: 16-8-3.
SOG: 32.1 per game.
Opponents’ SOG: 26.6 per game.
Power Play: 21.4 percent.
Penalty Kill: 80.8 percent.
Offense: 3.15 goals per game.
Defense: 2.15 goals per game.
Shaun Jameson — 5 goals, 22 assists, 27 points
Kevin Crowe — 10 goals, 11 assists, 21 points
Mike Cox — 5 goals, 16 assists, 21 points
Mike Domsodi — 6 goals, 12 assists, 18 points
Joel Miller — 1.83 goals-against average, .930 save percentage
Alex Peck —- 2.56 goals-against average, .902 save percentage