MALDEN, Mass. — For senior night, this is not how goalie Jay McNamara would have liked to end his collegiate career. Despite 41 saves over two plus periods, the Tufts’ netminder, like many others in the league, learned that Norwich can light up a scoreboard when they get the offense rolling.
The first period started out with the Cadets putting great pressure on the Jumbos, forcing turnovers with an aggressive forecheck that made it difficult for Tufts to break out of its zone. At the 6:43 mark, a missed opportunity to clear the puck at their defensive blue line led to a 1-0 deficit, as freshman Kyle Thomas scored from the top of the right circle for a 1-0 Cadets’ lead.
Tufts responded quickly on the very next shift, as junior Tom Derosa took a headman pass from Andy Davis at the Cadets’ blue line, split the defense and deked freshman netminder Alex Dubois to tuck the puck inside the near post and tie the game at 1-1.
Just 40 seconds later, the Cadets broke through again. This time, Steven Schroeder was set up by Scott Schroeder and Steve Coon for a 2-1 lead and the Cadets would never look back.
Norwich kept up constant pressure in the fast moving period, forcing McNamara to make several key stops to keep the game at just a one-goal deficit. At the 17:00 minute mark of the period, Norwich defenseman Eric Tallent setup Steven Schroeder, only to have McNamara rob him at the left post with a terrific pad save.
The period ended with the Cadets ahead 2-1 and holding a 13 to 5 advantage in shots.
Tufts started out the second period with much better skating and more physical play, which led to the first penalty of the game to Norwich’s Pasha Kozhokin for tripping. The Jumbos’ power play saw an early chance for Derosa right off an offensive zone face-off, but Dubois held on and Norwich successfully killed the penalty.
Back-to-back penalties to Tufts’ defenseman Jared Barker changed momentum, and the Cadets began a relentless assault on McNamara and the Tufts’ defense.
At 12:05, the line of Thomas, Blake Forkey and Chad Anderson provided a highlight reel goal with precision passing that resulted in Forkey’s tap-in of a rebound off Anderson’s shot that McNamara had no chance to recover to save.
With just three minutes left in the period, Tim Houston made it 4-1 and the floodgates opened in the final minutes of the period. Kyle Thomas scored his 20th of the season with assists from Forkey and Tallent on a power play to make it 5-1 and with just over a minute left in the period, Craig Carbonneau scored his first goal of the season and first collegiate goal to make it 6-1 after two periods.
Not only were the Cadets dominant on the scoreboard, they held a huge shot advantage in the period, outshooting the Jumbos by a 22-5 margin in the second period and by a 35-10 margin total for two periods.
The third period saw several good chances for both teams that were held off by McNamara and Dubois. With Norwich short-handed late in the third period, DJ Fimiani scored an unassisted goal to close out the scoring.
Both teams changed goaltenders late in the game, with Evin Koleini replacing McNamara after the final Cadets’ goal while senior Nate Ayotte replaced the freshman Dubois with about two minutes remaining in the game.
Norwich forward Kyle Thomas finished with two goals and one assist while linemate Blake Forkey added a goal and three assists against the Jumbos. Shots on goal for the third period saw Norwich holding a 15-4 advantage and a 50-15 advantage for the game.
“There is a reason why they are the No. 2 team in the country,” said Tufts’ coach Brian Murphy. “They move the puck very well and have great speed and size that makes it difficult for any opponent. We knew today wasn’t going to change anything about our playoff position for next week, so we are not going to take this one too hard. I thought there were sections of the game where we played well, but we didn’t capitalize on our chances and they did; that is the sign of a good team.”
Derosa added, “They really have a great combination of size and speed and really move the puck very well. I thought Jay kept us in this thing for a long time with some big saves, but they didn’t quit and kept the pressure on us. We can let this one go pretty quickly since it didn’t change anything and now we get to focus on the conference playoff game wherever we go to next week.”
For Norwich coach Mike McShane, the game was a great way to wrap up the weekend and the season.
“We played well today and really moved our feet and the puck well today. That line of Forkey, Thomas and Anderson really was on today and created great chances throughout the entire game. They are really fun to watch and now we get to go home and hopefully play our game starting in the playoffs next week.”
“Our line, and the team just wanted to play our game and finish the season strong,” said Forkey. “We really like playing together and really enjoy those tic-tac-toe passing kind of goals like the first one we had tonight. It’s been a great season and we just want to keep focused on playing well every time out. The playoffs start next week and we want to keep the momentum going, especially at home.”
The Cadets will face-off against the University of New England in the quarterfinals of the ECAC East playoffs in Northfield next week while Tufts will travel to Middlebury for a quarterfinal game in the NESCAC tournament next Saturday.