7. Wesleyan Cardinals
7-7-4 in Conference (9th in NESCAC)
|Dawson Sprigings finished his collegiate career with over 4,500|
minutes played in net
Overall (Conf. Rank) Conference Games (Conf. Ranks)
Offense - 3.08 G/GM (8th) Offense - 2.56 G/GM (6th)
Defense - 2.50 G/GM (5th) Defense - 2.72 G/GM (6th)
Power Play - 22/96 22.9% (3rd) Power Play - 14/56 21.2% (3rd)
Penalty Kill - 76/83 91.6% (1st) Penalty Kill - 48/52 92.3% (1st)
Penalty Minutes - 7.9 /Gm (10th) Penalty Minutes - 6.8/Gm (10th)
James Kline was the only Cardinal to reach double digit goals in his sophomore and junior seasons. The Pittsburgh native (I will not make Jesse Root jokes, I will not make Jesse Root jokes, I will not make Jesse Root jokes...) failed to reach double digit goals in his senior season, but it was actually a positive development.
Kline and Jay Matthews ('16) combined for 37% and 38% of team goals in 2014-15 and 20015-16, respectively. In 2016-17, no two teammates combined for more than 22.5% of Wesleyan's goals. Kline still tied for the team lead in goals with nine, but it was a four-way tie along with freshman Cam Walker (NESCAC Rookie of the Year), and juniors Dylan Holze and Cam McCusker. The extra help actually led to Kline's highest single season point total thanks to 17 assists (9-17-26).
Second on the team in assists was two-sport athlete Chad Malinowski (D, '19), who had nineteen points (4-15-19) and earned both a spot on the All-NESCAC Second Team as well as a D-III All-New England nod.
The increased help was not limited to the offensive end. Senior Dawson Sprigings, who played in 77 games during his four years in central Connecticut, still received the bulk of the minutes in 2016-17, but sophomore George Blinicki emerged as a weekend rotation option in the second half of the season. The Berkshire product went from no collegiate experience to a .944 Save Percentage and 1.66 GAA in nine games. Most of this, however, had to do with three shutouts in non-conference games, but he still posted a decent .922 save % and 2.48 GAA in conference games.
Another stark increase occurred on special teams, which Wesleyan flipped from one of the worst in the 'Cac in both power play and penalty kill in the previous season to the third best power play and league best penalty kill this past season. They actually doubled their power play goal tally in conference games from seven in 2015-16 to fourteen in 2016-17.
The Cardinals didn't face a murders' row in out-of-conference games, but they took care of business with five wins over weaker competition (Southern Maine, Assumption, Stonehill, Franklin Pierce and Castleton) and the lone loss coming to perennial D-III powerhouse Plattsburgh.
A strong non-conference showing helped the Cardinals reach 13 wins for the first time since 1988-89 season, when none of the current players had even been born and the then Wesleyan coach was part of today's rink's namesake (Dave Synder, the Synder in Spurrier-Snyder Rink).
In conference they may have finished seventh but they were in the hunt for a home playoff game up until they lost three straight to end the regular season. Despite this, Wesleyan ended with the coveted "Little Three" title (head-to-head record between Wesleyan, Williams and Amherst dating back to the Triangular League in the late 1890s) for the first time in 30 years, thanks to a 2-1-1 record (1-0-1 against Amherst and 1-1-0 against Williams) in the battle of the mini triumvirate. The win in hockey capped off a first for Cardinal athletics: a Little Three title in football,hockey and basketball in the same academic year.
The playoffs. It was a tale of two 5-4 games for the Cardinals, who reached the semis for the NESCAC semis for the first time since 2011 and nearly made the finals for the first time in program history. In the quarters, the seventh seed Cardinals traveled to Waterville, ME, where they had battled to a 4-4 tie with the second seed Cardinals just over a month prior. As with the regular season contest, neither team had a more than one goal lead, only this time Wesleyan got one more tit than the host's tat thanks to a Luke Babcock goal setup by a Kline feed just 12 seconds after Colby tied it 49 seconds into the third.
The third line was the difference that day in Maine with Holze, Spencer Fox and frosh Tyler Watt accounting for the scoring on Wesleyan's three second period goals. For Holze, his three point effort (2-1-3) earned him NESCAC Player of the Week honors headed into the semifinal showdown with top seeded Hamilton.
The underdog Cardinals had a 3-1 lead in the second period against Hamilton thanks to capitalizing on some defensive miscues from the Continentals, including mistakes by NESCAC/DIII Player of the Year goalie Evan Butienhuis. Four different Cardinals scored, but the hosts eventually came out on top 5-4. Despite the loss, the Cardinals five seniors got to end a career that had been less than ideal on a proud note and the young Cardinals showed flashes that augur well for next season.
The NESCAC regular season schedule ends with travel partners Wesleyan and Trinity playing a home and home. The Bantams have not just owned this rivalry, they have absolutely obliterated the Cardinals in recent memory. This year was no different with Trinity blasting Wesleyan 7-2 and 3-0 to close out regular season play.
James Kline Malinowski got the awards but we'll give the nod this year to Kline for his captainship and for providing offensive firepower to an anemic offense in the prior few seasons.
The other MVP comes from Team IMPACT, one of our favorite programs several NESCAC schools participate in. At the end of January, Wesleyan drafted nine-year old Connor Albert, who was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (type of bone cancer) in 2016. Albert's treatments have included hip replacement surgery and long rounds of chemo that require inpatient stays. Prior to his signing day at Wesleyan, several members of the team visited Albert in the hospital.
Below please find the video of Connor's draft day and please consider giving or contributing to Team IMPACT here. It's a great experience for the kids involved and though it sounds like a cliche, it is absolutely true that the athletes probably get more out of it than the kids.
In honor of young Connor and the underclassmen like NESCAC Rookie of the Year McCusker, who hope to help Wesleyan keep rising in the standings next year, here's Alexisonfire's excellent "Young Cardinals"