Two old rivals square off in this series, with more on the line than probably any time in their storied past.
“The tradition goes back so far,” said Bowdoin head coach Terry Meagher. “It means a lot. The players today might not know of all the tradition, but it’s special to me.”
While Norwich rolled to an ECAC East title and NCAA automatic berth with a 10-1 demolition of MCLA last weekend, Meagher’s Polar Bears were upset by Trinity in the NESCAC semifinals and had to wait to see if they’d get one of the two at-large bids available.
What was the wait like for Bowdoin, which opened the season 16-0-3 but is just 2-4 since then?
“We knew we were going to be considered,” Meagher said. “We were one of probably four or five teams with a decent chance.”
After the semifinal loss, Bowdoin went into the hopper with Trinity, Oswego, Lebanon Valley and Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The Pointers were the closest to Bowdoin in the selection criteria, but the Polar Bears came out on top.
“We had a pretty good year, so we knew we had a chance,” said Meagher. “The kids weren’t nervous. They were pretty excited waiting for the news that we’d gotten in.”
This is Bowdoin’s second NCAA appearance. The Polar Bears were swept in the quarterfinals by Wisconsin-River Falls in 1996.
This time around, the opponent is more familiar — the Cadets have been on the Polar Bears’ schedule for decades. This season, Bowdoin topped Norwich 3-1 back on Feb. 1.
“We really respect them,” said Meagher. “They’re one of the best teams we’ve faced all year.”
Norwich outshot Bowdoin 29-19, but could solve netminder Mike Healey just once. Healey, a sophomore from Hamden, Conn., is ninth in Division III in GAA (2.00) and 12th in save percentage (91.7%). His counterpart, freshman Kevin Shieve, is fourth in GAA (1.65) and ninth in save percentage (92.5).
This time, the teams will square off at Kreitzberg Arena, on its larger (200×90) ice surface.
“That always presents a challenge,” said Meagher. “Playing on the bigger sheets means you have to make some adjustments.
“But we’re up to the challenge,” he added.
“It’s going to be a fun weekend.”