While most people were celebrating Thanksgiving, and resting up after a big turkey dinner, a few teams laced up their skates and took the ice over the holiday’s. Last week’s Game of the Week saw Neumann traveling to Brunswick, Maine to face the No. 8-ranked Bowdoin Polar Bears for the first time in their program’s history. In that weekend series, the Polar Bears came out victorious, winning both games by a combined score of 7-1.
At 4-0-0, the Polar Bears enter this weekend facing their toughest challenges to date, as they venture south to take on No. 7 Manhattanville and No. 6 Elmira. As if that is not enough to look forward to, Elmira and Manhattanville will also duke it out in their first meeting of the season.
With the sixth, seventh, and eighth ranked teams battling it out against each other, lets have a look at how the teams stack up and what to look for this weekend. I will also pick a player from each team that could be the unsung hero and player to watch.
Elmira @ Manhattanville
When Elmira claimed NCAA gold in 2002 and 2003, both times it was the Valiants who took home the silver. Since that time, the Valiants have failed to reach the season’s final game and the Soaring Eagles have accomplished that feat just once, suffering a 4-3 loss to Middlebury in 2005.
The Soaring Eagles come into this matchup leading the all-time series 6-3-1. They stand at 6-2-0 on the season, having lost only to Plattsburgh and No. 5 Wis.-Superior. Their freshmen and sophomores have accounted for 35 of their team’s 47 goals with Kayla Coady (9-9-18) and Jenna McCall (4-8-12) leading the way. Look for the offense to continue their success against the Valiants who are coming off a 5-1 loss at the hands of St. Anselm. If Elmira is going to walk out of the Playland Ice Casino with a victory, the key will be solid goaltending and smart defense.
The Valiants, who come into the weekend at 5-1-0 overall, are led offensively by juniors Amanda Nonis, Jessica Zimmerman, Jamie Longo, and sophomore Alex Blackwell. The four have combined for 24 goals and 50 points in just six games. Much like Elmira, the key to the game will be the performance of goalie Karine Turmel and the defensive corp.
Expect these two teams to combine for over ten goals. It could be a difficult time for the goalies with so much offensive firepower on both ends of the ice. The team who comes out victorious will allow the fewest second-chance scoring opportunities.
Players to Watch
Elmira Lauryn DePaul
Manhattanville Danielle Mazurek
Bowdoin vs. Elmira
When these two teams square off for only the third time ever, it will be at an unlikely location. Tate Rink, located on the campus of the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. The Polar Bears come into the game with fresh legs, unlike Elmira who will have played the Valiants the prior night.
Bowdoin is led by senior forwards Meghan Gillis (5-3-8), Katie Forney (3-4-7), and junior defenseman Kristen Cameron (3-4-7). The big question heading into the season seems to have been answered as freshman Samantha Schwager has done well in goal so far, posting a .922 save percentage and allowing just two goals-per-game.
For the Soaring Eagles, the biggest concern is how worn down will they be from battling a tough Valiant squad the night before. If they are able to play a full 60 minutes of hockey against a fresh Polar Bear team, they have a good chance at escaping with a victory. However, Bowdoin will be out to prove itself against ranked opposition for the first time this season.
Last season the Polar Bears fell to the Soaring Eagles at home 5-4 despite holding the edge in shots 44-32. Expect this game to be decided by one goal with the game winner coming late in the game.
Players to Watch
Bowdoin Katie Coyne
Elmira Tory MacNeil
Bowdoin @ Manhattanville
These two programs meet for the sixth time in history this weekend as the Polar Bears look to capture their first ever win against Manhattanville. The Valiants hold a 4-0-1 record all-time versus Bowdoin including a 2-1 victory in Brunswick, Maine last season.
The offensive attack of the Valiants will be a challenge for the Polar Bears defense to contain. This, along with the Elmira game will be a true measure of how the Bowdoin goaltending holds up against top competition.
For Bowdoin, they will need a strong defensive performance from Kristen Cameron and the rest of the Polar Bear blueliners. This game should be low scoring so the team who commits the fewest mistakes in their own end should come out with another tally in the win column.
On the Valiants side, they are going to try and pressure Schwager early and often in an attempt to rattle the freshman and take advantage of her inexperience. If they can get on the scoreboard early and put pressure on Schwager, her inexperience could work to the Valiants advantage. However, if Schwager performs like she has so far this season, expect Bowdoin to be in the game for the full 60 minutes.
Players to Watch
Bowdoin Beth Battin
Manhattanville Jessica Zimmerman
In the end, it would not be a total surprise to see each team come out of this weekend with a win and a loss. However, this is the perfect opportunity for one of these teams to step up and come away with a sweep. If one team is able to accomplish that feat, it could turn out to be the difference between a bid to the NCAAs, in March, or staying home.