ELMIRA, N.Y. — The consolation game. The game nobody wants to play in.
The funny thing is, if you asked a lot of players and teams at the start of the season, they would say that just to make the Frozen Four is an accomplishment.
Of course, once you get there, your sights change.
Bowdoin, a 2-1 overtime loser the night before to Manhattanville, and Gustavus Adolphus, which lost 8-5 to Elmira, faced off in the third-place game. Both had a statement to make before their season ended.
It turned out to be Sarah Moe, recently named AHCA Player of the Year, who ended up making the biggest statement of the day. She scored the winning goal at the 10:11 mark of the third period to lead Gustavus to a 2-1 victory.
Moe sped down the right side into the zone on a semi-breakaway. She let go of a blistering shot to the opposite side that hit the right side of the post up high and rebounded into the net.
“When I missed an exact same opportunity earlier shooting it wide,” Moe explained, “I was down on myself. But my teammates said I would get another opportunity. And I did.”
Moe may not have been the leader in many of the national scoring statistics, but Saturday she showed why she deserved the national accolade.
Which is no surprise to her coach, Mike Carroll. “She’s a big game player. That was her goal, to be a big game player.”
The game started slowly, as if the teams needed a while to get up for this contest. Gustavus was the first to start taking it to the opponent. They came very close when a shot eluded McKissock, fell behind her, trickled towards the goal line, but wound up going outside the right post.
Gustavus did get on the scoreboard at 13:50 of the period when Ann Katz threaded a perfect cross ice pass to Kirsten Olson in the slot area. Olson quickly wristed a shot past Emily McKissock.
Bowdoin scored a fluke goal with 21 seconds left in the first period. Katherine Duglin shot from the left hash marks which bounced off a defender and into the net. Molly O’Donnell never saw the redirection.
“We felt there was finally a lucky bounce our way,” Bowdoin coach Michelle Amidon said. “It wasn’t the prettiest goal.”
There were opportunities in the second period, but neither team could break the deadlock.
Kenzie Stensland had a clean breakaway for Gustavus, but McKissock stayed with her, forcing Stensland to go with a backhander that McKissock easily stopped. McKissock also made a key save off a deflection, and then stopped the rebound from point blank range.
Not to be outdone, O’Donnell had some big saves herself. The most notable was stopping a two on none breakaway. First the initial shot, and then the rebound shot.
After Gustavus took the lead, it was up to the Gusties’ defense and O’Donnell to keep it. Bowdoin constantly tried to use the long breakout pass, but Gustavus finally got wise to it, and shut it down in the final minutes.
Meanwhile, with a minute and a half left, O’Donnell was called upon to make a great save to preserve the lead.
Bowdoin pulled the goalie in the waning moments, and the puck found its way onto the stick of Bowdoin defenseman Kirsti Anderson, their second leading scorer. She couldn’t control it, and never got a shot off.
“We didn’t seem to get the lucky bounces,” Amidon said. “I give them credit for not giving up. They fought all the way.”
With 19 seconds left, Bowdoin’s best opportunity with the extra skater went for naught when they shot wide. Gustavus picked up the loose puck, and cleared it down the ice while time expired.
“We were a very tired team that rose to the occasion,” Carroll said.
At the post game award ceremonies, Bowdoin remained upbeat.
Amidon explained why, “To be in the national championship meant a lot to us. It’s the most successful year in Bowdoin history. Just to be here was a pleasure.”
As to the Polar Bears’ future, “We only have one senior, so I think they are all looking forward to next year.”
Meanwhile, Gustavus heads back to Minnesota with the third place trophy. “We set a goal to win 23 games,” Carroll said. “We reached that goal.”
Thanks to a big game player who got a second opportunity.
“It’s going to be tough to replace her,” Carroll said in the understatement of the day.