Polar Bears on the prowl

For the Bowdoin ice hockey team, 2012 did not get off to an auspicious start, as it suffered a 3-2 overtime loss to Wentworth. Since then however, Terry Meagher’s troops have gone 3-0-1 and outscored their opponents by a 22-12 margin. With quality wins over Amherst, Wesleyan and Hamilton, the offense has triggered the kind production that should have teams facing Bowdoin awfully nervous. The next three games give the potent Polar Bears an opportunity to avenge two earlier season losses at Middlebury and Southern Maine in the friendly confines of “The Sid.”

Eighteen different players have scored this season for Bowdoin, where the team is averaging 4.64 goals per game this season. Twelve players already have three or more goals this season, and nine players are already in double-digit points just 14 games into the season. Senior Jordan Lalor (6-11-17) is tied at the top of the scoring table with freshman John McGinnis (6-11-17) and sophomore Colin Downey (5-12-17), and resurgent power-play specialists Tim McGarry and Henry Matheson each lead the team in goals with seven and three apiece with the man advantage. Overall, when healthy, Bowdoin has exhibited great balance in scoring across its offensive lines and a very active defensive corps that also sees freshman Ryan Collier with 10 points on the season so far.

While the offense justifiably gets a lot of attention, the goaltending duo of Richard Nerland and Steve Messina has effectively backstopped Bowdoin this season. Nerland, a senior, has posted the better statistics, but both have played virtually the same number of games this season for the 8-4-2 Polar Bears.

With just nine games remaining in the regular season, the schedule finds Bowdoin at home for five contests and on the road for four. The next three games are all against quality competitors at home, where Bowdoin is 5-1-0 overall. While revenge may not be a major motivator this weekend, it might factor into the equation in the team’s preparation, as Bowdoin does not have a win against the next three opponents this season. After opening the season with a 3-3 tie against Williams that included two last-minute goals to tie the game, the Polar Bears were beaten soundly at Middlebury by a 7-1 score. Their closeout game at the end of the semester saw a 3-1 loss at the hands of former ECAC East opponent Southern Maine. So if garnering points wasn’t enough, Bowdoin clearly has some scores to settle this weekend, especially in the league where both opponents are battling with the Polar Bears for top position in the conference.

Two keys for Bowdoin this weekend will be for its continued strong starts to games and even stronger third period play. In the conference, the Polar Bears are plus six in scoring and a whopping plus-40 in shots in the opening 20 minutes of play. Even more impressive is their ability to close games, where the goal differential shifts to plus-13 and plus-42 in shots. Clearly it’s difficult for the opposition to score from their end of the ice, and somehow I don’t think Bowdoin’s goaltending duo will complain much about that.

Finally a “W”
It certainly did not come easy for the Babson Beavers, but last Saturday’s overtime win at home over St. Michael’s has coach Jamie Rice’s team sitting at 4-4-0 in conference and very focused on finishing strong in league play.

Following Friday’s game against Norwich at Frozen Fenway, a 4-1 loss, there were many positives to be taken from the disappointing result and a focus on what needed to happen the next day back on the campus rink.

“I thought we turned the corner today,” said Rice. “What this team really needs more than anything else is a win. The effort has been there. It would be easy to focus on the overall record of 3-11-0, but we can get back to 4-4-0 in the conference with a win tomorrow and that is what the remainder of the season is going to be all about anyway — conference play. I thought we did some good things against Norwich, and certainly got hurt by some bad bounces into the back of our net. We need to make some of our own luck in that regard, so a win real soon would go a long way in helping us gain some momentum for the stretch run in the ECAC East.”

After a scoreless first period with St. Michael’s, the Beavers found themselves trailing by a goal entering the third period of play. Defenseman Tom Callahan’s first goal of the season tied the game at 3-3 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation time.  Early in overtime, freshman Mike Driscoll, who along with fellow freshman Andrew Bonazza assisted on Callahan’s tying goal, took a penalty, giving the visiting Purple Knights a power-play opportunity. The Beavers successfully killed off the minor penalty, and just over a minute later the two frosh teamed up with senior Mike Hoban for the game-winning goal and the much needed two points.

The win ended a six-game losing streak for the Beavers, who now must figure out how to get wins and points on the road. The next three games for Babson, starting this weekend, include St. Anselm’s, New England College and the front-end of a home-and-home series with travel partner Massachusetts-Boston. At just 2-5-0 on the road this season, the Beavers will need to build on the momentum of last Saturday’s win if they want to continue up the standings in the ECAC East. The three-game road trip also leads into five straight at home up until the final weekend of the regular season. So if the offense can keep up some opportunistic scoring and the goaltending becomes just a bit more consistent, don’t count out last year’s conference finalist just yet.

Both leagues have separated a bit into the upper and lower echelons, but with teams in the upper group playing each other, a lot can change in just a weekend, so stay tuned and root your team on.

Nobody’s out of it yet — drop the puck!


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