ECAC East/NESCAC wrap: Jan. 23

It’s now down to the final four weeks of the regular season, and in both leagues there is a lot to play for. This past weekend saw some teams starting to assert themselves, while others are still searching for the formula to get their game going and start posting some wins and all important points.
Hard-luck Mules
For coach Stan Moore and the Colby Mules, there is a long look up at the standings in the NESCAC conference with just six games remaining on the conference schedule. However, even trailing the pack with just two points, the Mules aren’t out of the playoff picture just yet. They currently trail Connecticut College by just three points and Hamilton by four points, and have both the Camels and Continentals on the schedule in what may be key games to determine the eighth and final seed in the conference playoffs.
For Colby, the key may be finding a bit of “puck luck” in the remaining games and definitely some level of success on their home ice.  So far this season, Colby has lost eight of its 13 losses by just one goal, including this weekend’s hard-fought 5-4 loss to Williams on its home ice. Clearly, the Mules could use a bit more offense, particularly on the power play, where the team has gone just two-for-54 this season with the man advantage. For a team that has struggled to score goals, the positive from Saturday’s one-goal defeat was that the Mules scored all of their goals in five-on-five hockey, but went 0-for-3 on the power play.
The hunt for the playoffs doesn’t get easier this week when Colby travels to Amherst and Hamilton for two challenging road matchups.
“Pilgrim-mage” upcoming
Since December 9, the New England College Pilgrims have not had to leave the friendly confines of their home rink in Henniker, N.H. During that eight-game stretch, coach Tom Carroll’s troops have gone 3-3-2 overall and 1-1-2 in the conference. While battling against a resurgent Babson and Southern Maine for a home playoff berth, NEC now goes on the road for the remainder of the month, with matchups against Skidmore and Castleton coming up this weekend.
With a 3-1-0 record on the road in conference play, the Pilgrims will need to continue to play well on the road, where five of their remaining eight games will be played. At this time of the year, the games get very tight, and that might just be a good thing for NEC. So far this season, the Pilgrims have played six overtime games, including their last three at home, which resulted in a loss and two ties. NEC will need to find a way to play a bit better in the extra frame and improve their 1-3-2 overtime record.
Winning the fifth period
In last week’s column, I highlighted the dominance Bowdoin has exhibited this season in the third period of hockey games.  Showing that killer instinct and having the ability to finish games is an attribute that winning teams possess. While that trait came to the forefront in Friday night’s 4-2 victory over Williams, their play in the “fifth period” on Saturday sealed a four-point weekend and a move to a tie at the top of the NESCAC standings.
“We really talk about the importance of the fifth period,” said coach Terry Meagher. “It’s tough to play back-to-back games in less than 24 hours, and we really feel that if we can win the second period of the second game we are in a good position to take the game and the important points.”
On Saturday, Bowdoin entered the second period with a 2-0 lead over Middlebury and proceeded to outshoot the Panthers 14-5, adding two more goals for a 4-0 lead at the intermission on their way to a 5-0 win. The formula for Meagher’s team seems to work and the 5-0 win against Middlebury avenged a 7-1 loss earlier in the season to the Panthers.
Power of the positive
First, let me say that this job would not be easy without the continued information and support of the schools’ sports information departments. I probably don’t issue enough thanks to the group collectively, but do so here along with this week’s award for the best spin on a game in a press release. The inaugural silver lining award goes to Joshua Kessler at St. Michael’s College, who truly found the bright spot in an 8-0 whitewashing the Purple Knights suffered at the hands of the nation’s number one team, Norwich:
“Saint Michaels’s Keeps No. 1 Norwich Scoreless for First Period During Eventual Loss.”
While the Purple Knights did in fact hold Norwich scoreless and outshoot them by a 7-4 margin in the first period, the remainder of the game was all Norwich, as was the weekend, where the Cadets won both games by a combined score of 15-1. Keep up the great job Josh in getting out the timely and great releases on both hockey programs at St. Michael’s — I am sure the upcoming weekend will provide a better opportunity for positive game re-caps.
It’s almost February — drop the puck!



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