Bowdoin secure in title defense run

Bowdoin Womens Hockey vs UMass Boston (Brian Beard/Creative Images Photography)

Within days of opening defense of their NESCAC title, Bowdoin captains Maddie Lane and Emily Tang aren’t  buying into the  perception that significant losses will prove dire for the Polar Bears.

Indeed, Bowdoin will have a not-so-familiar profile as a result of the loss of two high-scoring forwards and a pair of senior goalies that allowed only 43 goals to opponents. For Lane however, who shares the captaincy with Tang and forward Chelsea MacNeil, the concern is a nonentity.

“We will face many of these unknowns in a week; we will rely on our tough, simple style of play to keep going,” said Lane,who is the top scorer among returning defenseman. “We enter every season with many unknowns; that’s what is so exciting about it. That being said, we’re fully aware of the trials and tribulations to be faced every season.”

“There is definitely pressure to defend our NESCAC Championship title, but I know we will use this as motivation to prove to other teams that we deserve this honor,” Tang added. “We are also very excited about our freshmen class of seven, who have proven to be smart, skilled, and hardworking players.”

Graduation erased All-American Kayte Holtz, who concluded an outstanding career at Bowdoin with a 13-15-28 slate from the mix.The Bears also said goodbye to 14-goal scorer Stephanie Lundy. In all, Bowdoin seniors collectively accounted for 39 of the club’s 92 goals last season.  Holtz finished her stellar career in Brunswick with 123 points in 106 outings. Three of her 13 scores were game-winners last season.

“Losing seven seniors who all contributed greatly to our success will definitely be tough to replace, but we are all confident in the leadership of our upperclassmen,” Lane said. “Our team has always emphasized the importance of team leadership from top to bottom, regardless of age or playing time.”

In goal, senior Kayla Lessard fashioned a 1.38 GAA to go along with a .944 save percentage. She played in 58 career games for the Polar Bears. Classmate Tara Connolly was 6-1-0 in her seven starts with a 1.85 GAA. Lessard and Connolly combined for six shutouts overall a year ago. Lessard’s early-March performance in the NESCAC title game at Middlebury propelled the Polar Bears into the NCAA quarterfinals and served as the sort of game that inevitably becomes stamped in one’s memory. Sophomore Beth Findley and freshman Lan Crofton will take on the goaltending duties this time around. Findley played all of six minutes last season.

Regardless of what is perceived on the outside looking in, Tang hasn’t bought into any of the perceived angst to the rink with her.

“Although both our goalies are young players with limited college experience, I am confident that they will both fulfill their important roles on this team,” Tang said. “They are extremely hard working and technically skilled goalies, so I expect that both will see a fair amount of playing time this year.”

Lane echoed her teammate’s sentiments in regards to the Polar Bears infusion of new talent, particularly in their own end.

“With just over a week under our belts, the defensive core , goalies included has already become a formidable group, ” said Lane, who comprised 3-7-10 numbers in 2012-13. “Communication is something we have been emphasizing since day one, between not only defenseman and goalies but between forwards and goalies as well. We rely on healthy competition between our offense and defense to challenge each other and build the network of relationships within positional groups to build on our team chemistry as a whole.”

With the impending opener against Colby in sight, Lane believes that despite the unknowns, leadership will remain at the core of the team’s success.

“There is significant emphasis on our leadership as captains, but whether this emphasis is any greater than that placed on last year’s captains is arguable,” said Lane. “However, given the size of the first-year class, the senior leadership isn’t nearly as important as the leadership of the returnees as a whole. The first years constitute almost a third of our team, and getting them acclimated to a higher level of play is a team priority. The start of every season is always full of unknowns, which is why we try not to over-think anything. There is no way of knowing who will play best together or what the style of play will be like. We have been building team chemistry in the off season, and I am confident that it will translate onto the ice, which has been key to our success in the past.”